Fred Phelps is dead
March 20th, 2014
Fred Phelps was the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, a small group of extreme Calvinists who made a loud splash by picketing gay events – and then military funerals, other churches, and eventually anything that caught their fancy – with signs designed to shock and offend. With “God Hates Fags” as their chief rallying cry, they soon found themselves as Bad Example #1, even for many who shared their religious opposition to gay rights.
It’s easy to think of Phelps as solely as a vaudeville villain. And, indeed he caused much harm.
But, interestingly, despite their theological rancor, most first-hand reports I’ve seen suggest that the Phelps clan is personally engaging, amusing and perhaps a bit charming. They see their obligation is to tell you that you are vile and hell-bound and hated by God. But since you’re eternally damned anyway, why not have a sense of humor about it.
And while Fred Phelps has wasted his life and caused far more pain than any person should, his life was not always on this track. Before he allowed his narrow faith to warp his thinking, Phelps was an attorney fighting for civil rights and against racial discrimination.
Fred Phelps was a bit of a conundrum. But by the end of his days, his rallying call for hate and his fervor for offense outweighed any good he had performed. Following a seventeenth century vengeful deity into the abyss of hatred and condemnation, Phelps turned himself and his family into a living morality play about the dangers of extremism and self-righteousness.
As his life came to a close, his sole redeeming quality might be that he had, inadvertently, galvanized moderate people of faith into countering his message and silenced many who might have expressed similar views in a much less strident fashion. And perhaps his legal defense of his right to cause offense has helped protect the rights to free speech for other dissident voices.
Now Fred Phelps is dead. (ksn)
The Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., who founded Westboro Baptist Church widely known for its protests at military funerals and anti-gay sentiments, has died according to his son Tim Phelps and daughter Margie Phelps.
Margie says her father died shortly before midnight. She didn’t give the cause of death or the condition that recently put him in hospice care.
Few will mourn his passing.
Fred Phelps Died
March 20th, 2014
The bigot died last night just before midnight.
NEWS FLASH: Phelps Expelled For Being Too Nice
March 17th, 2014
Who knew he could be such a fag-enabler?
Pastor Fred Waldron Phelps Sr. was excommunicated from the Westboro Baptist Church after advocating a kinder approach between church members.
The excommunication occurred after the formation of a board of male elders in the church. The board had defeated Shirley Phelps-Roper, the church’s longtime spokeswoman, in a power struggle, and Fred Phelps Sr. called for kinder treatment of fellow church members.
The board then ejected Fred Phelps Sr., who founded the church in the 1950s.
…Among the members of the church’s board of elders are Fred Phelps’ sons Jonathan Phelps and Timothy Phelps, and Steve Drain, who is now the church spokesman. In recent months, calls to Shirley Phelps-Roper have been answered by Drain.
I guess that explains why Shirley Phelps-Roper has been out of the limelight lately. Drain says that reports of Phelps’ imminent death are “not well informed.”
What Happens After Phelps Is Gone?
March 17th, 2014
Does Westboro dry up and go away? That’s what happens to most personality-driven cults, but if reports of Phelps’s excommunication are true, then it looks like the rest of the Phelps clan is already taking steps to make sure that doesn’t happen. Nate Phelps, Fred Phelps Sr.’s estranged and excommunicated son, explains why Phelps pere’s own excommunication is so important:
The death of Fred Phelps Sr. will raise a big issue for the church members because they don’t believe any of them are going to die, Nate Phelps said.
“They fully expected that Christ is going to return, and they are going to be taken up with him because they think that death is a judgment from God,” Nate Phelps said. “So far, that illusion has held because none of them has passed.
“They’re clear about that, that they’re not going to feel the sting of death,” Nate Phelps said. But anytime a prophecy fails, the notion that that will dismantle the system is far from true, and the system is stronger and bigger because they have to dig down deep and come up with “some palatable justification” to move forward, he said.
The excommunication could be the very thing to provide that “palatable justification.”
Fred Phelps Near Death, Excommunicated By Family
March 17th, 2014
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.
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.
The Topeka Capital-Journal has just a little bit more:
After Phelps was voted out of Westboro Baptist Church this past summer, he was moved out of the church and into a house, where he was watched to ensure he wouldn’t harm himself, a son estranged from the church said Sunday.
