Possibly the most hated — and hate-filled — man in America died last night.
Is there irony to be found in knowing that Fred Phelps died literally hours before the first day of spring? There’s certainly a metaphor, as the decades-long, no — centuries-long — cold winter for LGBT people is clearly at an end. The death of one of the most hate-filled anti-gay men in America should stand to usher in a new season of equality and fairness, and hopefully, a gentler time for all.
But before we say goodbye, it’s important to remember who Fred Phelps was.
A minister. A lawyer — disbarred in 1979 from practicing in his home state. A 1992 Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate.
Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church family made their name picketing the funerals of soldiers, LGBT people, and celebrities. The more popular, the better.
Phelps and his clan picked the funeral of Matthew Shepard, theÂ gay, 21 year-old college student who stood 5â€² 4â€³ tall, and weighed just one hundred pounds. Shepard had been lured out of a bar by two men. He was robbed, pistol whipped, brutally beaten and tortured, and tied to a fence and left for dead until someone came by and found him in a coma eighteen hours later. (At first they thought he was a scarecrow.) Matthew died six days later.
Shepard’s funeral was a prime target for Phelps and his family. They picketed, holding signs that read,Â â€œGod Hates Fagsâ€ and â€œMatt in Hell.â€
Surprisingly, in the 1960’s, Fred Phelps worked to end racial discrimination.Â “I systematically brought down the Jim Crow laws of this town,” he told Mother Jones in a 1999 interview:
Phelps sees no difference between the cause he stood for then and the one he stands for now. Today, he says, the increasing acceptance of gays in America reflects a growing immorality to which much of society is turning a blind eye, just as it once did to racial discrimination. And considering how unpopular his cause as a civil rights attorney must have been in Kansas in the early 1960s, it’s not surprising Phelps would link the two.
At this point, it’s important to think about all the other anti-gay activists, pundits, politicians, and preachers who have been equating fighting for racial equality with fighting to support discrimination against LGBT people.
And for those of you against tax-exempt status for religious institutions, here’s an uncomfortable shocker from MJ’s 1999 interview:
The IRS considers it a church, though, and that qualifies Westboro for tax breaks on “church activities,” including the $250,000 the family spends traveling to protests each year.
Yes, your tax dollars help support the Westboro Baptist Church.
A statement issued today by the Westboro Baptist Church on the passing of the Phelps patriarch notes:
God forbid, if every little soul at the Westboro Baptist Church were to die at this instant, or to turn from serving the true and living God, it would not change one thing about the judgments of God that await this deeply corrupted nation and world.Â That is the pinnacle of your hopes, and by far the most vain.Â Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, or the power of God.
TheÂ Southern Poverty Law Center writes of Phelps’ death:
Phelps, 84, and his extended family, which made up the bulk of Westboroâ€™s congregation, spent almost a quarter of a century issuing vulgar and incredibly spiteful rhetoric against LGBT people and their supporters. The group was especially loathed for picketing the funerals of American soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying God was punishing a â€œfag-enablingâ€ nation.
Thatâ€™s not all. Phelps and his followers attacked school children killed in bus crashes, victims of crazed killers, Nobel Peace Prize laureates, schools, synagogues, and a whole host of others for supporting homosexuality, typically in the most tangential of ways. When Al Qaeda attacked the United States in 2001, Phelpsâ€™ response was to savage the murdered pilot of one of the downed airliners as â€œthe filthy face of fag evil,â€ among other things. He also attacked Jews, picketing synagogues and saying Jewsâ€™ â€œvermin ancestorsâ€ had killed Christ.
To say Phelps and his followers were vitriolic hardly covers it. As the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has reported, the Westboro congregants were known for doing things like hissing to one little girl, as she went with her parents to see the â€œNutcrackerâ€ ballet, â€œDid your Daddy stick his prick in your ass last night?â€ He told his young grandchildren at a 2001 Westboro service attended by an SPLC staffer never to â€œhave sex with fecesâ€ or â€œdrink semenâ€ like â€œsodomite fags.â€
In “Donâ€™t Revel in Anti-Gay Preacherâ€™s Dying, Shepard Foundation Head Says,” the executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation cautioned against expressions of joy over the passing of Phelps, and says there is “no moral basis whatsoever to celebrate another human beingâ€™s suffering.”
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‘When Was Your Most Recent Period?’: Student Athletes in Florida May Be Required to Share Menstrual History
For the past two decades teenaged women participating in Florida high school athletics have been asked to submit their menstrual history, including the date of their first period, the date of their last period, and how many periods they have had in the last 12 months. The board of directors of the Florida High School Athletic Association, the organization in charge of coordinating high school athletics in the Sunshine State, will debate later this month if they will make divulging that information mandatory for participating in sports. According to the FHSAA website that board is comprised of 14 men and two women. Not one is a physician or medical professional.
Critics are voicing concerns over a variety of issues, including the right to privacy, the need for the highly personal medical information, who has access to it, how it is stored, and how it could be used against the students, including to determine possible pregnancy, miscarriage, abortion, or if the athlete is transgender.
“Many parents and doctors are worried that schools will use the menstrual data to monitor students for late or missed periods, a possible sign of pregnancy, or to out transgender students by watching for girls who don’t get periods or boys who do,” The New Republic reports, calling it “a terrifying glimpse of our dystopian post-Roe world.”
The three-page form, called the Preparticipation Physical Evaluation, asks:
“When was your first menstrual period?” “When was your most recent menstrual period? “How much time do you usually have from the start of one period to the start of another?” “How many periods have you had in the last year? and “What was the longest time between periods in the last year?”
A draft form slightly alters the questions, asking instead, “Have you had a menstrual period?” and “How old were you when you had your first menstrual period?” in addition to the other three questions.
