The Righteous on Parade

Lawmakers, Groups Move To Counter Westboro Protests at Funerals of Arizona Shooting Victims

Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, some of whom are shown here demonstrating outside the Supreme Court on Oct. 6, had planned to picket the funerals of the Arizona shooting victims, but lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday intended to block them.

Today feels much like yesterday to me; how do I write about gaming revenue in Nevada and New Jersey being down, MGM and Caesars extending their rewards programs and new gaming legislation in New Jersey in light of what happened in Arizona?  Finding something that feels in any way significant or important in the wake of such a horrendous  event is if not impossible, very difficult. Maybe there will be something tomorrow, but for today nothing else seems very important to me.

National tragedies always spur a great deal of debate, some of it new and some just retreads of old ideas.  Everyone with an axe to grind is jumping in to this debate with solutions, more stringent gun control, better protection for politicians and even some controls on public speech.  All old ideas whose supporters are just looking for a stage or platform on which to beat their drums.  The best example comes from the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas; the church is planning a protest at the funeral for the victims of the shooting.  They have made news fequently in the past by protesting at funerals.  They use funerals as an opportunity to tell all of the rest of us that god is mad and punishing us for our immoral lives.

“We picket the funerals to make these vital points to the living!” Phelps-Roper said. “If you heed, it is life and health and peace and safety. “God sent the shooter! Praise God for ALL his works, and BE YE THANKFUL!.”

It is difficult to top that; except to say, the difference between a killer who kills to prove a point and someone who uses that death to prove another point is only one of degrees.  There is no moral high ground in the death of another human being.  I don’t mean to imply we should not be moved to rethink many things in the aftermath of major tragedies, to introduce new protections for the public good and become more mindful and respective of our common humanity.  But, using such tragedies simply as a platform to play an old tunes does not fall into that category in my mind.  The Arizona legislature felt it necessary to pass a special bill to keep the Westboro bunch out of the public eye during the funeral.  But even if they are frustrated in their efforts to demonstrate they have already captured center stage.


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January 2011
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