Oh to be back in London right now. Or even Paris. Europe's Sky News is reporting an undercover "investigation" on highly controversial religious leader Fred Phelps. With reporting like this in Europe on religion in America, Europeans will be loving us about as much the Israelis appreciated their Roman rulers. The problem in this case is that you can't really fault the Sky News report for overly hyping the basic facts in the story.
The Sky Report has secretly filmed one of America's most controversial Christian ministers praising the London bombings.
Fred Phelps says that terrorist outrages and natural disasters such as Hurricane Rita are examples of God's wrath against countries such as America and Britain for tolerating homosexuals and homosexuality.
Fred Phelps, who set up the controversial Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, told our undercover reporter about the attacks, which killed 52 people:
"Oh I am so thankful that happened. My only regret is that they didn't kill about [a] million of them. England deserves that kind of punishment, as does this country (America)".
This is just great. Phelps and his 150 followers (about 90 percent are related to him in one way or another) are now the face of American fundamentalism (a much-abused term, I might add). But according to Wikipedia, even fundamentalists don't like this guy.
And it gets worse:
Phelps made news just last month when the Daily Telegraph reported that the Swedish royal family were consulting lawyers after discovering that he had made outrageous claims about their sexuality on the internet.
Several members of the Westboro Baptist Church congregation were planning to visit Sweden -- placards in hand -- ready to spread their message that Sweden is, "a land of sodomy, bestiality and incest''.
I remember how The Washington Post Magazine handled a profile of perennial candidate Lyndon Larouche a year ago. Rather than hyping the craziness of Larouche and his campaigns, it took a very thorough look at the organization and showed it for what it is and how dangerous it can be.
Sky News is doing us all a disfavor in this report. Sure, Phelps has made outrageous comments, but he by no means represents any serious group of Christians or Americans. While you can't ignore people like this, because there is an obvious news angle for the European broadcasters, this type of reporting does not qualify as quality journalism.
(Note: my criticism in this piece is on the media coverage, not Phelps, who we've written about here and here. People can say what they want to say, in my humble opinion, so try to keep comments focused on the Sky News report, not Phelps and his group.)