Thank you, Fred Phelps. Thank you for enraging us, empowering us and uniting us. Thank you for bringing together LGBT and civil-rights activists, veterans and pacifists, bikers and schoolteachers, Republicans and Democrats, atheists and believers.
A funeral is an occasion at which mourners should be free to grieve without having to confront offensive messages. As a matter of common sense, this is reasonable. As a matter of First Amendment law, however, it is flat-out wrong.
In the 12 years between Matthew Shepard's funeral, and a Supreme Court case about Matthew Snyder's funeral, Americans' attitudes toward their gay neighbors have changed. It seems the Phelps family are the only ones who haven't.
Pastor Fred Phelps led the congregation that gained notoriety in recent years for picketing the funerals of soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. He spoke with me about hell, homosexuality, and the Supreme Court.