Politics & Government

Kansas church seeks to join Washington state holiday display fray

A Kansas-based church that has blamed deaths in Iraq on U.S. tolerance of homosexuality has asked Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire's office to approve a "Santa Claus will take you to Hell" message to display among other religious statements in the state capitol's third-floor hallway.

The Westboro Baptist Church's message would be near a Nativity set, three signs mocking atheism, and an atheist sign that celebrates the winter solstice, while also taking a shot at religion as "myth and superstition" that enslaves minds, all in the state Capitol's third-floor hallway.

The Westboro request is under consideration by the state Department of General Administration, which also has a request for a display depicting "The Spaghetti Monster" and "a Christian woman in Bellevue who wants to erect a sign offering blessings on all people."

"Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster" is a parody of the Kansas education-board decision to teach "intelligent design" as an alternative to Darwinist evolutionary concepts in biology classes.

Also under consideration is a request for a "Festivus" pole, a reference to the mock holiday "Festivus for the Rest of Us" popularized by the "Seinfeld" sitcom in the late 1990s.

According to Spokesman-Review reporter Rich Roesler, the first part of Westboro's proposed message:

"You'd better watch out, get ready to cry, You'd better go hide, I'm telling you why 'cuz Santa Claus will take you to hell. He is your favorite idol, you worship at his feet, but when you stand before your God He won't help you take the heat. So get this fact straight: you're feeling God's hate, Santa's to blame for the economy's fate, Santa Claus will take you to hell."

Westboro Baptist, led by Fred Phelps Sr., has protested at funerals for gays and at military funerals, blaming the nation's tolerance for gays for the loss of U.S. military personnel in Iraq. The actions prompted the Washington Legislature to pass House Bill 1168 in 2007, making it a misdemeanor crime of disorderly conduct to disrupt a funeral or protest within 500 feet of a funeral or funeral procession.

The holiday mayhem of competing symbols was set off by Fox News commentators after Gregoire refused to remove the atheist message on free speech grounds.

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