Thursday, July 23, 2009

Today at the JCC on Seventy-Third Street

Today at the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan, a group from the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) will gather and yell at people going into the building. The WBC is a group based in Kansas that promotes the idea of God's hatred of everyone who doesn't agree with them. The JCC announcement reads:

"They plan to send 5-10 representatives who will stand on our sidewalk for 45 minutes displaying disturbing signs and provoking those entering our building. They try to create enough confrontation to incite others to provocation. It is their constitutional right to picket."

I googled Westboro Baptist Church and, swear to God, their homepage URL, their official URL is At first I thought it must be a joke, some kind of mock-Borat kind of thing, but no, it's real. God hates. It's their whole message. According to a report from the Anti-Defamation League, the group regularly travels around the country, often to sites of controversy where they can generate press and attention with their provocative signs and antagonistic behavior. The report, which I urge you to read (it's not long), reads:

"Other WBC targets include schools the group deems to be accepting of homosexuality; Catholic, Lutheran, and other Christian denominations that WBC feels are heretical; and funerals for people murdered or killed in accidents like plane crashes and for American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, a tactic the group started in 2005. Though the group's specific focus may shift over time, they believe that nearly all Americans and American institutions are “sinful,” so nearly any individual or organization can be targeted."

And as much as the WBC has a constitutional right to protest, their actions are in some fundamental way, un-American. In reviewing Bruno in the July 20th issue of The New Yorker, Anthony Lane writes:

"I realized, watching "Borat" again, that what it exposed was not a vacuity in Americans manners but, more often than not, a tolerance unimaginable elsewhere."

There's no way to stop the WBC from saying what they will, but what they say has nothing to do with reality, nothing to do with how life should be lived, and nothing to do with God. And so I hope their little teeny tiny protest goes off without incident. I hope they go home after visitng Times Square and the Statute of Liberty and write off their trip to New York City as a work-related tax deduction and then denounce the payment of taxes. And I hope they realize that in the end, hatred will not stand.


mamele said...

a friend online said they actually have a scam going -- they try to provoke people so that someone intimidates them or harrasses them or throws something, and then they sue the city they're protesting in for failing to protect them, and the city usually just settles. dunno if it's true, but this person says that since westboro is just the phelps family, it's how they make a buck.

Robin Aronson said...

I bet it's true. But I'm strangely reassured to hear that it's just the Phelps family and not a huge congregation. If it didn't create the potential for violence it'd be simply pathetic.