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Sundance '11 Notes: Oh, Yeah, Those Idiots Were Here

The good Christian people of the Westboro Baptist Church brought their trademark signs and trademark mental disorders to Park City, Utah on Sunday. The WBC, which is labeled a hate group by both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, cleared time from its busy schedule of picketing the funerals of soldiers and gay teenagers to instead picket Kevin Smith's new movie "Red State." Why? Who cares. Let's just figure that WBC leader Fred Phelps is still mad about dropping $12 on "Clerks II." That makes as much sense as anything else.

The roughly half-dozen WBC members were met by about 40-50 counterprotesters, who arrived after Smith made a public appeal last week for his fans to rally opposite the WBC at the Sundance premiere of "Red State." The pro-Smith group was made up mostly of teens and college-age adults—which makes sense, as they would be old enough to know that people like Phelps and his followers are insane, but not old enough to remember how bad "Chasing Amy" was.

I'm split on what to think of the counterprostest. For one thing, it's a self-serving act by Smith, who already turned his film's appearance here into a an orgy of self-promotion by promising to auction off distribution rights at the premiere, then "buying" the rights himself for $20, then taking the stage to rant against the economics of the film industry, then going on a Twitter frenzy the next morning to defend his actions. But while Smith and his movies have always garnered way more attention than they deserve, his crimes are minor. Better filmmakers have stooped much lower to draw attention to themselves and their efforts.

Counterprotest The real issue—if there is one (and maybe there isn't, but let's pretend)—is whether it's better to stand up to people like Phelps, whose beliefs are insane but whose followers are few, or ignore them. On one hand, standing up to hate speech is a civic responsibility and a fundamental act of human decency. On the other, six people carrying idiotic signs would attract a lot less attention if they weren't being yelled at by five-dozen other people. As for the counterprotesters' nonsensical placards—which bore slogans such as "Please update me on the Packers game," "I'm an honors student," "Automatic doors make me feel like a Jedi"—I'm fine with them. I buy the whole fight-nonsense-with-nonsense thing, at least in this case.

In other festival news, check out our profile of up-and-coming actor Adepero Oduye, a New York native who takes on a big, difficult, and rewarding role in "Pariah," which premiered here on opening night. And check in with us Tuesday for our profile of Hamish Linklater, who appears in the new movie by director Miranda July, "The Future." And remember, God hates people who presume to know what God hates.

--Daniel Holloway

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I agree, wholeheartedly, especially that God hates those who presume to know what he hates.

We had Phelps' WBC come and picket our local churches in Tracy, CA, and graduation ceremonies, because we had a gay teen, in '06, dare to promote a private gay prom that wasn't even well attended.

He decided to hold it because he wasn't welcome to bring his boyfriend to the regular school prom I think, which is funny, as I had a friend back in '80 who caused news in San Jose, CA, for the same thing.

My friend in '80 took it to court, because my high school Principal wasn't going to allow the guy to bring his boyfriend to the prom. So he won the right to take him, and all they did was arrive in their limo in tuxes, with news cameras waiting for them, and directly leave to go party somewhere else.

Back to Phelp's church in'06, they were threatening to picket all 3 of our high school graduations, and the churches, etc. But they are so laughable with the crazy signs that even Christians look at them with a shrug.

WBC followers even picket Christian conferences telling us we're all going to hell. So what does that make them? It makes absolutely no sense. Phelps is just as bad as Charles Manson and his followers, though hopefully not creating the violence that Manson caused.

He gives Christians a bad name, because God hates the sin and not the sinner (& the Bible says we're all sinners). It's crazy. Our pastor even led a sermon that "picketing" Sunday, about how homosexuality is no different than any other sin that we're ALL equally guilty of committing (like my lead foot in the car).

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