2 min

Rev Phelps to protest here

US extremist plans Burnaby trip

Credit: Svend Robinson

Pastor Fred Phelps, the man behind the picketing at the funeral of brutally murdered Matthew Shepard, wants to come to BC to protest against “Anti-Christ MP Svend Robinson and the Burnaby idiots electing him.”

Phelps, from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, also intends to burn the Maple Leaf on Capital Hill in Ottawa the next day.

Robinson says his instinct is to ignore Phelps. He says the pastor has threatened to come to Canada to protest before and not shown up.

“He’s a hateful crackpot,” the 23-year veteran of the House of Commons says. “It’s just bluster.”

The Burnaby-Douglas MP says Phelps is responding to his proposed amendments to hate crimes legislation. The changes would extend protection from hate mongering to all sexual orientations, in addition to existing protection based on colour, race, religion and ethnic origin.

Robinson says the religious Right has objected to the amendment, claiming it would classify the Bible as hate literature.

In a letter to his constituents, Robinson claims hate crimes legislation does not limit freedom of religious expression or religious texts.

Specifically mentioning Phelps, Robinson writes: “My bill is intended to protect those targeted for their sexual orientation from hate propaganda.”

The MP says he has been contacted by police about Phelps’ intention to visit Burnaby on Nov 28.

Burnaby’s RCMP detachment could not be contacted for comment. Canada Customs spokesperson Angela Battiston says that if there has already been a hearing on Phelps’ activities in Canada, he will be red-flagged at the border to determine whether or not he can enter Canada. She could not say if that was the case.

A spokesperson for the BC Hate Crimes Unit says they are aware of Phelps’ intention to visit. They would not comment further.

Vancouver-Burrard MLA Lorne Mayencourt pledges to attend the protest to try and make Phelps understand the gay community is valuable to society.

“I guess he’s entitled to come here and do what he wants but I hope he wouldn’t,” Mayencourt says.

On Aug 2, 1999, the Phelps family burned a Canadian flag on the Ottawa steps of the Supreme Court of Canada to protest a decision granting spousal benefits to same-sex couples. They needed to ask advice on how to burn the flag from a police officer.

Later that day, they travelled to Montreal and got into a tussle. Punches and shoves were traded after the religious protesters showed up downtown.

Phelps himself failed to show. He was in Chicago protesting homosexuals there. He complained that too few Canadian police were prepared to ensure his safety.

Phelps and his church have become infamous for picketing funerals of gay men who have died from AIDS. He has called Canada “a great malignant tumor.”

In the past, Phelps has also condemned Rev Jerry Falwell, who accused TeleTubby Tinky Winky of being gay; former US presidential hopeful Bob Dole and the Reuters News Agency. Phelps’ press release about the impending Burnaby picketing uses a Reuters photograph.

The church’s website includes a tally of the number of days that Shepard, who was beaten, tortured and left to die tied to a fence, has supposedly been in hell.

Burnaby mayor Doug Drummond is on medical leave and unavailable for comment.