Westboro Baptist Church Lawyer: Opposing Cordoba House Is ‘Un-American’

October 8, 2010 5:35 am

A member of the Westboro Baptist Church who represented the fringe church before the Supreme Court in a freedom of speech case on Wednesday tells TPMMuckraker that they support the right of Muslims to build an Islamic cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero.

“Of course” Muslims should be able to build the Cordoba House Islamic cultural center in New York City, Margie J. Phelps told TPMMuckraker in an interview Thursday. She said it would be hypocritical for the United States to not allow construction to proceed, and called opponents of the mosque un-American.“We say we’re the melting pot, we say you get the practice your faith according to your conscience with no restraint from the government, you have that liberty,” said Phelps, the daughter of Westboro patriarch Fred Phelps. Margie talked about how important freedom of religion was to the nation’s founding fathers.

“Why, against that framework, would anybody be so un-American as to suggest that Muslim Americans cannot worship their God according to their conscience,” Phelps said. “Now it’s a false religion, no question about that, but they don’t have to agree with me on that.”

The Westboro Baptists are no fans of Islam — they burned a Koran on the anniversary of Sept. 11 this year and previously joined up with Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center in Florida. But they are fans of freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

“I think it is disgraceful [to oppose the Cordoba House project]… Priests rape children, but you’d let them build a Catholic Church,” she said. “You get to pick your poison in this country, and it’s not the government’s business, and it’s not my right to shut them up, it’s not your right to shut them up, it’s not anybody’s right to shut them up. Let them worship their false God.”

Reflecting on her oral argument before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, where she defended the right of her tiny congregation to protest with signs with slogans like “God Hates Fags” near military funerals, Phelps predicted a unanimous decision on her behalf.

Phelps, a part time lawyer who got her J.D. back in the late 70s at the encouragement of her father, said she had the “unique” combination of not only studying first amendment law, but also participating in the controversial protests which the case centered on.

Several court observers said that Phelps conducted herself well in court, even outperforming her counterpart arguing on behalf of the family of a Marine killed in Iraq in 2006.

Phelps said she wasn’t surprised that some of the justices on the court characterized the signs her group holds as “obnoxious” and “nasty.”

“I mean, there’s three Jews and six Catholics on that court, and three of our signature signs are ‘Jews Killed Jesus,’ ‘Priests Rape Boys,’ and ‘Pope In Hell’ — so we’ve got a little bit of a cultural conflict here,” Phelps said. “We happen to think it’s a bad idea for one priest to rape one boy, and we’re going to tell the nation that when you do that, by a multiplier, you bring the wrath of God down on you.”

“You’ve got 310 million saying ‘God Bless America.’ You’ve got 60 saying ‘God Curse America.’ That stinking First Amendment isn’t worth the paper it’s written on unless it protects those 60,” she said. “There’s a lot of people in this country today who are not just Bible dumb, they’re history and government dumb.”

Phelps said that despite the personal feelings of the justices sitting on the Supreme Court, she believes they will ultimately decide in her favor.

“What I honestly believe, is that as difficult personally as it may be or seem for some of them, they’re going to rule nine to zero that the Constitution is still alive and well in this country,” Phelps said. “They’re going to have to ground themselves in a rich, strong history of jurisprudence and follow the law.”

“That’s nine people who know what the law is,” she said.

A message left Thursday for representatives of the military family suing the Westboro Baptist Church was not immediately returned.

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