The phrase “banality of evil,” first applied to the Nazis, always has been more ironically satisfying than strictly accurate. We get the point — those goose-stepping popinjays were insipid to the point of inanity — but the world appeased them to its peril.
Likewise, one can smile at the emptiness of character exhibited by members of a church of hate — folks with the effrontery to travel about the country showing off their intolerance — but they should not be ignored. They should be shamed.
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kan., plan to come to Helena next month to picket what they call “pro-gay” churches, the Montana Supreme Court and the University of Montana.
Targeted churches are the Calvary Baptist, Saint Helena Cathedral, St. Peter’s Episcopal, St. Paul’s United Methodist, Our Redeemer’s Lutheran and First Presbyterian. That’s a rather representative sample of the community’s mainstream Christian congregations, and another indication of just how off the wall these people really are. (Those six churches, Westboro Baptist Church member Shirley Phelps-Roper told the IR Tuesday, have “carried the big lie that God loves everyone.” She also applauded the tsunami “that swept 20,000 Swedes and other (homosexual) perverts into Hell.”)
Members of that small Kansas sect have First Amendment rights like everybody else, and they can picket to their cold little hearts’ content. But they’ll be about as welcome here as the flu.