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Walls close in on Phelpses


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Walls close in on Phelpses

Judge orders liens on church building, law office

By Mike Hall, The Capital-Journal

A federal judge in Maryland on Thursday ordered liens on the Westboro Baptist Church building and the Phelps-Chartered Law office.

If the case presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Richard D. Bennett is upheld by an appeals court, the church, at 3701 S.W. 12th, and the office building, at 1414 S.W. Topeka Blvd., could be obtained by the court and sold, with the proceeds being applied toward $5 million in damages Bennett imposed on church members for picketing a military funeral.

A lien is a legal hold on property, making it collateral against money owed to a person or entity. It can keep the owner from selling the property or transferring title to the property.

The $5 million penalty is the result of a lawsuit filed against three of the church's principals by Albert Snyder, the father of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder, whose funeral was picketed by church members.

The senior Snyder contended the picketing caused emotional distress and invasion of privacy.

Westboro Baptist members regularly picket funerals of members of the U.S. armed forces, contending the deaths are God's punishment for the country's support of homosexuals.

One of Snyder's attorneys, Sean Summers, of York, Pa., said Thursday that based on financial information supplied during a hearing on the case, paying the $5 million penalty likely would force the church and the three named officials of the church to file for bankruptcy.

However, he said, even bankruptcy wouldn't let them out from under the $2.1 million punitive damages part of the judge's order. They would still be obligated for that amount under federal bankruptcy rules.

A jury awarded Snyder compensatory damage of $2.9 million and punitive damage of $8 million. But the judge on Feb. 4 reduced the punitive damage to $2.1 million, for a total judgment of $5 million.

In addition, the judge on Thursday required Shirley Phelps-Roper to post a $125,000 bond and Rebekah Phelps-Davis to post a $100,000 bond by May 5 or he will rescind a stay ordered by the court to prevent confiscation of their property.

But Phelps-Roper, an attorney, called that meaningless. She said the only property she and Phelps-Davis own are their homes and courts are forbidden from confiscating a person's home.

"I have nothing at risk," she said.

In February, Bennett ordered Phelps-Roper, Phelps-Davis and their father, Pastor Fred W. Phelps Sr., to provide detailed financial information about their interests.

The records showed the church property to be worth $442,800 and the law office building to be worth $233,000. Summers said the lien could be placed on the law office building because it is owned by Phelps Sr.

"He (the judge) looked at my tax returns and saw that we give money to the church, and he didn't like that," Phelps-Roper said.

She said there has been a lot of misinformation about the church and the Phelps family being wealthy. She said there was even a rumor that her father owned a "summer home."

She said that came from a humorous answering machine message that said, "This is the Phelps family summer home ? some are home and some are not."

Copyright 2008 The Topeka Capital-Journal

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Here's hoping the legal system works for a change. Picketing anyone's funeral, particularly a soldier's funeral FOR ANY REASON is repulsive. But to then make the completely idiotic claim that God is punishing the entire country for not stoning gays to death, I mean, don't these people have a conscience? Obviously no soul, or they would be repulsed by their own actions.

There just isn't any SANITY anymore. Common sense has become UNcommon sense. Humanity is doomed, and rightly so I'd say.

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Sorry, but taking a reasonable court action and extrapolating that to the end of humanity is a bit much, even for a cynic like myself. How about a nice hug?

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I disagree with this verdict and action.

I know many people are glad to see Phelps in trouble, but this is not the right way.

Think about it. If they can outlaw protests IN PUBLIC PLACES near the funerals, then they can restrict othger more legitimate antiwar speech too.

For instance, Some anti-war groups use the names of the 3000 US soldiers killed in Iraq to make a point about the human cost. Suppose that was deemed insensitive to the families and stopped? (IN fact, some states already HAVE passed such laws).

And I'm not even against the war in Iraq. I just hate restrictions on speech. ANY speech. Even jackass Phelps.

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You can't crap on people constantly and expect bouquets of daisies delivered to your door.

This is a large group of lunatics who actually feel they are doing the right thing. They feel strongly that "GOD" is actually causing all the country's ills, because the Supreme Court won't say the Constitution says something that it doesn't. They want a lie to be codified into federal law. And they are going to deceased solders' funerals, chanting insanely disgusting things at the soldiers' friends and families, not the worst of which that the soldiers died in vain fighting for the wrong side. At their funerals!!! These are people who think they are 'holy'? And on a 'holy mission'? Such activity has been considered absolutely the worst behavior possible going back into ancient antiquity. And they aren't the only ones. And this isn't the only example of how man has become.

I'm not saying there aren't specks of decency and sanity still, I'm saying those specks grow dimmer and further apart by the day. And the dark, empty void of hate and irrationality expands to fill the vacuum with ease.

Yes, I say if there is a 'end time', that we not only are in it, we are going to be the generations that see the end of all days.

And this is not a recent observation of mine. You can google me for such comments going back for years on the internet, and not just on my own sites.

This scum is just another example of the modern depravity of the human species. I'm sorry if you live in a rosier world. Keep your glasses on by all means. It makes it easier. Or maybe I'm just a pissed off old man, and have been for decades. I'll accept that label.

And those people should be arrested on site when they do those kinds of things. Freedom of Speech is clearly intended to protect ideas and thoughts, and the free exchange and discussion of them. But it was never meant to protect speech or actions that are harmful, intended to harm, or false. Not only can't they put ANY evidence forward to support their 'thoughts', they can't even rationalize why they are invading a decidedly and legally private event. One of the most private, reverent, even holy moments in the life of ONE, at least, if not to mention the family and friends of the one. Free Speech does not apply, on several counts. Hate Speech is directly applicable. So is 'actions intended to induce or create physical, mental or emotional harm'.

