Just kidding. Below are a few questions I’ve attempted to answer about the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). This isn’t formal research, just a few points that I believe need to be brought to attention.
What is this ‘Westboro Baptist Church’ you speak of?
The fine folks at Wikipedia have summarized that in far fewer words than I ever could have, so if you are unfamiliar with the WBC, I would suggest reading the first paragraph HERE
How does a church from Kansas have enough money to send members to protest all over the US?
Since the WBC classifies itself as a church, they are not required to disclose their finances to anyone - including church members. It wouldn't matter anyway, because about 80% of the WBC's members are members of the Phelps family so they probably know exactly what's going on. I'll get to that later.
Why do they hate so many people?
The WBC has targeted pretty much every major religion - Judaism, Catholicism, Islam, even some Christian groups that don't conform to their ridiculous ideas. They are also known for their anti-gay protests and the picketing of American soldier's funerals. More recently, however, they have been protesting celebrities like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. Why would a group like this bother with a pop singer and some kid? Media. Think about it. Out of everything they protest, what gets the biggest reaction? What makes people truly angry? What makes the news? When their protesting hits a nerve, they get sued. That should make them pay, right? No. It doesn't.
What happens when the WBC gets sued for being so obnoxious?
A nice group called the Phelps-Chartered represents the Westboro Baptist Church in court.
What is Phelps-Chartered?
Phelps-Chartered is a legal firm started in 1964 by Fred Phelps. In its early days, the firm supposedly took on clients that no other law group wanted - mostly cases involving African-Americans. This caused a stir for the Phelps family in not-quite-ready for desegregation Kansas - possibly giving them their first taste of what it was like to be controversial. Over the years, the Phelps-Chartered grew to include several of his children. The current attorneys of the Phelps-Chartered include Jonathan B. Phelps, Shirley L. Phelps-Roper, Rachel I. Hockenbarger, Rebekah A. Phelps-Davis and Margie J. Phelps. Eleven of the thirteen Phelps children are lawyers, with the exceptions being Mark and Nate, who have been estranged from the family.
Okay, they're all lawyers. What's that got to do with anything?
There's a lovely little law called the Civil Rights Attorney’s Fees Award Act of 1976. Sometimes referred to as "Section 1988", this law allows a federal court to award reasonable attorneys' fees to a prevailing party in certain civil rights cases.
So wait... what?
When the Phelps-Chartered law group wins a case defending the Westboro Baptist Church in civil rights cases, the federal government pays them an attorney's fee because of this law.
So the federal government pays for the Westboro Baptist Church to travel all over the place and be obnoxious?
That is ridiculous. Just when I think they can't get any worse, it turns out that they're lawyers too.
It is my somewhat humble opinion that these people aren't really as crazy as they look. Their tactics are so shocking and inhuman, most people can't (or won't) see past that. The protests and the picket lines are a front – they do it to get attention and for the money. Maybe the Westboro Baptist Church and the Phelps family really does believe all the crazy things written on their picket signs, but there is also the possibility that they're just conning everyone in one of the most shocking money-making schemes the US has ever seen.
Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Award Act of 1976
Phelps-Chartered Official Website
Fred Phelps on the Notable Name Database
(the official site for the Westboro Baptist Church)