TV Review : Louis Theroux - America's Most Hated Family In Crisis
If ever there was a prime example of the danger of poor parenting, Kansas' Westboro Baptist Church show that there are no outlandish belief systems that cannot be installed into a child providing you brainwash them at a young enough age.
I've never been a big fan of religion as I believe it causes more problems then it solves. Even so, I was left open mouthed at the sheer hatred that these Westboro nutcase have for their fellow man.
None of the love-thy-neighbour-turn-the-other-cheek twee sentimentality that is a feature of British Christianity. Oh no, this lot are old school fire and brimstone nutjobs. To be fair they are at least equal opportunities bigots. They hate 99.9% of God's children with equal fervour. Jews, homosexuals, abortionists, unwed mothers, fornicators and Muslims. It don't matter to them. They are all going to burn in the hottest recesses of hell for their sinful beliefs and skin colours.
Louis first gave worldwide exposure to this bizzare sect 4 years ago when he stayed with the Phelps family (the de-facto leaders of this cult) and highlighted their madness to a wider world in his typically unassuming way. After four years he has come back to find their behaviour even more extreme then ever.
In a nutshell the cult rejoice in all the terrible suffering that takes place throughout the world be it tsunamis, earthquakes, war, illness, rape and murder believing it to be the will of a God as a punishment to non-believers. Cancer for them is a form of ethnic cleansing.
They seem to have a particular dislike for gays and their regular roadside demos against homosexuality complete with "God Hates Fags" placards has got them some understandable notoriety.
In fact their targetting of the funerals of dead soliders (it's members have protested at more than 200 military funerals to promote their belief that U.S. military deaths are God's punishment for America's liberal stance on homosexuality.) has got their cause as far as the Supreme court.
Albert Snyder, whose son's funeral was targetted for abuse brought a case for "intenional emotional distress" and won $11million damages back in 2007. On appeal in March of this year the Supreme court overturned the decision and protected Westboro's First amendment rights of free speech to ensure that even 'hurtful' comments must be allowed to avoid stifling public debate.
It is a strange contradiction that a country so prudish and traditional in many aspects of it's national character allows the kind of degrading and offensive "free speech" that would get you locked up in the UK for inciting hatred.
On this visit Louis is treated with suspicion and one of the members even accuses him of being en par with Pontius Pilate as one of the "most evil men in history" after his first documentary painted their group in a bad light. The crisis that the church is facing and the reason they have allowed Louis back is that they are losing members hand over fist and need more publicity to recruit more members. Not only is their belief system complete balls they strict stance on church behaviour has led to many of the group being cast out.
Members have been ex-communicated for simple things like wanting a boyfriend or wearing a bikini and are in effect dead to family members still in the cult. Louis tried to illicit some feeling or humanity from the parents of the apostates but his comments are met with blank faces or religious rhetoric that these defections were all part of the grand plan. At times it is hard to accept that these people are not actors such is their lunacy. Louis normally keeps his cool when interviewing the oddballs in his documentaries but you could see that even he was growing frustrated at the groups inability to offer concessions or acknowlegde any of the points he was making.
Along with the picketing there was a new practice of singing altered words to popular songs by Lady Ga Ga or Queen (I guessed they missed the fact that Freddie Mercury was one of the most out gay men in modern history)to fit their agenda. I don't know how effective singing about the sin of homosexualilty is to the tune of "Fat Bottom Girls". I guess that bit must have been in the Old Testament.
In a an era where most of the developed world is making strides towards religious and sexual tolerance and equality it was most upsetting to see the younger members of the group brainswashed into spouting religious soundbites and desperately repressing the humanistic urges. You could see the internal struggle int their eyes.
Luckily the oxygen of publicity they desire will ultimately destroy them as they become increasingly alienated and driven out by all right thinking people the world over.
I strongly recommend you watch this on Iplayer or you on Youtube if only to see the damage fundamental religion can do to the human spirit.