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Westboro Banned

Westboro Baptist Church members banned from the UK. Hmmm. I don't think I like this. Foul as Phelps & co are, they're not violent, and I don't think they directly incite violence, as far as I know. I can't help thinking the Home Office have only done this because of the Geert Wilders controversy last week, so that they can claim some kind of consistency.

Freedom of speech is supposed to be a founding stone of our democracy. Let 'em in, let us laugh at them and counter-protest. Silencing them just makes them into martyrs.

I can't help wondering if Shirley Phelps-Roper is actually joking when she says "Unless they intend to begin checking the bare backsides of every person coming into that country to find that tattoo that says 'Property of WBC' - they will have no way of identifying who is from WBC." I expect she is, but...whoa. Also, her interview with the Telegraph is great. I particularly liked this bit:

. So we go to the place where the Laramie Project is playing and you look at us, then you look at the so-called "counter-picketers" and the young people that you have taught that they can live like the very devil himself and it is JUST FINE, because even though the Bible CLEARLY says that God HATES people and it is a perfect hatred - a determination to send the UNREPINENTANT to hell for ever.


God hates people? Good to know!

Comments

( 24 comments — Comment )
ciciaye
Feb. 19th, 2009 06:11 pm (UTC)
They're said to support the killing of gay men (and probably lesbians too as far as I know). However, I read this is a copy of the Sun that a participant left at work this afternoon, so whether it's really true is anyone's guess...

CCA
pickwick
Feb. 19th, 2009 06:44 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm not 100% sure myself - I think they support it in an abstract way, but not sure if they actually encourage it, if you know what I mean! And I don't really know what the rules are for the Home Office, anyway.
(Deleted comment)
pickwick
Feb. 19th, 2009 07:58 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that was what I thought, in which case I can't see how WBC have breached it. Unless they're doing it on the grounds of previous convictions.
(Deleted comment)
matgb
Feb. 19th, 2009 06:15 pm (UTC)
Freedom of speech is supposed to be a founding stone of our democracy

So is freedom of association. Sometimes those freedoms come into conflict. Non-citizens do not currently have automatic right of entry. Until such time as we genuinely have global free movement of people, freedom of association means we can choose not to associate with people.

I just wish this was applied consistently.
(Deleted comment)
pickwick
Feb. 19th, 2009 06:47 pm (UTC)
True, true. I should go and look up the actual guidelines about who we let into the country, too!

I think it feels a bit off because if they hadn't crowed beforehand about what they planned to do while they were here, it wouldn't have been an issue. And, as Mrs Phelps-Roper points out, there are other Westboro members who would be allowed in.
sesquipedality
Feb. 19th, 2009 06:15 pm (UTC)
There's an argument to say that W'boro fall foul of the "fire in a crowded theatre" argument. The things they say are hateful, and harmful, and it's good that our government is willing to come out and say that such hatred doesn't belong in a civilised society. I think I'm inclined to start worrying about the slippery slope when we start to slide down it.

But I can see it from the other side too. I don't think there are any easy answers to this one.
pickwick
Feb. 19th, 2009 06:49 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's certainly not something I'm sure I'm right about! I don't *want* to let them in, I'm just not sure how justified we are in keeping them out. Although I probably wouldn't have thought twice about it if it hadn't been for the Wilders issue last week.
zotz
Feb. 19th, 2009 06:31 pm (UTC)
Well, he's got serious form when it comes to inciting racial, ethnic and various other sorts of hatred, and a recent conviction for witness intimidation too. I think a case could be made.
pickwick
Feb. 19th, 2009 06:52 pm (UTC)
Ah, now that's interesting about the recent conviction. I was just trying to google for the actual guidelines the Home Office follow in these cases, and came across a story about Martha Stewart being refused entry because of her conviction for obstructing justice, so there could be something in that.
miss_next
Feb. 19th, 2009 06:43 pm (UTC)
You know when I did that post about judging people or otherwise? I think the way I should have phrased it was "thou shalt not phelp". :-)

Seriously, although it's a difficult one, I would be on the side of not letting them in. They are to ordinary Christians exactly what the Taliban are to ordinary Muslims; the danger is not just that they go round inciting hatred in general (which is bad enough), but that by association they turn people against ordinary members of their own faith. I don't want them here for precisely the reasons I don't want the Taliban here, even if the Taliban could somehow be prevented from actual physical violence.
pickwick
Feb. 19th, 2009 06:54 pm (UTC)
Ha! Yes. I agreed with that post very much, and yeah, these are exactly the type of people who are Doing It Wrong.

I'm trying to figure out what exactly my problem is with it. I wouldn't object to them being thrown OUT of the country for inciting hatred, I don't think, it's just that refusing them entry seems to be verging on thought crime.
a_pawson
Feb. 19th, 2009 06:47 pm (UTC)
Whilst I believe in freedom of speech and don't think they should be banned from entering the UK, I'm not surprised they have been prevented from coming here. They may be peaceful, but their message and method of delivering it is likely to incite violence. If we banned Geert Wilders from entering the country, it's not surprising we banned these people too.
pickwick
Feb. 19th, 2009 06:55 pm (UTC)
No, absolutely - since we banned Wilders, we pretty much had to ban the Phelps if we wanted to be at all consistent, I think.
londonkds
Feb. 19th, 2009 07:31 pm (UTC)
Some of the Phelps clan's activities in their home town would definitely fall under anti-stalking laws: they've been accused of things like sending threatening faxes and phone calls continually for hours and letting air horns off outside their enemies' houses day and night.

Personally I think that if they'd been let in, the Met Police should have revived the old SPG rules just for them.
pickwick
Feb. 19th, 2009 08:02 pm (UTC)
Yeah, but again I'd be unwilling to ban them on the grounds of things they've been accused of rather than convicted of, although I have little doubt they did them!

I'd never heard of the SPG - ouch!
sloopjonb
Feb. 19th, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC)
Freedom of speech? When did we get that, then?
pickwick
Feb. 19th, 2009 11:18 pm (UTC)
*mmmmph mmmmrgh mmmph!*
bunnyk
Feb. 19th, 2009 08:34 pm (UTC)
I'm still trying to work out who the UNREPINENTANT are, and why they aren't repining. :p
pickwick
Feb. 19th, 2009 11:18 pm (UTC)
Heh, yeah, exactly! (Happy birthday, by the way :))
marcella_riddle
Feb. 20th, 2009 02:27 am (UTC)
It is indeed a slippery slope. I guess they see it as saving themselves hassle. But like she said, they could go under the radar. Banning them just gives them more notoriety and more people will probably look into them as a result.
dibsy
Feb. 20th, 2009 03:45 am (UTC)
I can understand the point of this law in a pre-internet age, even though I would oppose it, but it becomes even more ludicrous now. Ideas spread faster and wider than ever before, and this is as stupid and innefective as the Wilders ban. I have no doubt that Wilders film will get greater prominence and distribution, just as the Phelp's beautifully hilarious website will be getting plenty of hits now.

The WBC is a joke, btw. It is literally a handful of lunatics who are getting ridiculous amounts of incensed coverage from the media, but in reality have no influence. Ludicrous, utterly ludicrous.
( 24 comments — Comment )

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