That there are homophobes out there -- real, virulent gay haters -- is not news. And I've already detailed my disdain in particular for those who gay-hate in the name of God.
Nor is it news that everyone's got an opinion about what's going on with our soldiers in Iraq.
But can you imagine someone actually conflating their disdain for gays with the deaths of American soldiers?
You could play that horrid game of mental Twister if you'd heard of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. Fred Phelps, the pastor of this so-called church, and his... -- his flock? His lemmings? -- believe that all soldiers' deaths are divine retribution for America's tolerance of homosexuals.
Just to sum up: God is killing service men and women because America is sooooo unbelievably tolerant of gays.
And if you really want to believe that, fine. Go sit in a corner and believe while intelligent people try to actually deal with the war and its human cost.
Problem is, this Westboro bunch chooses to not sit in some corner. They actively seek to inflict emotional pain in perhaps the most deranged manner possible; traveling the country showing up at the funerals of fallen soldiers - not gay soldiers, or soldiers who openly advocated inclusion. Just soldiers who gave their lives for their country. The group then heckles the families of the fallen at their supreme hour of grief. Throwing out lines and holding up posters like: "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," and "God Hates Fags."
The conduct of these..."people" is not just depraved. It's illegal. Well, to a point.
The parents of one soldier whose funeral the Westboro flock berated sued the church. The church was found liable and hit up with an eleven million dollar verdict.
The verdict may be overturned on issues of free speech. As a believer in the freedom of speech to a degree I would accept that.
But I also accept that not all speech is protected. The family sued the church for emotional distress and invasion of privacy, and some states disregard "free speech" under such circumstances.
Time will tell how this suit ultimately tumbles.
Certainly hitting the Westboro bunch up for all the money in the world won't make them understand that God loves rather than hates. There are those who believe punitive damages are exactly the wrong way to punish such mongers. But at least this judgment is one step toward truly putting their broke behinds in a corner where they can huddle alone with nothing but their own hate to keep them warm.
Until they end up someplace that's, well, hot as hell.