The WBC deserves a peaceful time of mourning

When the news broke last week that Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, passed away, the initial cries of “good riddance” were clear. I’d be willing to bet somewhere the song “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead” was playing as well.
And that’s understandable. For years, Phelps’s church, made up of mostly his family members, tormented people in their times of need, often picketing the funerals of military personnel, homosexuals and even the victims of tragedies such as Sandy Hook. Often seen with their signs of “God Hates Fags” or “Thank God For Dead Soldiers,” the church hid behind the idea of freedom of speech, legally being able to hold their protests.
In fact, they even made a trip to this campus in 2005 to protest the Gay/Straight Alliance.
But perhaps the most disturbing thing about the church is the way they instill their beliefs to their children. A quick visit to any of the church’s many social media accounts will earn you a sick stomach at the sight of children sliding down a playground slide holding a poster saying “Thank God For 9/11.”
The Westboro Baptist Church has spent years kicking people while they were down, earning them the unofficial title of “Most Hated Group In America.” Even the Ku Klux Klan has protested the church because of their “obnoxious” displays.
It was obvious that as soon as Phelps’s death was announced, people would begin planning pickets of their own for his funeral.
I’ll admit my first reaction to the news was “maybe now they will get a taste of their own medicine.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized these people deserved to have their service in peace, and here’s why.
To put it simply, we should leave the Westboro Baptist Church in peace because we should not sink to their level. Perhaps one of Gandhi’s most famous quotes, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind,” applies here because if we spend our time celebrating Phelps’s death by dancing on his grave, we are no better than he was.
George Takei, famous Star Trek actor and gay activist, took to his Facebook to deliver a message not many people were expecting from him:
“Today, Mr. Phelps may have learned that God, in fact, hates no one,” he wrote. “Vicious and hate-filled as he was, may his soul find the kind of peace through death that was so plainly elusive during his life.”
We can all agree that Fred Phelps and his cult-like family have done terrible things over the years, things that I don’t think I could even turn the other cheek from if I saw them in person. But will a move from their own playbook make things any better? It will only make things worse. Will the death of their leader force the church to dismantle? It’s highly unlikely. Will allowing the Westboro Baptist Church to mourn their loss in peace cause them to realize the errors of their ways and stop preaching hate? Probably not. But at the end of the day, I will still be able to sleep at night knowing that I will never be put in the same category as them.