Yael T. Abouhalkah

Westboro Baptist Church plans to boycott (gulp) lovable Bill Cosby in KC

Updated: 2014-02-05T02:22:50Z

By Yael T. Abouhalkah

The Kansas City Star

Bill Cosby is coming to Kansas City on Saturday night, and Westboro Baptist Church members promise to be there to boycott his performance.

What has one of America’s most lovable comedians done to irritate the gay-hating, military-bashing folks at Westboro?

This man recorded one of the best comedy albums ever (“Why Is There Air?” in 1965), got kids to eat Jello, starred in the nation’s favorite sitcom for years — “The Cosby Show” — and has brought joy to millions of people for more than five decades.

How can he be in trouble with the Topeka-based church?

Here’s the scoop, straight from the church’s website. I won’t bore you here with the illogical and mean-spirited details.

(Oh, and can we all hope that Cosby maybe goes a little Vince Gill on the church members, as the country music star did last September during his own Westboro boycott experience in Kansas City? Here’s The Star’s story, complete with video and “salty language.”)

Yes, I hear the question about the planned Cosby boycott: Why give the Westboro members more publicity here, which they crave?

Part of the serious answer: Westboro church members have a First Amendment right to their views, and they even won a high-profile case in 2011 before the U.S. Supreme Court that — while angering many Americans — more clearly established that right.

In that case, the court said the First Amendment allowed the church to spew its “hurtful speech” near the funeral of a Marine, which had prompted a lawsuit by his father claiming the church’s protest had caused him emotional pain.

But notice this: While the court essentially dismissed that lawsuit and upheld what it called “robust debate” over controversial issues, Americans have responded with the kind of peaceful protest that ends up mocking the hate that emanates from the Westboro Baptist Church followers.

Here’s just one example of what can happen at military funerals that the church threatens to boycott. And on other occasions, counter-demonstrations have brought communities together and showed grieving military families how Americans show true respect for their losses.

It’s doubtful Bill Cosby will need any such protection Saturday night in Kansas City, no matter what kind of demonstration the Westborites launch.

But it could be worth the price of admission to see Cosby poke a little fun at the little minds that come up with this kind of hateful activity.

To reach Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/YaelTAbouhalkah.

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