Greene County, Tenn., is one of the latest targets of a Kansas church that wants to establish monuments condemning murdered gay college student Matthew Shepard. County officials vow to fight the attempt by Fred Phelps, pastor of the Topeka, Kan., church, to put a six-foot granite monument in the Greeneville courthouse. Phelps said that if county officials do not comply, his group will picket the courthouse, high schools, and churches. "If they want to come down here and picket, come on," Greene County mayor Roger Jones said.
Phelps wants the monuments displayed by local governments across the country, said the church's attorney, Shirley Phelps-Roper. She claims a Denver court ruling in 2002 requires any government that displays the Ten Commandments on public property to also display monuments of other religious groups. In addition to displaying the Ten Commandments, Greene County government leaders voted recently to recognize a resolution recognizing "God as the foundation of our national heritage."
Jones sent copies of the resolution to Tennessee's other 94 county leaders for consideration. Several county commissions are considering it, while some, such as Monroe and Anderson counties, have adopted it. Phelps-Roper said her group learned of Greene County when it heard about the resolution. Jones said hundreds of people across the country have contacted him and praised the move. "I don't regret it by any means," he said.
Phelps was unsuccessful in October in trying to establish the monument condemning Matthew Shepard in Shepard's hometown of Casper, Wyo. The church group also has sent letters to two city governments in Idaho and one in Wyoming requesting the establishment of the monuments. None has accepted, Phelps-Roper said.
"Every human being needs to see this monument more than they need oxygen to breathe," she said. "Their callous disregard for the commandments of the Lord has allowed sodomites to take over the land. The monument is the mechanism that will cause them to see their abomination."