Kansas anti-gay church leader Fred Phelps dies at 84
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Fred Phelps, the founder of the vehemently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, died yesterday aged 84. The church he founded in 1955 became infamous for leading pickets at the funerals of US soldiers, as well as the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man killed in a attack in 1998.
At funeral pickets and other protests, Phelps and other members of his church held brightly coloured signs with messages including 'God Hates Fags', 'Thank God for' and 'Thank God for Dead Soldiers'. The picketing of military funerals stems from the postion that God is punishing the United States for its acceptance of homosexuality. Military funerals have not been the only sites of Westboro's protests: the funeral of film critic and concerts by pop acts and — who the church described as "crotch-grabbing little perverts" — have also been targets of Westboro's protests. The Church has sued a great number of local authorities in the United States who attempted to block their demonstrations and the settlements from their cases helped fund their activities. In 2011, the Church won a case at the which upheld their right to demonstrate at funerals.
Other countries were not so keen: Fred Phelps and his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper were banned from entering the United Kingdom in order to take part in a planned protest against The Laramie Project, a play about the death of Matthew Shephard. The UK Border Agency stated the Phelpses were not welcome because of their actions "inciting hatred against a number of communities". The Church has seen a number of widely-reported defections including Megan Phelps-Roper, who used to run Westboro's social media operation before publicly leaving the congregation and publishing an apology on the Internet.
Before Phelps's death, he wasfrom the Church — whose members are primarily drawn from his family. , Fred Phelps's son, posted on last week announcing his father's hospitalisation and illness: "I’ve learned that my father, Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the ‘God Hates Fags’ Westboro Baptist Church, was ex-communicated from the ‘church’ back in August of 2013. He is now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made."
Nathan Phelps continued: "I feel sad for all the hurt he’s caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I’m bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their good-byes."
- "US Supreme Court upholds right to picket military funerals" — Wikinews, March 4, 2011
- "Lady Gaga warns fans of 'hateful' protests during concerts" — Wikinews, July 17, 2010
- "Anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred Phelps dies" — , March 20, 2014
- Philip Sherwell and Josie Esnor. "Founder of controversial Westboro Baptist Church Fred Phelps dies" — , March 20, 2014
- Rob Williams. "'God Hates Fags' preacher Fred Phelps, founder of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, dies" — , March 20, 2014
- Ben Child. "Roger Ebert's funeral targeted by Westboro Baptist church" — , April 8, 2013
- David Batty. "Westboro Baptist church key member Megan Phelps-Roper leaves" — , February 6, 2013
- Robert Barnes. "Supreme Court rules First Amendment protects church's right to picket funerals" — , March 3, 2011
- "Anti-gay preachers banned from UK" — , February 19, 2009