They are scum. They should only be treated as such in public and private. And any members in their 'church' should have resigned, walked out, and not returned until this group did the right thing. But too late now!

"Ignore it and it will go away and everything will be alright!" strikes again.

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Seeing the world through rose coloured glasses, or through a glass darkly, are both likely to obscure reality from our view.

Sometimes things are as bad as they seem, sometimes not. Sometimes everything is grand.

Whether there is an end or not is hardly even worth worrying about, except to avoid it for as long as possible, and even that may not be really important.

What is important is that we contribute to the good instead of waiting for someone else to do it for us, or saying we can't do anything.

In a true Christian sense, we might find it more effective to meet the vitriolic crusade of the Phelps with a display of love and forgiveness.

Instead of a "I hate what you do" email, perhaps we should be sending them a "I forgive you," email with a follow-up of "Please don't be so nasty anymore," note.

Every time someone retaliates against the Phelpses of the world with hatred, they reinforce the hatred that Phelps and Co. feel. It makes them feel justified in their outlook.

If everyone who came in contact with them kissed them and laid their hands on them to cast out the demons of hatred from their hearts, would they be able to continue to validate their crusade?

I wonder if outside their little bankrupt church, they would be able to withstand an all night vigil of love and peace asking all the gods to rescue these poor souls inside, from their own self-inflicted tortured thoughts of evil.

Of course sometimes the only thing you can do is walk away from those sitting in the caverns of their illusions, so that you do not miss the reality of a perfectly good day outside.

When each of us is faced with an inquisition of real horror from a monster such as a Hitler, or a Torquemada, or just some little authoritarian we meet in our daily life, it is only right that we seek to diminish and eradicate their power over us.

How we do that will determine if we deserve to be free of them or not.


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This kind of thing always gets turned into a debate on free speech. With one side saying the right to free speech is absolute and everyone should be allowed to say anything to anyone, the other side saying there should be restrictions on "extremists" but never defining what is and isn't extreme, and a few "moderates" trying to draw an arbitrary line in the sand that applies in all cases.

All of which is rather odd, for two reasons.

(1) None of the three positions outlined above are coherent. Is a false rape allegation an expression of free speech? What about a campaign of intimidation, or anti-semitic propaganda? Of course not. Anyone who says free speech is absolute just hasn't thought about it. As for trying to draw a clear line between those who deserve the right to speak and those who don't...how many time do you have to try it before realising it won't work? You need guidelines to interpret and modify on a case by case basis, but abstract absolute rules applied to concrete complex reality always result in gibberish.

You still say you want to place people like Phelps beyond the pale? Terms like "terrorist", "extremist" and even "whackjob" don't describe a type of person which can be objectively defined. If a terrorist is someone who uses violence and fear to effect political change, then all wars, including the "war on terror" are acts of terrorism. An extremist is just someone a lot further along one cline or another relative to you - which defines you, wherever you are, as a moderate.

(2) The Phelps family are being investigated for tax evasion and crooked property dealings, not spreading hate. As far as this case is concerned, hatemongering and free speech don't enter into the picture, and introducing them just muddies the waters.

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Kapitano, As far as I can tell from the article at the top of the thread, speech is very relevant to this case, since the church has been sued over picketing of funerals.

Those who talk about the Phelpses invading a private moment, are forgetting that the Phelpses are careful to never set foot on private property in their pickets. They usually pick a spot along a nearby road etc.

Caylor, your view of the world is decidedly lacking in long term perspective. If I had to pick a time in history to live, there is NO time in the recent or far past that would be more attractive to me than today.

The freedom you have from religion, from authority, from prejudice would not exist at all in, say, Ancient Egypt or Victorian England. In the USA of the 60s a church like Phelps's would have been unheard of only because the idea of of faggot rights seemed so laughable that none of the extremists felt threatened enough to picket anyone.

If you think mankind has ever been less depraved than today, I'd love to hear your case...

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With freedom comes responsibility. The jury probably saw that picketing a funeral wouldn't be against print, what is written as the constitution. But they're humans who have a sense of what they think is morally right and wrong, even of those aren't written in the constitution.

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Let me put it another way: there is indeed freedom of speech. That does not protect you from the wrath of people who you have injured with your speech.

When you declare war on the world and lose, don't cry about les fortunes de la guerre.

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I'm now convinced there is a God, after all.

If they can put these motherf*****g people out of business for good, I'll say halleluiah!

This nutcase woman, Shirley Phelps, is one of the most evil people on the face of the earth. Even Howard Stern won't put her on his show anymore. Her outrageousness has totally lost its entertainment value (if there ever was one).

If somebody can give me an address for an organization to burn this so-called church down, count me in for a $10 contribution.

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If it's a problem I can whip up a fresh batch of napalm anytime.

Since napalms primary ingredient is gasoline, it is a tad expensive these days but nothing says Eat s**t & die like napalm.

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I didn't realise matches were so expensive over there.

They're not...but dear gods, the gasoline for the molotov cocktails!



On another note - I would have to agree with an earlier assessment of the current age: though I like to play at cynicism, I remember well enough how it was in the last decades of the prior century to know that life is pretty good right now. Yeah, we live in a civilization in decline, and everything could go belly-up at any moment, but for the nonce it ain't bad.

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They're not...but dear gods, the gasoline for the molotov cocktails!



Sorry AJ, but a Yank can't whinge to a Brit about fuel prices - nobody has the right to whinge about fuel prices like a Pom. We now pay ?1.20 per litre. That translates to about $2.40 per litre and there are 3.8 litres to the (US) Gallon so we're paying over $9 per gallon.


Bruin in jest

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