12 Jul 2007

Phelps Kin Charged With Child Abuse Over Anti-Gay Military Funeral Demo

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

July 6, 2007

(Omaha, Nebraska) The daughter of homophobic preacher Fred Phelps has been formally charged with negligent child abuse, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, flag mutilation and disturbing the peace over an anti-gay protest at the funeral of a soldier last month.

The indictment was filed Thursday. Shirley Phelps-Roper, 49, was arrested last month in Bellevue, Nebraska, after her 10-year-old son stomped on an American flag during a protest at the funeral of a National Guardsman killed in Iraq.

Phelps-Roper and about a dozen other members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas carried signs denouncing homosexuality and stating that military deaths in Iraq were God's retribution for America being permissive of gays.

A 1977 Nebraska law prohibits trampling a flag. The protestors brought their own flags to the demonstration.

At the time of her arrest a police officer said that Phelps-Roper put one flag around her waist.

"The second one was given to a 10-year-old, who put it on the ground and started kicking it in the area they were protesting," Officer Joe Gray said.

"It appears the adults weren't stepping on the flag because they knew it was a violation of the law. But they allowed the children to go ahead and do that."

If convicted Phelps-Roper could be sent to jail for three months and fined $500.

Phelps-Roper says the action is protected by the US Constitution and she intends to fight the Nebraska law and she has asked the Nebraska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union to represent her.

The ACLU said Friday it had not made a decision.

"I have not failed to do my duty to my children, to my God or to my fellow countrymen, and I take my job dead serious," Phelps-Roper told the Associated Press.

She said county prosecutor Lee Polikov "has pointed the big guns of government at my liberty and at my children."

Westboro Baptist has 70 members, made up mostly of Phelps' relatives. Although it professes to be Baptist it is not affiliated with any national Baptist group.

Westboro operates Web sites including GodHatesFags and GodHatesAmerica and has been described as a cult.

Phelps and the church first came to national attention when he organized a protest by his followers outside the 1998 funeral for Matthew Shepherd, the gay college student who was beaten to death in Wyoming. The killing, Phelps' protest, and the reaction of townsfolk led to the play "The Laramie Project."

Church members routinely demonstrate at the funerals of AIDS victims and most recently at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq.

Westboro Baptist's picketing of soldiers' funerals led Congress and 34 states, including Kansas, to enact laws attempting to restrict such protests. It regularly protests at gay and HIV/AIDS events.

In May, members of the church protested at the funeral of evangelist Jerry Falwell. (story)

About a dozen members of the church carried placards accusing Falwell of being in league with gays and of cozying up to Israel.

In attacking Falwell the church says he "warmly praised Christ-rejecting Jews, pedophile-condoning Catholics, money-grubbing compromisers, practicing fags like Mel White (of Souflorce), and backsliders like Billy Graham and Robert Schuler, etc."


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