Idol Chatter

To hear about Heath Ledger’s death yesterday evening was shocking, but to hear this morning that the Reverend Fred Phelps, keeper of the God Hates Fags website, announced that his anti-gay group would be picketing Ledger’s funeral because of his involvement in the Oscar-winning “Brokeback Mountain” was even more shocking.
I suppose it shouldn’t have been.
Phelps and his group from Kentucky’s Westboro Baptist Church have become infamous for their tasteless antics; first gaining infamy for the picketing of hate-crime victim Matthew Shepherd’s funeral. It is despicable enough that the group would picket a funeral, even if they strongly disagree with the deceased’s former lifestyle, but Phelps’ group has expanded their distasteful displays — shouting obscenities and shaking hate-speech filled placards — to events not even tenuously linked to issues of homosexuality: Funerals of fallen soldiers and the victims of last year’s Minnesota bridge collapse. Sure, some of those soldiers and Minnesotans may have been gay, lesbian or bisexual, but Phelps’ group is disrupting those funerals not because of the personal practices of the deceased, but because the group believes deaths of U.S. service persons in Iraq and the failure of the bridge are “punishment for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.” Apparently those deaths had nothing to do with booby-traps and structural weaknesses. Go figure.
Now they want to disrupt the funeral of a man who played a gay man in a movie; a truly genre-busting and important film, but a movie nonetheless.

The link to the announcement about Ledger’s funeral is no longer working on Phelps’ site, but according to the group “will picket the decease[sic] Aussie actor’s funeral because he is a pervert who promoted homosexuality by appearing as a gay man in Brokeback Mountain.” The only pervert I see here is Phelps. How can a man who calls himself a Christian minister lead his flock to disrupt one of the most important rites of the religion?
Heck, even President Bush, a conservative Christian who’s not such a big friend of the country’s gay constituency, can see that it is just plain wrong to cause such distress, having signed The Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act which “bans protests within 300 feet of the entrance of a national cemetery and within 150 feet of a road into the cemetery.”
Ironically enough, I just read a piece by a contributor to “The Advocate” who said that he hopes Phelps keeps doing what he does best, because now that his group has expanded their list of targets to innocent victims of disasters and honorable soldiers, and not just gay victims of hate crimes, the more the public will be aware of the hate-mongering group and will turn against it. It seems in this case, with Ledger’s phalanx of fans from teens who loved him in “10 Things I Hate About You” to cinemaphiles who revered his work in “Monster’s Ball,” Phelps may be messing with the wrong cowboy.

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