Friday, 20 February 2009

Celebrating diversity

Westboro Baptist Church would be funny if it was not so sad. And there are quite a few other adjectives that could be applied to it.

One of which is ‘fascinating’.

For there is no question that it is a very unusual phenomenon. British people visiting the USA are often struck by the very visible patriotism of Americans - such as the flying of flags, and the “God Bless America” bumper stickers on cars. All very unbritish. And then there is the very strange US Flag Code, which gives precise instructions for what one may and may not do with an American flag, and is enshrined in Federal law.

Against this background, Westboro Baptist Church is very unamerican. The slogan “God Hates America” is a shocking (for an American) parody of “God Bless America”. And when one visits the (distinctly odd) Westboro Baptist Church website, one is greeted with the shocking picture of an American flag being trodden underfoot. It gets stranger, because I could not find any reference to service times or the location of the church. What sort of church is this?

But as I googled, I found something else - a website entitled “In Defense of Westboro Baptist Church Pickets” which quotes Thomas Paine’s words “He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” It says “Westboro Baptist Church provides the
ultimate test of our commitment to Freedom of Speech.” Fairly predictably, the two leading lights from Westboro Baptist Church have been banned from entering the UK, which shows how well this country is doing in that test.

Some people would say that Fred Phelps and his daughter are just a couple of harmless nutters. I would not go so far as to say that they are harmless, but they strike me as a lot less dangerous than the people who are running Britain at the moment.

There is not just one kind of extremist.

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