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In the theology of the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), God has a pretty long shit list. Read the colorful placards at the groupâs daily demonstrations and you get the idea: âGod Hates Fags,â âGod Hates Fag Enablers,â âGod Hates Obama,â âGod Hates America,â âGod Hates The World,â âGod Hates YOU.â
Led since its 1955 inception by Fred Phelps, who turns 80 tomorrow, the church is populated primarily by his progeny. Since taking their crusade to the streets in 1991, the WBC faithful claim to have staged 41,226 protests in 685 cities and towns across all 50 states plus DC–on Monday, they terrorized Sasha and Malia Obamaâs school–not to mention Puerto Rico, Canada, and Iraq. (A U.K. visit was called off in February, when the British home secretary banned Phelps from the country.)
WBC achieved particular notoriety in 2005, when it began picketing military Michael Kors Clutches funerals. Taunting mourners with signs thanking God for dead soldiers and IEDs, church members declared that a âraging mad Godâ was waging a holy war on America for its acceptance of Michael Kors Belts homosexuality and other âabominations.â (The father michael kors wallets on sale of one fallen Marine, who sued WBC, was initially awarded millions in damages by a jury, but the verdict was overturned in September by a federal appeals court.)
Hated on the left for their homophobia, michael kors factory outlet disowned by the right for their anti-Americanism, the WBCers live in a world unto themselves. And that world, they say with supreme confidence, is nearing its end. âBy the time you see the Antichrist Obama sitting in the highest office in the world, you know michael kors outlet store youâve got a short time line, scripturally speaking,â explains Shirley Phelps-Roper, one of Fred Phelpsâs 13 children and the groupâs de-facto spokeswoman. Now, in the final act of that Biblical script, WBC has cast itself the part of the prophet Jeremiah–a lonely voice warning a disobedient nation of its impending doom. (Unlike Jeremiah, WBC boasts a state-of-the-art website, complete with a running meter of how many âreprobates have split hell wide open since you loaded this page.â)
With Armageddon approaching, WBC has trained its sights on a new target: The Jews. Though the gay-bashing and funeral-crashing continue apace, the church is now on a mission to call forth the 144,000 Jews who will be saved, according to the Book of Revelation, when their Christ-rejecting brethren perish in the rapture. (âSome Jews Will Repent,â says one of the groupâs more optimistic signs.) Recently, the hunt for these âelect Jewsâ sent a WBC contingent on a whirlwind tour of New York, where members picketed synagogues and other Jewish sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Islandâs Great Neck (or âGreat Stiffened Neck,â as WBC calls it), throwing in stops at âfag-infestedâ high schools for good measure.
What happens when a merry band of anti-Jewish, anti-gay rabble-rousers visits one of the most Jewish, gay-friendly areas in the country? Letâs just say that, in terms of brash willingness to speak their minds, these holy rollers may have finally met their match.
Benjamin Birnbaum is a reporter-researcher at The New Republic. Ben Eisler, formerly Michael Kors Backpacks a video reporter-producer at The New Republic, recently joined WJLA/News Channel 8 as an on-air reporter.
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