Are there limits to protest speech?

Fred Phelps’ disciples from Westboro Baptist have announced their intention to picket Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral this weekend. (News story here). Edwards was certainly a public figure, and the courts have repeatedly ruled that public figures have little or no recourse to hateful speech since that sort of speech is protected under the First Amendment.

But Steve Shriffen writing at Religious Left Law suggests that there should be legal distinction drawn between speech made in the public arena and speech that is effectively a private attack:

“Suppose, however, that a member of the Edwards family sues for emotional distress. What result? The Westboro Baptist Church has already declared on its website that Edwards was an arrogant witch who is now burning in hell with her son Wade who was killed in an automobile accident when he was sixteen. Falwell makes it clear that the Westboro Church can indulge in vicious lunacy on its website (though the claim about the son might be a different story).

But the First Amendment does not confer the right to speak anywhere at any time. To suppose that the right to spout hate in the media implies a right to inflict emotional distress on grieving mourners at a funeral is to endorse a heartless and foolish privileging of speech over privacy and dignity. We can honor our profound national commitment to robust debate without permitting any such assaults on the emotionally vulnerable.”

We certainly forbid certain forms of speech – racist attacks, bullying, abuse and incitement to violence. Is it time to take a stand here?

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  1. Priscilla Cardinale

    It has always been my understanding that the First Amendment to the US Constitution covers political speech in regards to the government in the public sphere. Protesting a funeral and harassing the mourners doesn’t strike me as being a political act regardless of the politics of the deceased and the mourners.

    Fred Phelps and his family’s extremism are a great burden and shame on the church Catholic. For many of the unchurched they represent Christianity.

    I am glad to see some courageous churches take a stand against the Phelps clan and their willingness to reject, loudly, forcefully, and quite clearly, everything they stand for.

    It is my hope that more church leaders will find the courage somehow to condemn, in no uncertain terms, this hate-filled legacy as being unChristian and nothing of God. That might do a great deal to heal the divide between believers and unbelievers in this country.

    For too long religious leaders have stood silently by the sidelines out of “respect” for differences in belief and not wanting to offend a fellow “beleiver”. This must end now.

  2. Robin Garr

    Simply restated, is this kind of public speech akin to shouting “fire!” in a crowded theater when there is no fire? This seems like a reasonable argument. But is it also the first step onto a slippery slope?

  3. LA Episcopal priest


    Believe me, in their home town there is no church that has not condemned the hate speech of the Phelps family. They have picketed all manner of conservative, mainline and progressive churches — including at least LCMS, Methodist, DoC, Baptist, Catholic and 2 of 3 Episcopal churches (leaving out one only because it was not in a heavily trafficked area). Sorry, if I leave a denomination out, there is no shame in being picketed by these foul mouthed jerks. If there is one social/religious matter that all Christians in the US agree on, it is that the Phelpses are disgusting and they do not represent the Gospel in any way. I can’t recall any religious leader ever defending the message of the Phelpses or their choice of venues.

    BTW, please pray for the children being raised in that crazy clan. They are getting this insanity at home and then being forced out into the world of school, sports teams, scouts, etc. to deal with the understandable hostility of adults and children alike.

    Bill Ledbetter

  4. Melodie Woerman

    St. David’s in Topeka stood in silent, solemn protest on many occasions and in many places where the Phelpses protested. Other Topeka churches have spoken out regularly, too.

    Because of the vulgarities shouted at worshippers, the city of Topeka adopted, and Kansas courts upheld, restrictions on the times they could protest church services, removing them from the immediate vicinity half an hour before and after worship. Churches have to post their times so all know when the 30-minute clocks start ticking.

    Some places have been successful in imposing these kinds of restrictions on funerals, too. However, the Phelpses succesfully have challenged many other laws designed to stop them.

    As one who lives a mile from their compound, I desperately wish the world could react toward them as one does a toddler throwing a tantrum, which is to ignore it. But the outlandishness of their actions make this impossible.

    Just remember they function like a cult, with behaviors that defy rational explanation.

  5. EH Culver

    Well said, Priscilla Cardinale. I hope that the Supreme Court will rule against Phelps and his organization. I refuse to call it a church.

