By Harry Welty
A Kind Word for the Trib
While helping out at a local church I overheard a minister and a member of his congregation tsk tsking the Duluth News Tribune. The paper’s misdemeanor was in manufacturing a news story. The Trib had contacted the notorious anti-gay minister from Topeka, Kansas, Fred W. Phelps, to ask him what he thought of the possible removal of the Ten Commandments monument from the lawn of Duluth’s Civic Center. As a result Phelps demanded that we erect another religious monument, one expressing his own peculiar brand of Christianity.
The complaint was simple. Fred Phelps is an unpleasant man with a hateful religious message. Phelps is not from Duluth and thus not part of our politics so he should mind his own business. Phelps’s proposal to plant a second monument by the Ten Commandments was objectionable because his monument proclaims that a martyred gay student is now burning in hell.
There has been a spate of letters-to-the-editor expressing a similar distaste for the Tribune’s “muckraking.” Evidently a lot of people agree that the Tribune invited trouble with its unnecessary inquiry. I disagree. I think the Tribune performed a valuable service by putting the issue of the Ten Commandments Monument in perspective.
many of the people complaining about the Trib’s reporting are the very
people who should welcome its treatment of the issue - religious liberals. For
many of them the question of the Ten Commandments is one of the state taking
sides in religious matters. Opposed to the liberals are religious
conservatives who view the removal of the Ten Commandments as yet one more
effort to remove God from
Both liberal and conservative Christians would be well advised to pay attention to Reverend Phelps on the subject of erecting religious monuments. Phelps has good reason to remind us about the Supreme Court’s decisions because he is in a much maligned and shrinking minority - gay bashers.
Phelps tweaked our new Mayor’s nose in a recent letter-to-the-editor for sticking up for the Ten Commandments monument while opposing Phelps’s hellfire and brimstone memorial. Phelps quoted the Supreme Court in Chicago Police Dept. v. Mosley (1972). In that case the Court held that the state can’t choose which viewpoints will be permitted to be expressed at public facilities. While it has taken the ACLU thirty-two years to get around to challenging our Ten Commandments there is little doubt that the City and the Mayor are treading on thin constitutional ice. The Chicago decision clearly suggests that the Ten Commandments can’t be given priority over Islamic, Buddhist, Atheistic or even the Rev. Phelps’s anti-gay pronouncements. The Constitution simply does not allow Duluth to play favorites where free expression is concerned.
argue, as some have, that Fred Phelps as an outsider and should not be made
part of the discussion ignores the fact that Phelps made himself part of
Duluth’s history a few years back by traveling here to preach against a
gay-pride parade. The Trib has obviously been paying attention to Fred Phelps
since he left Duluth. Apparently an almost identical situation to ours exists in
where another of Cecil B DeMille’s Ten Commandments memorials was placed on
public property. When the ACLU challenged that City, Phelps demanded that his
memorial be erected along side it just as he has in
who says we even have the correct Ten Commandments? Another recent
letter-to-the-editor complained that our Ten Commandments Memorial doesn’t
list the correct Ten Commandments. It’s so typical of Christians to split
hairs over the translation of the Bible. So, do we really want to entrust to our
City Council the responsibility of choosing the Bible’s proper scriptural
text? Heck, the City Council still can’t figure out whether the “old
growth forest” on Spirit
is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com.