The death of any person in unfortunate circumstances is never an opportunity for noxious publicity. But the Satanic Temple with its history of “offensive free speech” seems to be conveniently ignoring this ethical fact. As Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), lays probably dying in some hospital bed somewhere, the Satanic Temple has promised to perform a “pink mass” over his future grave as part of a publicity stunt to make Fred Phelps convert to homosexuality, all supposedly in support of the LGBT community.
Phelps is infamous for his anti-gay crusading, encapsulated in his church’s slogan “God Hates Fags.” He is often considered the archenemy of the LGBT community and for good reason. He and his church have been the most vociferous opponent of gay rights and gay people for many years. Their picketing of LGBT events, places, supporters, and funerals are sadly legendary.
It is difficult, however, to determine just how much of this is actual opposition and how much is a publicity stunt. The WBC is famous for its outrageousness all in an attempt to get more media attention for themselves, something the media have been very obliging about. News stories abound about their protests and offensive statements made both on their website and on air. WBC has made itself one of the primary attention grabbers in LGBT news because of their negativity and undisguised hatred, which they proudly proclaim on the homepage of their website.
Their favorite form of media attention has been their pickets of a variety of events, most recently the New Zealand artist Lorde’s upcoming performance in Kansas City, Missouri on March 21. Already this has garnered some attention from the international media and from the singer herself, who reportedly tweeted that everyone should wear rainbow colors to the concert. Those tweets have already been deleted without explanation, though some have speculated that she simply didn’t want to give them more exposure than they already have.
And exposure is something WBC has in spades. On any given day, there is a story about their antics in either local media or national media and their reach has extended internationally as well. Any mention of them by anyone effectively becomes part of their media campaign, a fact highlighted by Lorde’s decision to delete her tweets. They have perfected the idea so often used by drama queens, tantrum throwing 2-year-olds, and tabloid printers everywhere – be as outrageous as possible and people will pay attention to you.
Apparently this concept has been picked up by the Satanic Temple in their latest attempt to create publicity for themselves. Now that Fred Phelps is apparently dying, Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves has a publicity stunt of his own planned. According to Greaves, the Satanic Temple intends to perform a “Pink Mass” on Fred Phelps grave in order to make him gay after death.
The ritual involves homoerotic activity being performed on the grave of the deceased in order to bring about a change in orientation that will affect them post-mortem and, ostensibly, keep them from getting to heaven since no gays will make it there, according to WBC teaching. The Satanic Temple has already performed one of these on Phelps’ mother in July 2013. They acknowledged that the action is offensive, but appealed to their right of free speech, which they say Phelps has been exercising offensively for years.
New York State’s Adopt-a-Highway Program needed $10,000 to clean and maintain a strip of highway for at least two years. They launched an Indiegogo campaign in order to take donations and publicized this by their Pink Mass stunt. Sadly for the highway, they failed to reach their goal, instead receiving just over $2,000 for their efforts.
The examples of WBC and the Satanic Temple are an interesting rivalry of two obnoxious groups yelling at each other and trying to one-up each other as far as offensiveness goes. They may be on opposite sides of the LGBT issue, but they share a common theme in their tactics. Both have used and are continuing to use the LGBT community and persons as a platform for their own publicity stunts.
WBC is very clear in their opposition of LGBT persons and is definitely toxic when it comes to expressing that opinion. The Satanic Temple, however, is supportive and claims that its Pink Masses are designed to show that view. “The Satanic Temple supports freedom and the pursuit of happiness for all people, thus they support same-sex couples’ legal equality. The Satanic Temple claims that the mass was conducted as an affirmation of those values, and claims that the action is meant to convey a message of love in the face of hate.” It’s not entirely clear how disrespecting a person’s grave, usually considered an extremely taboo action, is a message of love, but the Temple is staunch in their defense that it is.
As far as news stories go, both WBC and the Satanic Temple are winning. Together, they equal a fascinating story just as outrageous as any pop star crotch shot, paparazzi assault moment, or plastic surgery gone wrong expose. It might just be more interesting even that Justin Bieber’s deposition which contained infinitely less crude and offensive language. Maybe the Satanic Temple should pay WBC a royalty for all their help in raising that $2,000. But there’s a very important group of people who are being left out of all this – LGBT people.
Whether it’s support or denial, the LGBT community should be slightly offended that it is being used as a publicity stunt opportunity both for the likes of Fred Phelps and raunchy supporters like the Satanic Temple. In the case of the Temple, it is particularly annoying that LGBT couples are being put on display in some kind of gothic exhibitionist fantasy over a grave. Even if the participants were voluntary, it is still an example of a non-LGBT group using LGBT persons for its own interests.
WBC has made money over its opposition to the LGBT community and that is extremely offensive, but at least they are straightforward in their message. But there is a direct correlation between the Satanic Temple’s action and their donation campaign. “The Satanic Temple is hoping their recent action will draw attention to the organization’s efforts to raise funds so that they may participate in the New York City Department of Transportation’s Adopt-a-Highway program.” In other words, they did it for the exposure.
Whether the Temple’s support for the LGBT community is as genuine as they say it is, it is still the case that they are attempting to capitalize on their association with that community. Fred Phelps and the WBC can be as offended as they want to be by the Satanic Temple’s publicity stunt, but the people who really should be angry are in the LGBT Community that is being used as a pretext for hate speech and opportunistic revenue.
Opinion By Lydia Webb
The Satanic Temple