  6. tgflux

    Fr Bill, I am happy to join you in this prayer—

    JC Fisher

    (And for the repose of the soul of Elizabeth Edwards, and her now mother-less children)

  7. Paige Baker

    It’s so easy to look at the Phelps clan and decry them, isn’t it?

    And yet, on any given day, LGBT people hear the Exact.Same.Message. coming from the pulpits of Christian churches across the land. Including in the Episcopal Church.

    Of course, the language is prettied up. Most ministers don’t use the word “faggot” from the pulpit–wouldn’t want to offend people’s sensibilities now, would we?!

    But the message is the same, even if the language is more refined: God hates you. You are an abomination. You will burn in hell for being who you are.

    All those churches who get the public vapors over the Phelpses really need to look at what they are preaching on Sunday mornings and ask themselves what the difference between themselves and Fred Phelps really is?

  8. George Clifford

    I find the Phelps clan’s views repugnant and their behavior reprehensible. However, I hope the First Amendment protects their right to protest on public property. Restricting that right creates a slippery slope that will quickly infringe upon my right to express my views in a sensitive (so I like to think!) and responsible manner.

    Protests outside a church during a funeral are obviously political speech. Otherwise, the protest would not attract so much public attention.

    Rather than working to make such protests illegal, the consistent witness of concurrent protests is far more effective. The greater number of protesters, the larger number of religious organizations represented, the editorial comments generated against Phelps and in favor of counter views all testify to the marginality and triviality of the Phelps and their views.

  9. Priscilla Cardinale

    I don’t know where Elizabeth Edwards will be buried and whether it is or is not “public property” but I completely disagree that a funeral is a political event and that what Phelps and family do is political speech in any meaningful sense of the word. It is more of an issue of government not infringing on religious liberty which allows for competing religious groups to act as they will, within the law, to prevent such atrocities.

    Many cemeteries are private property, including those located outside churches. The issue here is not “free speech” because the Phelps clan is not protesting government policy but rather proclaiming private religious views about another citizen.

    Protesting at a public cemetery while a soldier is being buried is, while abhorent to most, a very different activity from protesting a private citizen’s burial. Your argument would include any event that brought attention to itself as political speech and that is not the law of the land.

    It may be difficult to figure out how to protect the right of protest while also respecting the right of mourners to bury their dead without harassment but I’m sure that a fair and equitable solution can be found.

    If we follow your logic then we are heading to the point where we will allow heinous organizations such as Operation Rescue and the Phelps clan to dominate every area of our lives without recourse. I don’t think freedom of speech is in any danger from limiting their ability to harass other citizens at funerals.

    May Elizabeth Edwards rest in peace and may her family bury her in a dignified manner as they see fit.

  10. LA Episcopal priest


    The Phelpses speak for themselves and no one else except the father of lies. There is a big difference between what the Phelpses do and say and even the most conservative/ traditional Episcopalian I have ever heard or heard of. (Well, maybe the one priest who stood up and protested at Gene Robinson’s consecration.) Putting all who disagree with SSBs, SS marriage or the consecration of Bishops Robinson and Glasspool — separate matters, btw — in the same category as the Phelpses is the same rhetorical device as calling Obama Joseph Stalin or calling Bush Adolf Hitler. It shows a lack of discernment and its unlikely to win you friends and allies. It is good for throwing an elbow to the gut of conservatives, however.

    One more time: the Phelpses speak for no earthly person but themselves.

    Bill Ledbetter

  11. tgflux


    There is a big difference between what the Phelpses do and say and even the most conservative/ traditional Episcopalian I have ever heard or heard of.

    Um, Fr Bill, how exactly?

    Phelps & Co predict a fiery Hell, after death, for us f-word people.

    To have one’s own church DENY a blessing to one’s most significant relationship, w/ one’s beloved (and/or have those church people conspire to have the State deny its support for that relationship) is a kind of Hell on earth.

    The temperature of the hellfire, Bill: is that really the best you can offer us?

    JC Fisher

  12. Paige Baker

    There is a big difference between what the Phelpses do and say and even the most conservative/ traditional Episcopalian I have ever heard or heard of.

    Go out into the LGBT community, Bill. Ask THEM how the message you send differs in terms of its ultimate consequence for their lives–and their faith.

