Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Radio show keeps Westboro Baptist Church from protesting Virginia Tech victims' funerals

I've written many times about the wackos at Westboro Baptist Church. You know the ones — they show up at funerals for soldiers carrying signs printed with "God hates fags" and "Your son is rotting in hell."

Last week it was reported that this group of fundamentalist fools were planning to stage protests at the funerals of all 32 victims of the Virginia Tech massacre. I've been following the news, but haven't heard of any incidents.

Now I know why.

Radio host Mike Gallagher got them to promise not to do it. According to his website, he offered the group extended airtime on his radio program in exchange for their promise not to picket any of the funerals.

Last year he offered them an hour of airtime, which they accepted, in exchange for their promise not to show up at the funerals of the Amish children slain at a school in Pennsylvania.

Westboro Baptist Church formally accepted his offer, and Shirley Phelps-Roper and other representatives of the group were scheduled to appear on his show yesterday.

Gallagher wrote on his webpage April 23:
I know that many people disagree with my decision. I have also received many notes and calls of support. Please allow me to state why I'm doing this: I truly feel called, on a spiritual level, to allow my radio show to be a tool that prevents these angry, hateful people the opportunity to hurt grieving families. I fully comprehend the arguments against doing this ("giving in to 'terrorists', "allowing them a national platform", etc.) but my heart is telling me to do something positive here. If my radio show can prevent a circus atmosphere of protests, counter-protests, police protection, and media coverage from taking place in front of churches where grieving families are trying to say good-bye to their loved ones, then I think that's a good thing. I feel with all of my heart that this is the right thing to do.

If you don't choose to listen, I understand completely. If you disagree with my offer, I respect your position. Please know that I didn't come to this decision easily or casually. I've prayed and consulted with my family, friends and colleagues. I know that many people will slam my decision. Last time, I was publicly criticized and mocked by a CNN/Headline News talk host for doing this with the Amish funerals. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper wrote that I "surrender(ed) (my) radio show... giving them a minor victory."

I am proud when a radio show like mine can actually do something good for people. Most times, those of us with a radio show or newspaper column can just talk about issues. Once in awhile, we can literally stop a horrible event in its tracks. This is one of those times. And whether you agree or disagree with me, I just wanted you to know — from me — why we're doing this.
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