Protecting decency

Posted: Apr 22, 2007 9:43 PM
Protecting decency

Once again, we are experiencing the pain and anguish of another mass shooting in America, this time at Virginia Tech. And once more, the Westboro Baptist Church people from Topeka, Kansas are planning to protest outside the funerals of all 32 of the shooting victims. If you've never heard of this angry group of people, they believe that random acts of violence, killings, and even the deaths of American soldiers in the war are a result of God's wrath over homosexuality. They've repeatedly stated that innocent murder victims deserved their fate. They routinely hold picket signs outside the churches of funerals that say things like, "Your son is rotting in Hell" and "Thank God for IEDs" and "Your daughter deserved to die." One of them told me today that they were already making signs for the Virginia Tech funerals that would have said, "Hokies in Hell" (hokie is the Va Tech mascot). Many of these "church leaders" are lawyers and are experts at local ordinances that they use in their favor to hold their protests.

You may recall that when they were planning to protest outside the funerals of the slain Amish children in Pennsylvania, I offered an hour of airtime on my radio show to Westboro Baptist Church in exchange for their written promise to stay out of Pennsylvania and leave those grieving families alone. They accepted my offer and were guests on my show for an hour. When I found out that they were planning to hold protests outside the Virginia Tech victims funerals, I've made the decision to offer them more airtime. On Tuesday, April 24, Shirley Phelps-Roper and other members of Westboro Baptist Church will be my in-studio guests for the entire program. They have formally announced that they are cancelling all of their scheduled protests for the Virginia Tech shooting victims funerals as a result of receiving this invitation to be on my show.

I know that many people disagree with my decision. I have also received many notes and calls of support. Please allow me to state why I'm doing this: I truly feel called, on a spiritual level, to allow my radio show to be a tool that prevents these angry, hateful people the opportunity to hurt grieving families. I fully comprehend the arguments against doing this ("giving in to 'terrorists', "allowing them a national platform", etc.) but my heart is telling me to do something positive here. If my radio show can prevent a circus atmosphere of protests, counter-protests, police protection, and media coverage from taking place in front of churches where grieving families are trying to say good-bye to their loved ones, then I think that's a good thing. I feel with all of my heart that this is the right thing to do.

If you don't choose to listen, I understand completely. If you disagree with my offer, I respect your position. Please know that I didn't come to this decision easily or casually. I've prayed and consulted with my family, friends and colleagues. I know that many people will slam my decision. Last time, I was publicly criticized and mocked by a CNN/Headline News talk host for doing this with the Amish funerals. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper wrote that I "surrender(ed) (my) radio them a minor victory."

I am proud when a radio show like mine can actually do something good for people. Most times, those of us with a radio show or newspaper column can just talk about issues. Once in awhile, we can literally stop a horrible event in its tracks. This is one of those times. And whether you agree or disagree with me, I just wanted you to know -- from me -- why we're doing this.

As always, thanks for your support. God bless America!

Mike Gallagher
April 20, 2007

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