    It’s tough to hear myself get lumped in with the Phelpses–but I recognize the justice of the charge. That you can’t says a lot about why the fastest growing religious affiliation in this country is “None.”

  13. LA Episcopal priest


    So, everybody that disagrees with you is Fred Phelps?

    Its not true, but sorry you feel that way. As for me, no matter how annoying your conflation of everybody that disagrees with you, I’d still prefer your company– and binary thinking — to that of Fred Phelps.

    Bill Ledbetter

  14. John B. Chilton

    If we look across our northern border there’s a country (Canada) that would silence a group the Phelps. (Just the other day Canada banned a televangelist whose condemned homosexuals.) And that country isn’t all that different than ours. Therefore I’m skeptical of slippery slope arguments when it comes to free speech. I suggest it’s at least worth asking if we have made one version of free speech an idol, and can have free speech without allowing hate speech. Surely there is a balancing of rights where the Phelps gang is not permitted to disturb the grieving.

  15. LA Episcopal priest

    No, Paige. Obviously you have never seen the Phelpses in action in front of a Catholic or Missouri Synod Lutheran Church; perhaps if you did you would grasp some of the difference between traditional Christians and the Phelps sect.

    Anyway, I do not hear gays lump me in with Fred Phelps, nor do I know any that lump anybody in with Fred Phelps. He is truly one of a kind. Frankly, most people have more sense than to make that kind of blanket association and gays are no less intelligent than anybody else. Drama queens, however, can be of any gender or sexual identity. ‘Nuff said about that.

    As to the Phelpses and their free speech. I wish that the civil damages awarded to the plaintiff in Maryland had stuck, but they didn’t. I think they deserve a water cannon, but a private water cannon not the state’s. I shed no tears when their tires were slashed last month in Oklahoma. In that famously churchgoing state nobody would sell them new tires. Finally, WalMart did. (Speaking of evil!)

    I would be happy to nonviolently get in their faces with other clergy next time they roll into my city. ( do they ever come to LA? they’re not too smart if they do.) Like Ms. Woerman, I crossed their pickets to get to church years ago and got the brunt of their personalized obscene invective since they knew me from legal and university circles. A calm priest at St. David’s Episcopal pulled me back and saved me from facing a civil suit that would have bankrupted me. I hope I would have the ability to not strike them now. Not that they don’t deserve it, but it would be very unbecoming for a priest to head butt, punch, kick or otherwise assault anyone (on tape, at least)

    Fr. Bill

  16. Ann Fontaine

    Bill — I have seen them in action- they don’t tempt me to violence at all – that is how they support their vile actions – by suing those who confront them verbally or physically. They show up at most General Conventions. They actually help us as most do not want to appear to be on their side.

    I don’t think you can draw a line between them and those who would deny gays and lesbians rights and rites in society and church. It is all of a piece IMO – people who deny gays and lesbians the ability to live their lives in peace and to marry their beloveds – same stuff. It is black and white – for me there is no middle ground.

  17. John, there is no way the Government of Canada can ban anyone. The evangelist you speak of may have been banished from the airways by the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission (the CRTC), or possibly from certain public venues for some defensible cause. Our current government has indicated that it would ban the Phelps cult from entering Canada – but as non-Canadians, they do not have an inherent right to enter the country.

  18. LA Episcopal priest


    Its unfortunate that you have such binary thinking. That kind of offer no quarter, take no prisoners thinking and resultant politics are simply the mirror image of the hardest of hardliners in the conservative camp. FWIW, my own theory on Fred Phelps is that he sees himself as a modern day John Brown — the mid 19th century Kansas abolitionist/ preacher who slaughtered pro-slavery settlers and rebelled against the federal government for its toleration of slavery. Maybe, you have to have the twenty foot figure of a righteously angry John Brown in the state capitol imprinted on your mind like every Topekan has and know about Phelps long career as a civil rights attorney to make the connection. He simply takes his ideas and runs with them and admits no nuance, no toleration of the less enlightened.

