Hate Thy Neighbor

Editor's note: Please be advised that language on the Internet is not always reasonable or polite. CBS.com and Eye On America are reporting these events to make you aware of what you may find online.

Rev. Fred Phelps is a fixture around Topeka Kansas. He is the pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church and many say his message is beyond Fire and Brimstone - it's explosive. CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports for Eye On America.

"God hates fags," he says, holding up a sign that expresses his belief.

Every day for the last seven years, Phelps has led a small flock of about 20 protesters picketing anyone and anything he thinks tolerates homosexuals. This week that includes Reverend Jerry Falwell. Is he encouraging hate? He hopes so.


To Phelps, his signs don't encourage hate, but reinforce his devotion.

"It's in the eye of the beholder. How can you look at these signs and not say, 'Praise the Lord?'"

Phelps got a lot of attention when he showed up at the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old Wyoming man beaten to death because he was gay. But he's picketed other funerals of people like Sonny Bono and Barry Goldwater who he considered pro-gay.

Matthew Shepard's death set off a nationwide wave of demonstrations protesting anti-gay violence. But Phelps turned some heads and turned some stomachs when he turned the funeral into an opportunity to spread his message, which he peppers with what is considered a derogatory word - "fag."

"It's a Bible word and because it gets their attention and because it preaches the rock solid truth," Phelps says. "You are faggots. You are not to be admired and respected."

It s a familiar word to a lot of people. Christopher Scott last heard it -- late one Monday evening in New York, while he was being beaten by three men.

"For him to come out and say God hates fags, that's telling people that it's all right to beat us up," says Scott.

Rev. Phelps insists he does not condone violence. But there is a large audience of people who are willing to take a message of hate one step further. According to the latest annual figures, roughly one thousand people were beaten nationwide because they are gay.

Phelps is going for a worldwide audience -- on the Internet, where his web site has had about 600,000 hits so far. But he's still out on the streets of Topeka preaching hatred one on one to passersby, with his children and grandchildren.

"I don't hate them," says 17-year-old Sarah Phelps, when asked about the sign she holds condemning gays. "God hates them. It's God's perfect hate."

The concept of perfect hate may be difficult for many to understand, but it's not hard for this small group of true believers that shows o signs of dying out.

Reported By Richard Schlesinger
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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