Tag Archives: Response

Difficult to Mourn: Rev. Fred Phelps Dead at 84

20 Mar

fred-phelpsI just learned that the infamous leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., died yesterday.  Phelps, who will be best remembered for his legacy of hate, such as: “Thank God for dead soldiers,” and “Thank God for 9/11,” because all of those deaths were “God’s punishment” for American immorality and tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.  Those of us in the LGBTQ community and our allies would usually hear his name and cringe, thanks to all of the damage he has done to our community.

Typically, Phelps and his family could be seen holding huge signs that read: “God Hates Fags.”  Phelps’ picketing of the late Matthew Shepard‘s funeral catapulted him and his organization into the national spotlight.

While I will forever hold a space of sadness for all the lives he hurt, I have to say that I am holding a space of sadness for Phelps.  What an awful legacy he leaves — a legacy that now he has no chance of doing any repair.  He will always be remembered as a man of hate — a reputation he worked hard to earn.

I can only hope as we reflect on his passing, that we also reflect on what it means to preach such vitriol.  My experience has been that people who have the most difficulty with LGBTQ folk, are usually battling their own internalized homophobia.

Call to action: I also hope that with Phelps passing we look at institutional and structural power that works to target and disenfranchise LGBTQ people.  How do we make a difference and make the lives of LGBTQ people easier? How do we enlist our allies to help us pressure those in power to create policies that create equity and equality?

I suspect there will not be many mourners of Phelps; that is quite sad.  Sad because he leaves only a legacy of hate. I invite everyone to reflect: What do you want your legacy to be?

Update: March 25, 2014:

Nathan Phelps, son of the late Fred Phelps, released a rather compassionate statement regarding the passing of his father. I have included a particularly poignant excerpt from his statement:

The lessons of my father were not unique to him, nor will this be the last we hear of his words, which are echoed from pulpits as close as other churches in Topeka, Kansas, where WBC headquarters remain, and as far away as Uganda. Let’s end the support of hateful and divisive teachings describing the LGBT community as “less than,” “sinful,” or “abnormal.” Embrace the LGBT community as our equals, our true brothers and sisters, by promoting equal rights for everyone, without exception. My father was a man of action, and I implore us all to embrace that small portion of his faulty legacy by doing the same.

It is nice to see that some type of repair work is being done by Nathan.

Salvation Army Responds…

9 Dec

TSAApparently my previous story on the Salvation Army’s sexist and homophobic practices caused a bit of a stir. Here is the original story from last week if you feel you need to refer back to it.  The day after I published the story, I received an email from Major Ron Busroe from National Headquarters for the Salvation Army. The email simply said:

Good morning Michael. I would appreciate if we could talk a few minutes about your blog. Let me know if you are willing and available.

In the interest of being fair, I called Ron and we did chat about the blog. The following is the exchange between Ron and myself.

I’m trying to reach out to folks and correct perceptions that are not accurate.  The whole idea that the Salvation Army is anti-gay and discriminates against people that are gay is just not true.  It is not happening today.  We have an employee in Communications that is gay and he lives in Maryland and is married.  I have a dear friend and he is an officer in the Salvation Army and he is gay.  We don’t ask people if they are gay.

Does the gay employee in your Communications Department receive full benefits and domestic partnership benefits?

Yes, he does.

How would the Salvation Army deal with an employee or volunteer who was proved to be discriminating against an LGBT person?

We will investigate any claims of discrimination.  If it is an employee the employee would be reprimanded.  The officer would be dealt with — they would not be fired but they would be told that is not policy of the SA.  Disagreement does not constitute discrimination.  We have lost the ability to disagree agreeably.  We do not believe homosexual orientation is a sin.

But there are numerous examples of people in authority in the Salvation Army who say that it is a sin. George Hood said that hiring LGBT employees would destroy the fabric of the Army; Maj. Andrew Caribe went so far as to say that gay people deserve to die.

The person in New York was not authorized to say that on behalf of the SA so it should not be counted.

Ron, might I ask you to look at the impact against the LGBT community when top officials that represent the Salvation Army make homophobic comments? Their being authorized to speak on behalf of the SA becomes immaterial — the damage is done. I hope you can appreciate why the LGBT community would be distrustful at best.

One last question, Ron.  How did you get my private email address?

[Silence.]  I’m not sure.  I asked if there was a telephone number.  We have a firm that works for us that monitors  all the information that comes in out about us.  I told them I wanted to reach out to that person.  I don’t know how that happened.  The name of the firm is Richard’s Group out of Dallas, Texas.

Ron can you understand how that feels rather creepy to me that you were able to gain access to my private email address? You could have simply left a comment on the blog, or emailed me through the blog.

I have the feeling we are going to have another bad article here aren’t we?

No, I don’t want to be unkind.  I want to share what you have shared with me today.  I think my responses to the thread of comments are evidence that I am not out trying to bash anyone.

I have not read the comments. I just read the story.

That is too bad. I wish you would have read the comments, for they speak volumes about people’s character.  I would specifically point to Xena who was kind enough to share the experience of her friend and the amazing comment from Steve, who has worked for the Salvation Army for 29 years.  His comment should humble us all.  If only he were running the organization. I also have to include Philip here for offering a sincere apology and helping me appreciate the power of dialogue within threads such as these.

Finally, I want to thank Major Ron Brusroe.  I am still uncertain what to think of the general philosophy under which the SA operates.  I will say that they seem to be working very hard to repair the history and damage to the LGBT community. I would also say that I would donate money to the chapter Steve works with.  While I am grateful that Ron took time to contact me and visit with me on the phone, it would have been nice if I received some recognition and repair around how creepy it felt that he was able to gain access to my private email address.

It would have been nice if Ron had offered or acknowledged the history and damage and followed up with some repair, such as I am very sorry people have been hurt by this organization, please know we are working very hard to ensure that ALL people are being served.  Perhaps I am expecting too much.

For all those within the SA that are dedicated to social justice, I offer my most sincere apology if I have committed any trespass. I know there are many of you working very hard to make the world a better place.

Update as of December 14, 2013:

I received an apology from The Richard’s Group and an acknowledgement that it “did feel creepy to me” that they were able to gain access to private information and then shared with the Salvation Army, albeit there was no malintent on their part.

I also have to include this link provided by my friend, Nel Ward. This link shows the most recent activity of the SA. Nel and I were both bemoaning the right to privacy seems to be completely gone in our current Orwellian culture.

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