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No peace in Phelps’ death

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I’m mildly disappointed. I thought the death of such a vile man would bring me a little peace – and though I hate to say it – maybe even a little joy. Instead, as with most deaths I’ve experienced, there’s only sadness.

Fred Phelps, the founder of Westboro Baptist Church died March 19, 2014. His church, mostly consisting of his family members, is famous for their hardcore religious beliefs about homosexuals.

Westboro began making national headlines in the late 90s by protesting events they believed promoted homosexuality. This practice quickly came to include picketing funerals of openly homosexual people, suspected homosexuals and military personnel killed in action, among others.

What does the military have to with homosexuality? According to Phelps, America is too accepting of gay people and, as many of their signs proclaim, “God Hates Fags!” Therefore, 9/11 and the subsequent wars are God’s punishment for America’s filthy, sinning ways.

Despite several groups’ valiant attempts to guard mourners from Phelps’ clan of screaming monsters, the mere idea that a child waving a sign that reads “Thank God For Dead Soldiers” at your soldier’s funeral must be heartbreaking.

Phelps spent most of his 84 years on this earth spewing nothing but hate and hurting people. I grieve the life he wasted and the wasted lives of his followers.

I am saddened that his church will continue to picket. Even in the hour of his death, several of his children were protesting hours away instead of being by his side.

I am angry that his family deprived so many of the chance to reciprocate the pain inflicted upon them through protest by denying Phelps a funeral. At the same time, I am glad. Since their hearts are so filled with hate, should we waste a single ounce of our goodness to stoop to their level, as tempting as that may be?

If he had been a hateful man who had made relatively no impact in the world, his death would be just another death. Unfortunately, he had 13 children. While a couple have left the church, many will continue on in his hate-filled footsteps. Phelps’ poison has now been passed on to spouses, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

That’s the true tragedy here – not that Phelps led a horrible, hateful life. Not that he died after being excommunicated from his own church and essentially his own family. It’s not even that he hurt so many people and caused so many tears.

The true tragedy is that his legacy of hatred, intolerance, disrespect and bigotry has already been passed on to poor, unsuspecting children who won’t have the chance to know any better.

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