    That kind of thinking can have ugly results whether practiced by the “right” or the “left”. I wonder at times if the “right” and the “left” in the Episcopal Church aren’t simply the end products of a Protestant mentality that is satisfied with whatever private judgment the believer arrives at. With no tradition for ballast you are free to deny the validity of any position that is counter to your Spirit-inspired, rational stance while someone to the right arrives at their Bible-informed personal position and sticks to that. Fred Phelps is one or the other and nobody can appeal to Church tradition with him– he’ll have none of it. There, that’s my theory of Phelps, fwiw. maybe ~0

    Ann, I’ll give you this: your singlemindedness on this issue is indicative of how TEC arrived at the position it is in. To you and most readers here, that is very positive. To me it seems that the church was hijacked by a social movement (one I have sympathy for, btw). That many leaders cannot or choose not to see the difference between Phelps and those who cannot go the entire way with the gay liberation agenda is just sad. It is certainly not liberal or inviting of any kind of reconciliation. I’m glad that not all progressives are so rigid.


    Fr. Bill

    Bill, please add your last name next time you post, Thanks ~ed.

  19. As you do not know me except for this conversation – I doubt you know my mind at all. If you can show me how your words do not add to the culture that makes the lives of gays and lesbians more difficult, I would love to be proven wrong. Here is more of how good people are complicit in continuing oppression. In most things I can see both sides and more of questions but in this case it is “those who are not for us are against us” Of course I do not think you will do violence or carry signs but supporting discriminatory laws makes for a climate where those things happen.

  20. Priscilla Cardinale

    Fr. Bill, you seek nuance that simply isn’t there. Offering me and others like me a doubtful, second-class status based upon a scriptural belief of our sinfulness and inability to achieve salvation may be less heinous than standing around holding a sign that says God hates me and I’ll burn in hell but it is a matter of degree of hatred and mistrust.

    Cold comfort indeed to be told that we are tolerated and welcomed despite the fact that the bible prevents you from accepting us and loving us as your neighbor and that we must remain in that crucified place for an indeterminate time until others come around to feeling differently about us.

    Martin Luther King Jr. spoke eloquently about the problems caused by those who stand and urge waiting for justice, in effect denying justice entirely, as being far more dangerous and damaging than those who outright oppose justice for some.

  21. Paige Baker

    Anyway, I do not hear gays lump me in with Fred Phelps, nor do I know any that lump anybody in with Fred Phelps. He is truly one of a kind. Frankly, most people have more sense than to make that kind of blanket association and gays are no less intelligent than anybody else. Drama queens, however, can be of any gender or sexual identity. ‘Nuff said about that.

    Bill–if you’ve never heard nonbelievers lump you in with Fred Phelps, you clearly don’t get out much. Check out the comment section on just about any news site that isn’t to the right of Attila the Hun, and you will find out that it’s not just the LGBT community that lumps you/me in with him.

    And Ann’s link will show you why–if you can be honest enough to see that your “ballast” of scripture is the very same one that Fred Phelps and David Bahati use to justify their hatred and fear.

    As I said, you might not use the word “faggot,” and you aren’t calling for LGBTs to be killed–but Ann is right. Your hiding behind the Bible for your belief that LGBTs are not deserving of rights and rites is just an earlier stop on that deadly road.

    (As an aside, throwing around the term “drama queen” in a discussion about rights for LGBTs is a huge sign of heterosexual privilege…and offensive in its own right.)

    With no tradition for ballast you are free to deny the validity of any position that is counter to your Spirit-inspired, rational stance

    I have plenty of tradition for ballast:

    Mark 12:28-31

    Matthew 22:35-40

    Galatians 3:21-29

    Acts 10 (This one is especially instructive. God does new things! Things that horrify good Jews! And the faith is saved and marches on to, and through, those abominable Gentiles….)

    So, no, Bill–you don’t get to claim tradition as being solely yours. And you can deny until you are blue in the face that there is no connection between your views and those of Fred Phelps and David Bahati. But many, MANY people see you as virtually interchangeable. All they see is that you wave the same Bible at them and tell them they are choosing to sin. And they see that the people under your spiritual care go out and vote–in the name of God and faith–to strip them of their legal rights.

    They have every reason to fear you and people like you. You can say oh-so-gently “I’m sorry, but it’s in the Bible”–while the Phelpses and the Bahatis are building the scaffolds. Just because you don’t dirty your hands does not mean you are innocent.

