There has been some attention in the local media this week over protests that have been planned by a group from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS, targeting a high school and a number of Jewish organizations located within our diocese. This group, and their leader, Fred Phelps, thrive on the media attention they get as they travel around the country spreading their message of hate. While this group is most well known for their intolerance of gays and lesbians, no one seems beyond the reach of their hatred.
Confronting the members of this fringe group seems to avail little. They are not interested in rationally arguing a position; they only wish to use fear and intimidation to spread their message. The media attention that they get by starting fights only furthers their goal of spreading their message of hate to the broadest audience.
We can ignore many of the actions of this small group of extremists in the hope that the media too will deny them the publicity that they seek; we cannot, however, ignore the message of hate that they are spreading and the effect that message may have on our neighbors. Therefore I have written to the organizations being targeted, telling them that as Bishop of the Diocese of Newark I abhor the actions of this group and their message of hate; offering the support of the diocese; and letting them know that they, and all who are unfairly targeted by hatred, will be in my prayers.
I invite the people of the Diocese of Newark to join with me in these prayers, as we remain steadfast together in our mission of “…engaging the world with the hope and justice of Jesus.”