Pondering Phelps Picketing Probe

Topeka Capital Journal
January 22, 1996

There are two investigations going on that are trying to determine who, if anyone, told city police not to arrest the Fred Phelps picketing gang. Actually, there are more than two probes, because I am conducting one of my own, and there may be other sleuth like me digging for the truth of this dastardly deed.

I have patterned my investigation after that of O.J .Simpson, who was trying to find the “real” murderer of his former wife and her friend, and also after the annual search for the WIBW Santa Claus.

What I am doing is asking people at random if they told the police to lay off Phelps and his troops.

So far, I haven’t turned up anything, but I figured that still leaves me with the two official inquiries.

Continue reading

Gentler Mud in 1990 Kansas

Topeka Capital Journal
May 14, 1990

It already is beginning to appear that mild-mannered minister Fred Phelps will be at a big disadvantage in the race for governor. The campaign is going to be down and dirty, as in muck and slime, and that’s hardly the place for a soft spoken man of the cloth.

Republican incumbents Mike Hayden and Democrat comeback hopeful John Carlin have started the mudslinging, and they seem to have enough of it to last until November. More than just a race between leaders of the two parties, this is a fight between two men who really don’t like each other.

On the side, sort of, is the shy and retiring Phelps, who would like to get into the thick of the battle, but probably won’t make it. He says he’s an old time Democrat. What does that mean? He explains: Continue reading

Maybe This Will Be the Year

Topeka Capital-Joural
Jan. 1, 1996

The new year holds some promise, even though the Czars exhibit is gone and there will be no downtown building to blow up. My crystal ball says one big story will be Glen Mason winning the Republican primary for Senate, but then changing his mind and deciding to remain as KU football coach because he just can’s bear to leave all those wonderful folks in Lawrence.

But will those wonderful folks in Lawrence say, “Oh, go ahead, Glen. Don’t let us keep you.” Some day. Maybe.

The early news spotlight also will be focused on another one of your favorite newsmakers. You want to guess who? Fred Phelps will be heard demanding that the police officer who called his gang a “cult” be reprimanded. Continue reading

Hate in the name of God is going around these days

Topeka Capital-Journal – Nov. 2, 2001

Osama bin Laden has been around so long, hating and killing Americans, that it’s a wonder he’s still alive. You’d think that by design or by accident someone on our side would have found him and made him history, or someone on his side would have turned on him, taken aim, and said, “Go with Allah.”

It’s a near-miracle that nothing bad has happened to him, considering he has made the terrorist rounds, setting up camps, recruiting suicide squads, giving interviews and even going on television to tell us he’s going to kill as many of us as he can.

We have a right to fear him. He apparently has enough money to carry out his threats for years to come, and he has thousands of believers willing to fly airplanes into buildings, or do anything else he asks.

Worst of all, he has time. He’s in no hurry. It could be months, or it could be minutes, before his next scheduled massacre, and it could happen almost anywhere. He has us living in fear, and we’ll continue to live that way until he’s gone.

It can be said of him that he truly is getting away with murder, and to stop him we have to find him, or get lucky with a 500-pound bomb or some subtler weapon, like 500 gallons of napalm in his favorite cave.

The life he’s lived up to now is the stuff of fiction, and the questions keep coming back: How does he get away with it? How much longer is he going to get away with it?

Topekans mulling those questions could be understandably discouraged. They ask: How can we expect this country to ever stop Osama bin Laden if we, the solid, upright, patriotic, fed-up citizens of Topeka, can’t stop a man who has been spreading hate here for years?

We ask, how much longer do we have to put up with a hate-monger who has buffaloed the law, the leadership and the local citizenry into believing he’s untouchable? What is it about him that makes him immune?

Fred Phelps doesn’t preach terrorism or violence, doesn’t threaten to kill anyone, doesn’t deal in weapons, doesn’t equip and train suicide squads, and he doesn’t hide out. He doesn’t need to, because so far nobody has figured out a lawful reason to round him up and herd him out of town. Continue reading

Enough Of Phelps’ ‘Emotional Terrorism’

Phelps Announces a Picket

From the National Journal online

By Steve Snider, Oct. 6, 2010

In the late 1990s, Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church posted a news release to its site announcing plans to picket the funeral of my father, Dick Snider. My Dad was a Topeka newspaper columnist for many years, writing 750-word takes three days a week on politics and local characters past and present, taking not a few pokes at the pompous and self-dealing. Phelps and his picketers were a Topeka staple for years before going national to spread their targets of hate and ending up as plaintiffs in Snyder v. Phelps. The Supreme Court will hear an appeal today from the father of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder to reinstate a $5 million judgment won against the Phelps group after they picketed Matthew’s funeral. Snyder was killed in Iraq.

My father said Phelps started targeting him for columns that chided Topeka authorities for allowing the picketers to roam the city in placard-waving packs to harass “accused” homosexuals. A newspaper profile of Dick Snider when he turned 80 put it this way: “As a youngster in Oakwood, Okla., the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross at the Snider family home, forcing one of the few Roman Catholic families in the small town to move elsewhere. Little wonder why Snider maintains little tolerance for fools and bigots.” Continue reading