America's brashest gay protester has
been banned from entering the United Kingdom, reports the BBC.
Fred Phelps, the spiritual leader of
the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, and his daughter, Shirley
Phelps-Roper, have been banned by the UK Border Agency under a law
that bars entry of extremists into the island nation.
The congregation announced plans to
picket a Queen Mary's College production of the Laramie Project, a
play based on the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard. Shepard, a student
at the University of Wyoming, was beaten, shackled to a post and left
to die in a field by two men he had met in a gay bar. He was found
comatose, but died five days later.
The murder sparked outrage in the gay
and lesbian community and calls for federal hate crimes legislation.
The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act might become law this year, ten
years after his death.
The church came to national attention
when they started picketing the funeral processions of soldiers
killed during the Iraq war. Phelps believes dead soldiers returning
from Iraq are God's punishment for American support of gays and
The group also protested the first gay
marriages held in California in early June of 2008.
A press release on the group's website
announcing the protest called the play “cheap fag propaganda
masquerading as legitimate theater.”
“Matt Shepard has been in Hell now
for ten years, with eternity left to go on his sentence – without
appeal, parole, or time off for good behavior. All else about Matt
is trivial and irrelevant. Deal with it, you stupid Brits. You'll
join Matt Shepard soon. GOD HATES ENGLAND.”
Phelps-Roper called the British
government “filthy,” and told the BBC that the government cannot
“keep the word of God from coming into her borders.”
“Both these individuals have engaged
in unacceptable behavior by inciting hatred against a number of
communities,” a spokesman for the UK Border Agency said.
“The exclusions policy is targeted at
all those who seek to stir up tension and provoke others to violence
regardless of their origins and beliefs,” he added.
Despite having coined the phrase “God
hates fags,” church officials say they do not blame gays. In a
September 2008 email to On Top Magazine, Margie Phelps said
the church is against all sin.
“You self-indulgent cry babies
typically miss the point,” she wrote. “The prophets of Westboro
Baptist Church don't 'blame gays' for the wrath of God pouring out on
this nation. That's way too simplistic and narrow-sighted. The Lord
our God has put this entire nation under siege because of all your
proud sins – all of you – not just the fags.”
Phelps-Roper said she expected the
February 20th protest to proceed as planned by other