7 Nov 2007

Westboro Baptist Church member charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and negligent child abuse.

The Omaha World-Herald

November 5, 2007

Hearing held for Phelps-Roper over Nebraska charges

Security was tight today as Westboro Baptist Church member Shirley Phelps-Roper appeared in Sarpy County Court to answer charges that she mutilated a flag and put her child in danger while protesting at the funeral of a Bellevue, Neb., soldier.

Although the Sarpy County Sheriff's Office prepared for a possible protest by members of Topeka-base Westboro Baptist Church, none materialized. A few family members and her attorney accompanied Phelps-Roper, 50.

According to Bellevue police, Phelps-Roper had her 10-year-old son stomp on an American flag. Church members had obtained a city of Bellevue permit to protest.

The church, founded by her father, Fred Phelps, has protested across the country at the funerals of numerous soldiers, alleging that their deaths were God's retribution for America's toleration of homosexuality.

Last Wednesday, a Maryland jury awarded nearly $11 million to a man who sued Westboro Baptist for invasion of privacy after its members protested at his son's funeral.

The pretrial hearing centered on a defense motion requesting that the prosecution describe in detail the specific facts that support the charges, which include disturbing the peace, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and negligent child abuse.

Her attorney, Bassel El-Kasaby, argued that without specifics on what actions broke the law in each case and who was victimized he can't prepare his case.

"I don't think you can disturb the peace of a police officer or firefighter," he said.

He said it was "unorthodox" and potential "overreaching" by prosecutors to charge Phelps-Roper with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and negligent child abuse.

"I'd like to know who the victim is and what harm they suffered," he said.

He said if the flag mutilation charge is found unconstitutional, the other charges likewise may be dismissed, but he needs to know the relationship between the charges.

Deputy Sarpy County Attorney Marc Delman resisted El-Kasaby's request, saying he didn't want to limit the basis for the charges.

Delman told the judge that Phelps-Roper had "cleanly, openly and notoriously" made her son step on an American flag while her church protested at the funeral of William Bailey.

"Clearly the Bailey family was very upset by this," he said. Delman said Phelps-Roper's contempt for the flag gave rise to the case, but the rest of the charges stemmed from other actions as well, including slogans on signs and other conduct.

Phelps-Roper, outside the courtroom, said she didn't force her son, Jason, to do anything.

She said he has grown up attending protests and acted on his own.

"He laid it on the ground, and he stood on it. And he stood there peacefully," she said.

Sarpy County Court Judge Todd Hutton told both sides he wants written arguments on whether the prosecution should specify in more detail the actions that support the charges.

He said he wanted to proceed cautiously and would give both sides ample time to submit arguments. Given the filing deadlines, a decision on the motion could take six months.

In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas flag desecration statute. A year later, the court struck down a federal flag protection law. In both cases, the court ruled that flag burning was protected speech under the First Amendment.

Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov, however, has said that Phelps-Roper's actions at the Bellevue funeral went beyond civility and common decency and inserted an "overly provocative" message into the emotionally charged funeral.



  1. Phelps, his family and the rest of the circus that follows him can not be reasoned with. As with any true believer trying to be logical with these people is a waste of time, they are no different than Islamic extremists who sincerely believe that by killing infidels and dying in the process will guarantee them a place in heaven with virgins so beautiful that you could stare at them for 40 years. Anyone can corrupt a legitimate religion to fit into their twisted belief system.
    Phelps and his followers are no different. I have worked with people who suffer from Mental illness, without medication reality is not within their grasp. I sincerely believe that Religion, and those who use it as a weapon to beat down those they do not approve of are equally mentally ill.
    Unfortunatley the psych community has yet to determine a diagnosis for them. The symptoms are quite apparent, and extremely dangerous. Worse yet as with any hate group, they pass their illness onto their children.
    You can ignore them, sue them or scream at them it changes nothing.
    I hope for their childrens sake they will find peace and break free from the hate that eats away at their souls.

    1. This same thing applies to all Christian denominations that call homosexuality evil or sin, that try to ban abortion and overthrow science and the fact of evolution in the classroom and society, which is also contributing to the next generation's delinquency on matters of reality, history, archaeology and science.