Church gives up protest plans, gets radio airtime

2011-01-13T00:00:00Z 2011-01-13T13:28:30Z Church gives up protest plans, gets radio airtimeHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
January 13, 2011 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - Members of the Westboro Baptist Church won't picket the funerals of the victims of Saturday's shooting in Tucson that left six dead.

Church spokeswoman Shirley Phelps Roper said Wednesday she has accepted offers from a host of radio shows for airtime in exchange for giving up the right to protest and carry signs proclaiming "God Hates Fags" at the funerals.

"What we're doing is trying to be as smart as possible," she said, pointing out her congregation can reach more people with the airtime than it could by picketing the funerals.

The first breakthrough came early Wednesday when Phoenix talk-show host Steve Sanchez agreed to have her on his show Saturday morning on KXXT Radio 1010 in Phoenix.

Sanchez acknowledged he is giving Roper a wider audience than she might reach directly with the protests. But he said that is preferable to having church members try to interfere with the grieving of the family 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green.

He said he can take the heat for 30 minutes.

While Sanchez's offer took the Green funeral off the table, it took a promise of an hour on the nationally syndicated Mike Gallagher radio show to get Roper to give up a protest at Judge John Roll's funeral and picketing at Tucson Magnet High School and the site of Saturday's shooting. No explanation was given for picking the school as a protest site.

Gallagher said he's not simply turning over his microphone - and his audience - to Roper. The deal he made with her requires her to debate with Dinesh D'Souza, president of The King's College in New York City and the author of several books including "What's So Great About Christianity."

Gallagher said he's not concerned Roper will be able to generate positive publicity.

"They will be exposed for exactly who they are," he said, confident listeners will quickly recognize "what they say is bizarre and over the top and irrational."

Gallagher said he has made similar deals twice before, once after the 2006 shooting deaths of six Amish schoolchildren and a year later after the killing of 32 students at Virginia Tech.

"I get a lot of criticism for it, which I expect and I understand, probably deserve," he said. "But it just seems to me that my radio show is a lot less significant than the pain and the anguish of what these families are experiencing.

"We all know what she's about," Sanchez added. "We know that she's a hatemonger."

Roper says the church has already won, first with the publicity over the picketing and now getting a national audience. "We have already saturated this nation with words," she said. "Everything else is gravy."

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