  22. Chad Willingham

    Fr. Bill, I don’t believe Ann and Paige et al. are far off their mark. Granted NOBODY is as bad as the PHelps but the point Paige,Ann et al, are trying to make is valid. This isn’t some social hijacking by the GAY AGENDA. This is our SOULS we are fighting for. I am an Episcopalian Convert because I was turned away from the Eucharist by the Orthodox for being GAY. HOw is that not saying I am not worthy enough and that God must hate me. The CHURCH is the body of Christ and the Body of Christ in many places still consistently tells LGBT people you are sinful,vile, not worthy of equality, the cause of all schisms, blah blah blah…then how is not just like saying “God hates Fags”.

  23. LA Episcopal priest


    I am sorry that you have had that experience in the Orthodox Church. Refusal of communion for being gay is beyond anything I have ever heard from Orthodox clergy (Antiochian, OCA, Ukrainian and Romanian) or friends, including a close friend who is gay and Orthodox. I can’t and won’t speak to your personal experience, but I will say that what you experienced is outside mainstream pastoral practice.

    Ann and Paige conflate with Fred Phelps anyone who is not exactly on their page on sexuality issues. All I am saying is that they are off base with their binary thinking and that their position excludes any fruitful conversation or development. It is a take it or leave it position that anathematizes anyone who does not agree 100% with them. There is a lot of territory between Ann and Paige and Fred Phelps, yet they concede it all to him in order to vilify anyone who has not reached their evolved position. I frankly don’t recognize the black and white take they have on this group of issues. In the real world of gay and straight family members, friends, and fellow church members I associate that kind of thinking with fundamentalists, not Episcopalians or any kind of Apostolic Christian.

    My former pastor, who has now left the Episcopal Church for the Antiochian Church, rightfully labeled the ideological climate of TEC as the “Illusion of Inclusion” some years ago in the pages of The Living Church. This anathematizing of traditionalists is an ideological and tactical position, not a theological or pastoral position. It goes right past Hooker’s supposed three-legged stool of Scripture, Tradition and Reason and appeals to the final authority of their individual experience and sentiment. Their position is becoming (or has become) TEC group think and from there it is a short step to a mob mentality that brooks no dissent.

    For better or worse that is the state of Anglicanism today. Sydney and General Convention are simply two sides of the same Protestant coin that owes Holy Tradition neither homage nor any restraint. I’m not saying it is unChristian, but it is certainly not Catholic or even Anglo-Catholic.

    In any case, where this hardline sentiment has taken power, how in the world can you expect traditionalists of whatever degree to continue as part of the same church? Are traditionalists and moderates to be tolerated only to fill the pews and pay the bills? Are traditionalist priests only to be tolerated until they can be replaced by a new ideologically pure cadre or be reeducated? If so, please publish this sentiment far and wide so folks know where they really stand. Better yet, make it canon law.

    Thank God there are more level headed progressive leaders in the Episcopal Church; witness Sarah Dylan Breuer’s support for the newly elected bishop of Springfield Dan Martins. I hope for the sake of the Episcopal Church that cooler heads prevail, though maybe the compromises and accommodations of Anglicanism have reached their end. It is harder and harder to recognize the broadness or graciousness of the Episcopal Church I was baptized into.

    God bless you all. It has been good to learn from you all in this online forum and I hope I contributed something worthy of your time. Let me assure you that I am not a gay-bashing caricature and I hope that you can broaden your vision a bit when you consider your fellow Christians and Episcopalians who disagree with you. If you see us all as Fred Phelps you are cutting yourselves off from the majority of the Church. It is possible — and a good and joyful thing — to be a true believer in your cause without vilifying everyone else.

    Again, God bless you all.

    Fr. Bill Ledbetter

  24. Ann Fontaine

    Other than beating the drum of binary thinking (which I doubt you would say if you knew my thinking) – you have yet to offer anything that would give me anything else to think about what you believe and why. I understand that you believe gays and lesbians should not have the full rights of every other citizen and Episcopalian – but I do not know why you hold this position. I believe they should — where is the “grey” area on this? Perhaps you can explain it to me.

