Belief Beat

The new (now with more Jews!) Supreme Court has heard from Pastor Fred Phelps today, defending his Westboro Baptist Church’s right to picket military funerals with signs that say things like “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Gay Soldiers.”

(The deceased soldiers weren’t gay, that we know of — though that would certainly lend another tragic layer to the recent “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” debate and bullied teenager suicides. The signage merely reflects Westboro Baptist’s general contention that God is punishing America for allowing homosexual behavior to… exist?)

I’ve noted here before that this tiny church is classified as a hate group, with membership predominantly of Phelps’ family members. Apparently, the church makes its money by provoking lawsuits that it then wins, citing freedom of speech. (It’s up to the Supreme Court now to decide whether hate speech/harassment is protected, or more akin to “yelling fire in a crowded theater.”) I’m curious if any experts would also classify it as a cult?

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I’m not sure when the Albert Snyder v. Fred Phelps verdict is expected, but check back for updates and share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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