While it currently states answering is optional, at the end of this month those questions could become mandatory, although the reason for the possible change has not been disclosed.
Because the information is not being given by the athletes to a physician or other medical professional or organization, the information is not subject to HIPAA regulations. And in some school districts the inform action is stored on a third-party platform, possibly exposing it to other entities.
“This is clearly an effort to further stigmatize and demonize transgender people in sports [and] meant to further exclude people who aren’t assigned female at birth in girls sports,” the president of PRISM, a South Florida nonprofit organization that provides sexual health information to LGBTQ+ youth, Maxx Fenning, told The Tampa Bay Times. “Beyond that, I think there’s concern among LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ [students] alike. This is an extremely invasive mode of gleaning into someone’s reproductive history, which is especially dangerous in this post-Roe world we live in.”
TIME adds that critics “have noted that this policy would be a major challenge for transgender athletes who may have to out themselves with their responses to the questions. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis approved a bill last year—which is currently under legal fire—that bans transgender female students from playing on women and girls’ sports teams.”
According to the fan-checking site Snopes, “these written forms with students’ medical information are submitted to school officials, contrary to a number of other states where only a doctor’s signature is required to clear an athlete for play.”
Snopes adds that “concerns grew as many states worked to criminalize abortions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and transgender athletes faced scrutiny. In Florida, abortions are banned after 15 weeks, with only a few exceptions.”
“Any forms (physical or digital) could be subpoenaed. Meanwhile, in Palm Beach County, nearly all athlete-registration forms moved online, which meant reproductive data for athletes was being stored by a third-party software company called Aktivate. Other counties were also planning to digitize their forms.”
Last October NBC News reported that an Aktivate spokesperson said a student’s information could be removed but only with parental and school district consent.
Image via Shutterstock
George Santos Says Man Interviewed for Staff Position ‘Violated’ His Trust After Secretly Recording Conversation
The freshman New York Republican lawmaker who is believed to be under multiple DOJ and local investigations, suggests the candidate handed the recordings over to Talking Points Memo, and says he expects an article will be published there Thursday evening, after the news site contacted his office.
“According to Santos, his office had been in the process of hiring Derek Myers for a position, but paused when they saw he faces wiretapping charges in Ohio after publishing recorded court testimony — obtained from a source, he said — as part of a story for a small newspaper,” Semafor reports. “FIRE, a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to First Amendment issues, has defended Myers, arguing local authorities in the state were criminalizing legitimate journalism.”
“While they said they expect the audio will just show them questioning him about his specific circumstances, it’s unknown if he recorded other exchanges.”
Regardless, Santos is taking action.
The GOP congressman accursed of deceiving his constituents with countlessly false claims that helped get him elected, says he is going to report Myers to the Biden administration, claiming he has a White House press pass.
Santos says he wants Myers’ White House press pass to be revoked, after Myers, the congressman says, claimed to have one.
“He should have that revoked if it’s true, if it’s even remotely true he has it,” Santos told Semafor.
It’s not known if Myers does, and if so it’s unlikely it’s a permanent hard pass. It’s also unlikely it would be revoked if Myers did not break the law.
Semafor adds in Washington, D.C. it is legal to record your own conversation with another party without obtaining their consent.
‘They’re Not Taking My Gas Stove’: Joe Manchin Teams Up With Hard Core Republicans to Promote False Claims
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) is again promoting the false claim that the federal government is planning to remove gas stoves from private homes, after news last month revealed once more the open-flame appliances are responsible for hundreds of thousands of cases of children’s asthma.
“They’re not taking my gas stove out,” said Manchin, who has made millions from coal and protects his state – which ranks in the top five for production of natural gas – at every turn.
Manchin, a rare breed of conservative Democrat, announced in a Senate hearing on Thursday that he is teaming up with Republican Senators Ted Cruz and James Lankford to fuel the unfounded fears of the federal government coming to rip gas stoves out of Americans’ homes – fears promoted by the right.
“Gas stoves have been in the news lately and I’ve come out strongly against the Consumer Product Safety Commission pursuing any ban of gas stoves,” Manchin declared, despite there being no possibility of that. “In fact, I’m introducing legislation today with Senator Cruz that would ensure that they don’t and separately sending a letter to the commission with Senator Lankford.”
“I’ve always been a proponent of energy efficiency,” Manchin continued, “but the draft proposes efficiency levels that DOE [Dept. of Energy] says at the highest level, up to 96% of gas stoves don’t currently meet. I don’t like where I think they’re going with this and I tell you one thing, they’re not taking my gas stove put. My wife and I would both be upset.”
Manchin went on the claim the Biden administration is “looking to find ways to push out natural gas.”
And he warned the feds to stay out of his kitchen.
“Like I said before,” Manchin declared, “the federal government doesn’t have any business telling American families how to cook their dinner.”
The federal government does have a responsibility, by law, to warn Americans of health and safety issues in their homes. For decades it has been doing just that.
But the West Virginia Senator went even further, stating: “retrofitting or removing stoves that people have had for years is not going to happen.”
Manchin isn’t just blowing smoke – he has a lot at stake in the “gas stove war.”
“West Virginia is the fourth-largest producer of marketed natural gas in the nation,” according to a federal government December report.
“At every step of his political career, Joe Manchin helped a West Virginia power plant that is the sole customer of his private coal business. Along the way, he blocked ambitious climate action,” The New York Times reported last year. It called the West Virginia Democrat “the single most important figure shaping the nation’s energy and climate policy.”
Watch Sen. Manchin below or at this link.
“They’re not taking my gas stove out!” pic.twitter.com/P4zFGC6Kqp
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 2, 2023
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