As an individual who does not partake in organised religion; the view from the outside is ugly.
In recent days, I have found that I can not shake the deep disgust and anger I feel towards the Westboro Baptist Church since hearing that these homophobic Christian fundamentalists are planning to picket the funerals of the children who were murdered in Norway two weeks ago. What is worse is that I can not even attempt to “understand” their actions as derived from their beliefs, because in this case they are not. In this case it is all about the publicity.
For example, in 1998, when members of the Westboro Baptist Church picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, their anti-gay message, though horrifying, was clear, as Shepard had been tortured and murdered due to his sexual orientation. However, in a statement on the Church’s website outlining the plans to terrorise the mourning families of the Norwegian victims, they cite “Norway made being a fag legal in 1972 and passed laws for fags to marry and adopt children in 2008” as reason for their proposed actions.
The problem with this statement is that the childrens’ murders were, according to the BBC profile of Anders Behring Breivik, an act “against what he [Anders Behring Breivik] saw as [the] Marxist Islamic takeover of Europe”. It does not take much to deduce that the Westboro Church’s claim that their picketing would be part of an anti-gay rights in Norway campaign is contrived, to say the very least. A homophobic demonstration at any of the childrens’ funerals makes no political sense. Yes, the Norwegian Labour Party, being of a centre-left political position, would have a more liberal view in regards to homosexuality, but there are no pressing gay rights issues on the table that could be challenged by the Church’s “protest”. Instead, the main contention Breivik has regarding the Party is their liberal immigration policies, which are in current debate. Therefore, taking a terrorist act that has been revealed to have a clear motivation and deciding to make it a vehicle for another argument that has no relevance in the situation is blatantly ignoring fact and makes very little sense, making any demonstration based on that nonsensical argument to be irrelevant in its very conception.
However the Westboro Baptist Church does not give up that easily. To have you believe that they are not clutching at straws, the Church maintains that “[God] sent the killer to slaughter 75+ of your children and citizens. It doesn’t matter what stripes Anders Breivik has … God formed him and appointed him to punish Norway”. Yet by stating that it is not important who Anders Breivik is or what his motives were, and that he was “formed” to perpetrate God’s a.k.a. the Westboro Church’s own agenda, they are ignoring the very nature of what they claim to be so good at. To protest is to express objection to particular situations, policies or events. Yet to picket the funerals of the victims of the Utoya island shooting is not expressing an objection to anything, it is not even promoting the cause of the murderer, what it is doing is drawing attention to the Westboro Baptist Church.
For a group that claim to hate the media, it is clear that blatant media attention seeking is welcome in the Westboro Church, as there is no other reason why they would choose to picket funerals and brandish signs that rejoice in national tragedies. The only logical conclusion is that the Church feels the need to “spread its message” and, because it would have an extremely small audience in any other spectrum, the Westboro congregation use international catastrophes as a means for advertising their ideologies. Therefore, due to the lack of any relevant objections, publicising their opinions is all the Westboro Baptist Church wants out of the proposed Norwegian pickets. However, considering Norway has incitement to hate laws, and there is no First Amendment to hide behind, I am going to guess they are going to get far more than just what they want.