Editorial: Media should ignore church’s cries for attention

Little can be said to ease the pain resulting from the horrible tragedy of the Tucson, Ariz., shootings on Jan. 8 in which six people died and 14 more were wounded. However, much can be said to bring more pain to the people of the community, especially from the thoughtless actions of media-hungry protesters.

United in grief, the community of Tucson has successfully protected their grieving members by keeping the protesters of Westboro Baptist Church out of their city.

Many may remember the controversial “church” from there deplorable protests at multiple soldiers’ funerals, the funerals of many homosexuals and even at the memorial in the wake of the Fort Hood shooting in November 2009. Bearing signs that read “God Hates Fags,” “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “Thank God for IEDs” and “1,2,3,4, God Hates the Marine Corps,” Westboro Baptist Church has made quite the name for itself in the media and it’s certainly not a good one.

This group, which takes advantage of tragedy to relay its message of hate, planned to protest at the funeral of the shooting victims, 9-year-old Christina Green and U.S. District Judge John Roll.

In a valiant effort, many members of the Tucson community made plans to deter the church, including wearing oversized angel wings to block the protesters from the view of those attending the funeral. None of this was necessary because two radio personalities bargained with those from Westboro to ensure they would not attend either funeral.

Steve Sanchez gave Shirley Phelps-Roper, the spokeswoman for Westboro and daughter of the church founder and pastor John Phelps, 30 minutes of airtime Saturday on a Phoenix-based talk show he hosts. In addition to this 30-minute time slot, Phelps-Roper was also given an hour on a nationally syndicated radio show hosted by Mike Gallagher.

To many, it may seem absolutely ridiculous that the “church” was given this time, and in actuality, we think it is absurd. It is a shame that this group was able to put the people of Arizona in that position. The goal of keeping the protesters away from the funerals was reached and for that, we are thankful. These two radio personalities did express their disgust at the Westboro’s efforts, but Steve Sanchez said the decision was not a difficult one.

“I believe it’s a small price to pay for me to not give this hate group [in my opinion] the opportunity to be disruptive,” Sanchez said in a statement on his website.

Moreover, Sanchez did bring up an important benefit to giving the “church” a platform to appear on his radio show.

“The great thing about America, is we have First Amendment rights no matter how outrageous one’s views may be. When something offends us, we can turn the channel. This would have not been the case if they showed up to that funeral, which in fact, they would have.” Sanchez said.

There are few words for how horribly manipulating the people from Westboro are. They utilize the media for their own disturbing gain, for this is the primary medium for spreading their ignorant, and highly unbiblical, message.

It is a shame for this group to even be associated with the Baptist denomination or even Christianity at all. They do have a right to protest, but it seems it would be far more beneficial for the media to prevent all opportunities for the “church” to continually spread itst lies. It is better that the protest did not occur, but it is absurd that the only way to stop these people is to bend to their thirst for attention. How is it that a group of fewer than 100 people, most of whom are members of the Phelps family, are still receiving these massive amounts of attention?

The most beneficial way to diminish the prominence that these people have in times of tragedy in America is to stop giving them the attention they crave. This is a call to stop the unnecessary coverage that is given to Westboro Baptist Church.

In the same way that one might ignore a child who is throwing a fit for unwarranted attention, if the media strives to simply ignore the actions and threats of this group, there will be little that they can do to further their protests.

Perhaps the members of this church should open their Bibles to Leviticus 19:18: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”