News & Politics

Westboro Baptist Church Threatens to Picket Norway Funerals

by

The Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas-based organization that spends its days picketing the funerals of soldiers and insisting that “God Hates Fags,” has released a statement saying that it plans to protest the funerals of those killed in the July attacks in Norway.

The release reads in part:

NORWAY MUST REPENT OR PERISH! WBC WILL PICKET THE FUNERALS OF THE NORWAY DEAD TO WARN THE LIVING: THEY DIED FOR YOUR SINS!

Norway made being a fag legal in 1972, and passed laws for fags to marry and adopt children in 2008. Did you think God would wink at that in-your-face sin forever? No! He sent the killer to slaughter 75+ of your children and citizens. It doesn’t matter what stripes Anders Breivik has or what you do to him now; God formed him and appointed him to punish Norway.

Either Westboro is planning to hold a protest here in the U.S., or they’re actually going to fly to Norway. The former, while more feasible, seems tame for the abrasive WBC, which constantly travels for protests anyway (though domestically). The latter would represent a huge investment of time and money, but would be more in keeping with WBC’s M.O. of getting right in people’s faces as they try to mourn. Their style of protest loses its power to shock the farther away they are from whatever they’re picketing.

Could WBC even protest funerals in Norway, legally speaking? We spoke with Deputy Consul General Henrik Width of the Norwegian Consulate in New York, who said that Westboro “would not be allowed to picket.”

“I’m not a legal expert, but the privacy laws are quite different in Norway. It’s not a question of freedom of speech,” he said. “There are laws forbidding disturbance of the public peace.”

Will they be allowed into the country? Yes, and they would also be allowed to demonstrate — but not at a funeral, according to Width. “The police would react, and I’m sure the public would react very strongly. They’re quite a provocative group,” he said.

The Atlantic Wire has an excerpt from Norway’s penal code dealing with hate speech:

Any person who wilfully or through gross negligence publicly utters a discriminatory or hateful expression shall be liable to fines or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years. An expression that is uttered in such a way that it is likely to reach a large number of persons shall be deemed equivalent to a publicly uttered expression, cf. section 7, No. 2. The use of symbols shall also be deemed to be an expression. Any person who aids and abets such an offence shall be liable to the same penalty.

It seems obvious that WBC would break this law, were they to actually go stage their usual spectacle in Norway. Also, a possible Norway excursion is not on their picket schedule, so hopefully this is just an empty threat.

[rgray@villagevoice.com] [@_rosiegray]