The Phelps are NOT coming to the UK
*Sigh* – Why do the authorities in this country spoil all our fun?
The Home Secretary has banned two extremist anti-gay preachers from entering Britain, a move that follows a decision to refuse entry to Geert Wilders, the Dutch anti-Muslim MP.
Fred Phelps and his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper, who belong to the US Westboro Baptist Church, were planning to come to the UK to protest outside a performance of a youth play called The Laramie Project, which recounts the death of gay university student Matthew Shepard who was killed in Laramie, Wyoming, in October 1998.
It was due to be performed at Queen Mary’s College in Basingstoke, Hampshire, tomorrow.
The pair have been known to picket US soldiersâ€™ funerals, holding up banners with phrases such as “God Hates Fags” because they believe that their deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are punishment for Americaâ€™s tolerance of gays.
Their exploits, and that of their sect as a whole, were exposed in 2007 by Louis Theroux, the TV documentary-maker.
Confirming their ban, a UK Border Agency spokesman said: “The Home Secretary has excluded both Fred Phelps and his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper from the UK.
“Both these individuals have engaged in unacceptable behaviour by inciting hatred against a number of communities.
“The Government has made it clear it opposes extremism in all its forms.
“We will continue to stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country.
“That was the driving force behind the tighter rules on exclusion for unacceptable behaviour that the Home Secretary announced on October 28 last year.
“The exclusions policy is targeted at all those who seek to stir up tension and provoke others to violence regardless of their origins and beliefs.”
As well as Mr Phelps, 79, and Shirley, 51, any other church members who try to enter Britain are also likely to be stopped, the agency said.
The move comes after the ban on Mr Wilders entering the UK last week for his extremist views on Islam. Despite being informed of the exclusion in advance, the Dutch MP made the trip to London anyway and was deported under the media spotlight.
Peter Tatchell, from gay rights group OutRage!, said that he disagreed with the decision to ban the Phelpses and Mr Wilders, but loathed their views.
“The Phelpses are odious, homophobic bigots. They give Christianity a bad name,” he said. “Objectionable though they are, I don’t agree with them being banned. But since the Home Secretary banned the Dutch MP Geert Wilders at least she is being consistent by also banning these Christian preachers of hate.”
It emerged that the pair were due to enter the UK to launch their demonstration when they made an announcement on their website.
“God hates the Queen Maryâ€™s College, and the fag-infested UK, England, and all having to do with spreading sodomite lies via The Laramie Project, this tacky bit of cheap fag propaganda masquerading as legitimate theater,” it said.
There are two interesting points to be made here
- The Phelps would have fallen foul of the new legislation coming into force on homophobic speech, even with the retention of Clause 58
- Given that the law is not yet in place, while the Phelps’ views are highly objectionable, they would not in and of themselves currently constitute a crime. If that is so, on what grounds are they being refused entry?
It is strictly true that the Phelps would “stir up tension and provoke others to violence“? Certainly not the latter (the Phelps might say the most offensive things, but they are not guilty to the best of my knowledge of advocating violence, though I’m happy to be corrected on this) but possibly the former. But how would a few loons with stupid placards possibly stir up tension? We Brits have a remarkably good history of ignoring stuff like this.