Gay hate preacher attacks Irish tolerance

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The religious extremist who pickets the funerals of American soldiers killed in action has turned his attention to Ireland.

Rev Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist church are best known for their “God Hates Fags” campaigns in the United States.

They were the subject of a BBC2 documentary by Louis Theroux broadcast earlier this year.

He has now launched in protest at the introduction of laws in the Republic protecting gay people from discrimination.

Phelps has been invited to speak at University College Dublin next year.

He has accepted but has demanded guarantees from the Irish President and Prime Minister that he will not be prosecuted.

It is thought unlikely he will be given such assurances.

“They know exactly what I will say on the subject of gay adoption and they know that what I will say from the bible about sodomites will land me in an Irish jail for two and maybe 10 years,” he wrote on the website.

His branding of the land of saints and scholars as “the Emerald Isle of the sodomite damned” is in keeping with his recent campaigns, and

In April a spokesman for the Swedish royal family confirmed that Phelps and his followers had been bombarding the palace with hate messages by fax.

The Westboro Baptist church has protested at more than 100 funerals of soldiers killed in the line of duty in Iraq.

They first gained notoriety in 1998 for their noisy picket at the funeral of murdered gay teenager Matthew Shepard.

Their campaign, called “Thank God for Improvised Explosive Devices” involved protesters holding up signs and chanting slogans such as “God Hates Fags,” “America is Doomed” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” at the widows of the servicemen.

While in the US, they are protected by free speech provisions, but if Rev Phelps used the same language in Ireland he could face prosecution.

They claim that America is doomed because it tolerates homosexuality.

The practice of picketing military funerals caused outrage in America, with Congress passing a law, the Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act, which President Bush signed in May 2006.

It bans protests within 500 feet of the entrance of a cemetery under control of the National Cemetery Administration for an hour before and after a funeral.

Kansas and 16 other states introduced local legislation to bar the hate group’s activities.