Battle of the Hate Groups: KKK Takes on Westboro

Not even the Klan approves of the Westboro Baptist Church's funeral protests

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Players: The Ku Klux Klan; Westboro Baptist Church.

Opening Serve: Monday's Memorial Day services attracted the attention of the Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas group known for its angry, and now specifically court-allowed protests of American soldiers' funerals. The demonstrators, who carry signs bearing hateful messages such as "God hates fags" and "Jews killed Jesus" are not well-liked. Not even, apparently, by the Ku Klux Klan. Members of the Knights of the Southern Cross, a Virginia branch of the KKK, gathered outside Arlington Cemetery Monday to protest the protesters. The KKK group's leader, "Imperial Wizard" Dennis LaBonte told CNN, "It's the soldier that fought and died and gave them that right to free speech."

Return Volley: The demonstrating WBC members seemed pretty unfazed by the KKK's counter-protest. According to CNN, Abigail Phelps, daughter of the Church's founder Fred Phelps, said, "That's fine. They have no moral authority on anything. People like them say it's white power ... white supremacy. The Bible doesn't say anywhere that it's an abomination to be born of a certain gender or race."

What They Say the Fight's About: LaBonte and the KKK counter-protesters object to WBC's stance towards fallen soldiers. Phelps and WBC argue that the KKK, a white supremacy hate group, hardly has a right to criticize, as their platform doesn't even have biblical support.

What the Fight's Really About: It looks like what we have here are two nationally recognized hate groups fighting over who's brand of hatred is more justified. The answer: neither. It's both comforting and disturbing to know that even the KKK denounces the Westboro Baptist Church, but this might be one of the more spectacular pot-kettle cases in recent memory. Though LaBonte insists that the Knights of the Southern Cross "are not about hate," KKK history makes that a pretty tough sell.

Who's Winning Now: It's hard to declare anyone a winner here, but if we have to, it's LaBonte and Co. for grabbing publicity and recognizing the ridiculousness of Westboro's protests. Still, according to the Supreme Court, it is within the WBC's First Amendment rights to rally at as many soldiers' funerals as it wants--KKK disapproval isn't going to do much. Finally, let's not forget: the funeral protests may be largely offensive, but Westboro at least doesn't have any lynchings in its organizational history.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.