Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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dogemperor [userpic]
When lunatics crash a funeral...

LJ-SEC: (ORIGINALLY POSTED BY [info]scarcrest)

So, members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., showed up to picket at a soldier's funeral in our coverage area on Thursday. I'm sure most people here know who Fred Phelps and his "church" (actually, more a cult of personality -- since the entire membership is his family and friends) are, and if not, a quick Google search will tell you more than you want to know.

Now, there was no question of the soldier being gay; he wasn't. The WBC has, in recent years, started picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq (maybe in Afghanistan as well).

Why? Their rationale is that God is punishing America 1.) for not stoning gays to death and 2.) because their church was firebombed in 1996. The roadside bombs are God's will, they say. In fact, one of the signs the picketers carried said "Thank God for IED's" (improvised explosive devices).

In planning our paper for Friday, we debated not mentioning the protesters at all; then we debated a few paragraphs in the story; and we ultimately did a short side story about the town's reaction. TV didn't mention them at all.

I think ultimately we made the right call; I was initially in favor of running a photo of the picketers, letting people see it and decide if their own views put them too close to these freaks, but we didn't. And, really, homosexuality wasn't the issue of the day; the issue of the day was that a soldier was being buried, friends and family were mourning, and these assholes came to picket for no reason other than sheer spite. It wasn't an anti-war rally; I'm sure the Westboro folks rejoice at the thought of dead Muslims.

We ran three stories on Friday: about the vigil the night before, about the funeral itself and about the hate group's demonstration.

Here's what our executive editor wrote today about covering the story, the decision not to print the photos, and most importantly, what the local reaction says about the community.

Ultimately, I think we handled it right. What do you all think?

(P.S.: Future posters might want to put underscores in multi-word tags, instead of spaces. If you do that, the tags then work properly.)

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