  25. Elizabeth Kaeton

    Bill – as someone who has been a member of Integrity since 1977, served on the Board and was part of the founding of Claiming The Blessing, in which I continue to be active, I can tell you for a fact that there are many, many LGBT Orthodox Christians who are refused communion because of their sexual orientation.

    I’m fascinated that you make “traditionalist and conservatives” the new martyrs of the church with Dylan as your new saint. She will get a serious chuckle out of that.

    I don’t believe I’ve ever been accused of “binary thinking”, but it seems ironic to me that, while you insist that Ann and Paige are employing that kind of thought, it is you who are defining the polarities with Ann and Paige at one end and Fred Phelps on the other. To my mind, that’s a gross misrepresentation of the reality I see which is much more fluid. But, that you are the one who is identifying and defining the binary thought process while at the same time being critical of it is richly ironic

    All that being said, there is a vast difference between allowing room for gracious conversation and the tolerance of ‘hate speech’ in the form of signs that say things like “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Breast Cancer.”

    I can’t imagine ANY follower of Christ any where on the spectrum – progressive/liberal/traditional/ conservative/orthodox/catholic/anglo-catholic/reaserter/reappraiser – who wouldn’t be deeply offended by such uncharitable and, indeed, obscene language and behavior in the name of Christ. One would expect Christians to protest. Loudly. Persistently.

    What the State determines is “legal” is not the determining factor for Christian behavior. If that were so, we would still have slavery, women would not be allowed to vote, and children would still be working in sweat shops. And that’s just for starters.

    This is why “pro-life” Christians continue to protest legal abortions and the legal state of marriage inequality in most of this country – which allows for a group of people to be denied their civil rights – is being protested by Christians and the blessing of covenants between two people of the same sex is being conducted in many (but not enough) churches.

    Both groups of Christians are protesting something that is perfectly legal. Both are acting on their beliefs of what Jesus said in the Gospels. That I disagree with the former and support the later is not the issue. The issue is that each group is acting on what their faith informs them.

    Does that cause unhappiness in the church? There can be no doubt. That’s part of the reality of being a follower of Jesus in community. It has been ever thus, starting with circumcision.

    It takes a strong, mature faith to live in this tension. But, I believe, this is the implication of our baptismal vows to “be raised to the full stature of Christ.”

    So, as Dylan Thomas said, we ‘rage, rage against the dimming of the light’ and do not go softly into that good night. Even if it causes “unrest” in the church.

  26. John B. Chilton

    I may be incorrect on the particulars of *banning* a person for her speech in Canada, but my point remains wholly intact. Consider:

    Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits the communication by means of a telecommunication undertaking (including the Internet) of messages that are likely to expose a person to hatred or contempt on the basis of:


    national or ethnic origin





    sexual orientation

    marital status

    family status


    conviction for which a pardon has been granted

    [Much more at the link.]

  27. Chad Willingham

    So my question is…..Are we fully accepted or not? Is my love valid or not? What is the “grey” area. What other options do I have…Either be bad or be good.

  28. IT

    You know, there isn’t really a half way mark here. As Bp Barbara Harris said, you can’t treat people as “half-assed baptised”. They either are in, or out.

    Just because someone uses nicer language that Fred Phelps to explain why LGBT people aren’t equal, aren’t worthy, doesn’t mean that they are doing anything other than excluding LGBT people. Their language may be nicer. They aren’t condoning physical violence, of course. But the message is the same: “you aren’t wanted, you aren’t welcome, and you certainly aren’t equal.”

    This is just another version of “love the sin hate the sinner”, which degrades us as human beings. We’re supposed to be grateful that we are allowed through the door. We’re supposed to be grateful that our deaths are not being sought. Yes, it would be worse in uganda! We get that. But that doesn’t mean that being 2nd class here is acceptable.

    To be merely tolerated, rather than welcomed as equal brothers and sisters, is not a mark of community, respect, or fellowship. At least Fred Phelps is honest about how much he loathes us.

    It is why too many LGBT people automatically assume “Christian” = “enemy”.

    Susan Forsburg

  29. LA Episcopal priest


    To have a conversation everybody needs to grant the other(s) a presumption of goodwill and also have some respect for others or at least treat them with some courtesy. OK?

