Actor tells anti-gay hate 'church' to seek a better way

By staff writers
February 25, 2009

Actor Sean Penn, who won an Oscar earlier this week for his portrayal of gay activist politician Harvey Milk - assassinated in 1978 - asked members of anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, who picketed the Academy Awards, to reach beyond hate to find their better selves.

"For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that way of support," Penn said as he accepted the award.

He added: "We've got to have equal rights for everyone."

Penn did not mention the Phelps family, the core of the "God hates fags" Westboro sect, by name. But he said more about them in the post-event question and answer session.

When asked, "What would you say to those people who were holding those [anti-gay protest] signs tonight?" the actor replied: "I'd tell them to turn in their hate card and find their better self."

He continued: "I think that these are largely taught limitations and ignorances ... and it's very sad in a way, because it's a demonstration of such emotional cowardice to be so afraid to be extending the same rights to a fellow [human being] as you would want for yourself."

He described the "temptation" towards hateful anger of this kind as existing "in a void".

Churches of all denominations have joined in condemnation of the group's hate tactics, which includes harassing people at funerals.

In the UK, pro-gay evangelical groups say that Christians must affirm faithful same-sex relationships and the full equality of gay people, not just make capital out of opposing extremists (

The Westboro church's Google entry for its website has been doctored to read: "Site of anti-homosexual propagandist Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kansas, who styles himself and his followers as a 'Baptist Church'."

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