I was listening to an audio clip recently of an interview with Annie Laurie Gaylor from the Freedom From Religion Foundation on Fox News. She was being interviewed about FFRF’s display in Chicago’s Daley Plaza which featured quotes from Thomas Jefferson and John Adams regarding the separation of church and state. The display was to counter a religious display in the same public plaza over Easter. I agree with their message and methodology here but that’s not the point of today’s blog. What then happened in television segment the interviewer turned to Virginia Galloway, Deputy National Field Direct of the Faith and Freedom Foundation for a reaction. In her answer she compared the FFRF and their display to “the Westboro crowd and the things that they did.”
Wow, in one short statement that’s a lot of bullshit to get through. For a moment, let’s put aside what the FFRF and the Westboro Baptist Church do (assuming, of course, that’s who Galloway was referring to). I want to first consider the logistics of what exactly FFRF did in this case and the common practices that the WBC are known for. (You’ll notice the excessive amount of language I have to use for the WBC there. I’ll get to that in a moment.)
The FFRF’s display was one simple display that was left in a public square, quietly and without disturbing anybody. The WBC has picketed funerals and other events with the express purpose to make a lot of noise and disrupt people’s lives. The FFRF’s display had simple messages and quotes about the separation of church and state and used no offensive language. The WBC has derogatory terms on their signs and peg everything on a mythological figure that they never met. Finally, the FFRF’s display was to counter a religious display in public, which is a violation of church and state. The WBC’s messages are to tell people that God hates America because America allows gay people to live or some similar message to that effect, depending on the situation.
The final comparison starts to take us into the differences between the group themselves. The FFRF works legally, often with lawyers, to combat violations of the separation of church and state throughout the country. The WBC is a church and is trying to impose its religious views on others. As immoral as their protests may be they still work within the law as well, although that’s besides the point. One is an organization focused on the law and is dedicated to improving the rights of citizens, while the other is a church that’s also a hate group. Without going too deep into my feelings about either, I’ll just say that Galloway’s comparison is invalid.
That is, of course, we’re talking about the WBC in the first place. Remember the linguistic gymnastics in an earlier paragraph when describing them? That’s because Galloway’s statement wasn’t specific about who she was referring to. I can make a pretty reasonable assumption that she was talking about the WBC. But if I lived in the Westboro neighborhood of Topeka, Kansas, whether or not I belonged to the church, I would be offended. What about “the Westboro crowd?” and what does she mean by “the things that they did?” Get out of bed and make coffee? Have a job? Pet a cat? If somebody is appearing on an interview segment on television to represent the viewpoint of an organization he or she belongs to, then that person should think before speaking. Judging by the audio, Galloway’s remark came at the tail end of her statement, and sounded like an after thought. It should have been one that she kept to herself, as it only made her case weak.
By the way, while doing some research for this blog post, I stumbled upon the Faith and Freedom Foundation’s website. I have no idea of the size and scope of this group, nor do I care. On the surface, they present themselves as a patriotic group trying to return to the views of the founding fathers of this country. In that sense they very much represent the FFRF. However, when one digs just a little bit deeper, one will find the same conservative, religious rhetoric that had nothing to do with what the founding fathers thought. I don’t give them much thought, but they might be a group to keep an eye on. If anything, they might do something that’s good for a laugh as well as another blog post.