Playwright welcomes messages of hate
On the streets of gay-friendly Toronto tomorrow night, one will be hard-pressed to find two groups more fundamentally at odds than those set to converge at Queen and Cameron Streets.
Outside the Cameron House tavern, one group will arrive to take in a stage show that satirizes the hard-line anti-gay teachings of Pastor Fred Phelps and his Kansas church, while another, comprised of seven members of Mr. Phelps’s very flock, plans to greet them in protest.
Controversial as it all sounds, it could be a marriage made in heaven from a publicity perspective, as each side draws more attention to the other’s message than either might receive on its own. Both sides acknowledged as much yesterday, in the lead-up to the opening of The Pastor Phelps Project: A fundamentalist cabaret.
“They’ve amplified my voice a millionfold,” Alistair Newton, the play’s writer and director, said yesterday, referring to Mr. Phelps’s Westboro Baptist Church, a congregation known for protesting outside funerals and listed as a hate group by U.S. rights monitors.
Shirley Phelps-Roper, the pastor’s 50-year-old daughter, was similarly candid. “Any publicity is good publicity, because all our job is, is to get the words out there,” said Ms. Phelps-Roper, a mother of 11 whose daughter Megan plans to be among the protesters.
Those words, plastered to picket signs, will likely include “God Hates You” and “You’re Going to Hell” and “God Hates Canada,” in keeping with the Westboro congregation’s belief in a God who is not especially preoccupied with benevolence and does not suffer sinners gladly.
However, the words contained in the church’s infamous Internet address: http://www.godhatesfags.com, are unlikely to appear in Toronto, because of the group’s apparent hatred of criminal prosecution under Canada’s hate-speech laws.
“I don’t think they’re going to be quite gutsy enough to put the God Hates Fags sign in the air,” Ms. Phelps-Roper said, because “they’re really not going to do a whole lot of preaching to anyone if they’re sitting in a jail cell.”
Not only will The Pastor Phelps Project mock the church’s anti-gay stand, but it will point out “the hypocrisy of the Christian and conservative right wing in North America” for remaining silent when Westboro members picketed funerals of AIDS victims, and objecting only when the church expanded its protests to funerals of soldiers killed in the Iraq war, which it opposes.
“Congress made it illegal to picket at military or state funerals; that irony possessed me to write the show,” said Mr. Newton, 25.
As for the protest, the playwright said he welcomes it. “I’d like to engage them in a dialogue. I have the intellectual armour to deal with them.”
Religion News Blog files items about the Westboro Baptist Church under the subjects of “Hate Groups” and “Religious Insanity.”
Controversial U.S. church plans to picket funeral
Members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church are threatening to picket the funeral of Tim McLean, the young man decapitated on a Greyhound bus last week.
The Kansas-based church — a small fundamentalist sect led by Fred Phelps — is reviled in the United States for protesting the funerals of hundreds of soldiers killed in the Iraq war. Seven members of the church originally planned to picket theatre performances in Toronto and Red Deer, Alta., later this week.
They recently added Mr. McLean’s Manitoba funeral to their itinerary and plan to stand outside the service with signs reading, “God hates you,” “the wrath of God is revealed” and “God hates Canada.” God is sending a message through Mr. McLean’s murder that He and the commandments must be obeyed, Shirley Phelps-Roper said.
“The reason we’re going is it’s dot-connecting time,” Ms. Phelps-Roper said yesterday. “The Lord is coming, America is doomed, the wrath of God abides upon the children of disobedience. His wrath appears in the form of these God smacks that are going on all around us.”