Saturday, March 18, 2006

What Is It About Kansas?

I may alienate some with this post, as I know there are several regular readers that hail from Kansas. Kansas has a lot to offer - Lawrence is a little cultural mecca in the Heartland. And Kansas City (partially in Kansas) brought us some of the world's greatest jazz and barbecue. Count Basie hit his stride in KC. But the intolerance that oozes out of Kansas is mind-boggling.

Families Seek Legislative Remedies From Funeral Protesters

The Kansas-based church, which believes God is punishing America for its tolerance of homosexuality by sending home U.S. soldiers "in body bags," chose as one of its most recent demonstration sites the funeral of Army Staff Sgt. Lance Chase, 32, father of two sons, who died from a roadside bomb while on duty in Iraq on Jan. 23. On Sunday, Westboro's adherents traveled to Yankton, S.D., to the memorial service for 21-year-old Army National Guard Spc. Allen D. Kokesh, Jr.

These people are demonstrating at and disrupting funerals of fallen soldiers.

... signs held by members that Feb. 2 were dutifully noted ...: "Steve held 'Thank God for Dead Soldiers,' 'You're Going to Hell' and 'Fags Doom Nations' while Shirl held 'America is Doomed,' 'God is America's Terror' and 'Don't Worship the Dead' with a flag tied around her waist."

There's more:

Westboro Baptist Church, an independent congregation of about 75 people, has been picketing in the Kansas area for years, often choosing memorial services for AIDS victims. But the group has recently made national headlines by traveling to places like Oklahoma and Tennessee, bringing their anti-gay rhetoric to the memorials for soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Congregation members also picketed outside of the funerals for the 12 West Virginia miners who perished after a mine explosion in January.

Asked what the church expected to accomplish by upsetting grieving families, Phelps explained they are on a mission, and that it is their right to be there.

"We are delivering a message. God is punishing this nation and he is using the IED as his weapon of choice," she said, referring to the improvised explosive devices that have killed many of the U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq since 2003. At least 2,255 American military personnel have died in Iraq since the war began.


But how to stop it? Legislation? That tramples on the first amendment, doesn't it?

... lawmakers like Schodorf of Kansas, state Sen. Mike Friend of Nebraska and others say they will work with constitutional experts to ensure any laws they draft will withstand a legal challenge from the group.

"I believe it's constitutional," said Schodorf, who said her proposal to keep protesters 300 feet from any funeral or memorial service would supplement an existing statute that bans protests an hour before and two hours after these events.

Schodorf said a constitutional attorney will be guiding the process, and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has promised to sign the bill once it passes the Legislature.

"We're having trouble finding the balance but we think we can do it," said Friend, regarding the Nebraska proposal, which is still being molded to fit constitutional concerns.

"We're trying to keep the people who are mourning from being subjected to this stuff, and prevent any potential violence that could break out," he said.

Ed Yohnka of the American Civil Liberties Union in Illinois, another state considering a restriction on funeral picketing, said his organization wants to work with legislators to ensure their measures don't cross the fine line between constructive regulation and violations of free speech.

"We're talking to legislators and governors. While their aims are good and may be viewed as compassionate and perfectly appropriate for many reasons, how do we get there in terms of being constitutional" is the challenge, he added.

What rock to these people crawl out from under to disrupt the funeral of someone's child? A fallen soldier? No matter how a person feels about the war, or gays, or anything else, these actions are miles beyond ANY definition of indecency.


Sharla said...

If I say, "What do you think of when I say 'Christian'?" you would name all of this kind of stuff- crazy, stupid, rude, and what-they-are-against sort of thing. Not LOVE. Ooooh, no, the vocal ones aren't out there loving anybody. Most people have a hard time trying to figure out how to tolerate/not tolerate and love people at the same time. That protesting thing at a funeral of fallen soldiers (who weren't gay to my knowledge) is sick.

Maggs said...

that's pretty fucked up

Teressa said...

It is sad that they just perpetuate more ill feeling than spreading the love that they are suppose to be. My Lord tells me to love everyone, not this group or that group, and not them or them, He says to love all. I actually heard the preacher at the church here in town preach hate from the pulpit. I was dumbfounded. I was so furious that my son heard it. I figure that I do teach my son different and I know that my son has no hate for anyone, despite what some Christians like to teach. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. God bless.

Anonymous said...

Hell, I'm not offended. I live in Kansas, and even I think it's fucked up beyond belief...

Mr. 12 Step said...

Yes, that sounds very fucked up.

Jon said...

Thanks for the comments, all.

I really shouldn't get controversial in this blog, but sometimes things just push my buttons...

Sharla and Teressa - I agree 100%. So much of the love and compassion seems to be gone these days.

Maggs, Crystal, M12S - pretty succinct way of summing this up in a few words. I agtree with you, also. ;-)

Teressa - it's great to see you getting around again. Hope you are feeling better these days.

Joel said...

I have a lot of Kansas readers, too, and I think the reason why is that they are all being driven nuts by their neighbors.

From what I hear, Lawrence is still a good place. Hell, their mayor declared an International Dadaist month.

Protesting at funerals? Maybe we should go do it at their funerals and see how they like it. "Bigots go to hell"?

Joel said...

Another thing about Kansas: they received an F for mental health services from NAMI.