Friday, February 20, 2009

God Hates Britain

Pastor Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas and his daughter Shirley were denied entry into the U.K., where they planned to picket a local production of The Laramie Project, a play about the murder of Matthew Shepard. For those who don’t know, Phelps and his church (which is almost entirely made up of his own family members) are well known for protesting the funerals of gay people, AIDS victims, and U.S. soldiers. They also run the website GodHatesFags.com, which features a clock measuring how long Matthew Shepard has been in hell for being gay. The British government cited its opposition to “extremism” in denying the Phelps’ entry. But as horrible and laughable and insane as Pastor Fred and his minions are, I can’t get behind state-sponsored censorship in any form. “Extremism” is a vague term at best, and in this case particularly it’s just an excuse to keep out people the government finds distasteful. But one of the costs of having a society based on free expression is that you have to put up with douchebags from time to time. The British people have a right to keep whomever they want out of their country, but this sets a terrible precedent for anyone interested in freedom. It would also serve everyone’s best interest if we let these people make fools of themselves in public. Suppressing their idiocy only adds some level of legitimacy to their views. It makes them feel dangerous and important, when they should really be made to feel useless, irrelevant, and ridiculous. Because that’s what they are. You can listen to my interview with Fred Phelps, Jr. here. And read more about the Phelps family’s travel problems here.

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