    Liz, “I’m fascinated that you make “traditionalist and conservatives” the new martyrs of the church with Dylan as your new saint. She will get a serious chuckle out of that.”

    I guess that’s good for a laugh, but its condescending and just plain rude. Dylan writes well about the Sunday lectionary and I used to consult her blog first when preparing a sermon. She is on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church and therefore a leader of us all; she’s a good person. I’ve admired her for a long time and then I see she’s stepped across the aisle to speak up for a noted traditionalist, Dan Martins. Of course, I know she’s a lesbian. So what? She’s a good person. punto e basta. A saint? Who knows, but I hope that being magnanimous to folks that disagree with you is not so unusual or unexpected that it qualifies for sainthood. Its basic human decency or “niceness” that I think all of our mothers wanted us to practice back when we were kids.

    FWIW, I love your family stories and you know something? It makes it really hard to think ill of someone when you see they have a human face, and a family, and that they love others and are loved. You are certainly more than a progressive political operative who can type a witty put down of the enemy (who is really not your enemy).

    Ann, Paige, et al.,

    I won’t paste the whole piece I typed yesterday about how I’m really on your side and not Fred Phelps. It would be a waste of your time.

    I hear you. I hear the pain of gays and lesbians who have been singled out for condemnation and abuse in the world and in the church. It pains me, too. Though I agree with you only partly on what the Episcopal Church’s position should be, you are my sisters in Christ. I’m offended by your hyperbole– again, just because someone disagrees with you that does not mean they are the same as Fred Phelps– but I leave here wanting to think the best of you.

    Liz said something important earlier and I agree with her completely: I really wish there were more gracious conversation in the Episcopal Church, if only because the debate is over. For my part I’ll keep trying to be gracious.

    God bless you all.

    Bill Ledbetter

  30. Elizabeth Kaeton

    Bill –

    First – It’s not “Liz”. Never “Liz.” Or, “Betty” Or “Beth” or “Libby”. If you call me anything but “Elizabeth” my sainted mother will rise up from her grave and let you see the back of her hand. No joke. You have been duly warned.

    I count Dylan as one of my friends. You don’t have to sing her praises to me.

    I do not consider you an enemy. I do not consider what I wrote to be a “put down”. I understand, however, that being “put in one’s place” can feel like that.

  31. LA Episcopal priest


    No liberties intended.

    Put in my place?

    I hoped we were beyond that, but whatever you say.

    William Ledbetter

  32. Chad Willingham

    Frankly there is no option for me. Either Full inclusion of LGBT Episcopalians or I walk. As much as I love the Church….I am not going to wait until I am 80 to see equality. If people can’t open their eyes to REASON and the God-Given knowledge of Science etc. and lets not forget the biblical scholarship blowing holes in the anti-gay position. Either it Changes or I feel like giving up on Christianity period. At least I know I can be accepted as equal and loved at the Synagogue. My family were Jews before I can be a Jew again…because evidently Christianity is just going to keep us second class and tell us we are not worthy. Maybe I am Ranting but I fail to see why Full Equality is even a question in the 21st Century with all that we know. Why be suprised Women haven’t recieved full equality in all parts of the Anglican Communion. Why am I suprised that LGBT anglicans aren’t equal. Who knows. Frankly does anybody actually care. I think most would rather we disappear so we wouldn’t be such a burden. Evidently Canterbury feels that way.

  33. tgflux

    I was away from this thread (when it went KaBOOM!) due to technical difficulties.

    While much digital ink has been spillt, I just wanted to note, Fr Bill, that while you dissed me (with EXACTLY the sort of “binary thinking” you seem to see {cough project cough} in everyone else), you didn’t answer my question: what do you have to offer partnered LGBT people? That makes you so different from Phelps? [Mere digital condemnation, instead of in-person screaming?]

    A further on-topic thought (directed to any and all)—

    Imagine a single word change, to the Phelps Standard Scenario: same screaming, same hatred, same targets . . . but instead of saying “God Hates…”, they said “Allah Hates…”

    Do you think they would have gotten to the Supreme Court w/ their case? O_o

    JC Fisher

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