Phelps eventually stopped eating and drinking, and on Sunday, he was near death, son Nate Phelps said in a Facebook posting. The information also is based on an email sent by Nate Phelps to a Topeka Capital-Journal reporter.
“(Fred) is at Midland Hospice House where, as of yesterday (Friday), he is comfortable without the respiratory difficulty that he was having the day before and is unresponsive,” Nate Phelps wrote, quoting a message sent to him.
Westboro spokesman Steve Drain confirmed that Phelps was in a nursing home but refused to discuss the excommunication. Drain is believed to be the only member of the church who is not related to the Phelps clan by blood or marriage. His estranged and excommunicated daughter, Laura Drain, reacted to the news yesterday on Facebook:
If the rumors are true regarding Fred Phelps, & I have strong reason to believe that they are – this news to me is incredibly devastating. When I was back in the church 8 years ago, I witnessed various members get ex-communicated & watched in horror & fear as families were ripped apart at the seams.
There was one summer, that I can draw upon perfectly clear as to the nature of the harshness & severity of our beliefs. Our very own pastor, who supposedly was guided by God & helped guide our ministry, his own membership was being called into question by the remaining members (most of which were his own sons, daughters & progeny). This notion devastated me & I remember as a church we became obsessed with hiding it from the media. I couldn’t realize why. To protect the reality that all humans, including a pastor could sin? To protect the fact that we as a church could possibly make a mistake? To protect our “name” to the world? It was hypocritical that we weren’t more focused on how to treat one another! How to forgive! How to leave God’s judgments in His hands! Did we really reach the point where we thought we owned salvation to discard people like trash? The pastor was forgiven that summer & I saw a glimmer of humility in his eyes that day, that all of us are human & subject to feeling vulnerable & hopeless.
It stopped me in my tracks from ever considering leaving myself, feeling family love & connection was something I felt was most precious in life, to my very core. Because of my non-compliance to church policy, which I witnessed change day to day, I became ex-communicated myself, cut off from my family that I held so dear.
…I pray that despite all the many families & people affected by the WBC, that they will not have vengeance in their heart, but rather pity. …Consider this, there are members still there, like my younger siblings, who can and will learn from experiencing compassion from others, not polarizing hate.
Prove the WBC wrong. We all seek peace not vengeance.
Equality Kansas echoes that plea:
Equality Kansas (formerly the Kansas Equality Coalition) today urged members of the Kansas, United States, and worldwide LGBT communities to respect the privacy of the family of Fred W. Phelps, notorious pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church.
“If the reports of Fred Phelps’ declining health are accurate, then his family and friends are certainly saying their good-byes and preparing to mourn his loss,” said Sandra Meade, chairwoman of Equality Kansas. “We ask that everyone understand the solemnity of the occasion, and honor the right of his family and friends to remember and mourn his loss in private without interruption or unseemly celebration,” Meade said.
…“For over 20 years, Phelps and the members of his Topeka-based church have harassed the grieving families of LGBT Kansans and others,” said Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas. “He and his followers showed utter disregard for the privacy and grief of others for many years. This is our moment as a community to rise above the sorrow, anger, and strife he sowed, and to show the world we are caring and compassionate people who respect the privacy and dignity of all,” Witt said.
I agree. We are certainly much better than them. Besides, Fred Phelps was undoubtedly the best gay rights campaigner we ever had.
There’s an old saying about some enemies that if they didn’t exist, we’d have to create them. Phelps is his own creation, and now he is reaping the rewards of his creation. He taught his family the deepest intricacies of hate, and now his gift to them has earned dividends that are being rewarded back to him. That alone is justice.
“God Hates Fags” group trains the FBI
June 29th, 2011
It isn’t April 1, so I don’t think this is a spoof. But it’s difficult to read this without screaming WT bloody F? (AP)
The FBI said Wednesday that members of an anti-gay fundamentalist group participated in the bureau’s training of police officers and FBI agents — a move the bureau says it will take steps to remedy in the future.
The bureau extended the invitations to Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., for training this spring at two bureau facilities in Virginia: Quantico and Manassas.
And, going for the understatement of the year,
An FBI official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said that in retrospect, the bureau underestimated how the involvement of the outside organization would be perceived.
Westboro Baptist Is So Extreme…
April 9th, 2010
Even the Klan wants it known that they don’t want anything to do with them. Meanwhile, Nate Phelps, the estranged son of Westboro Baptist founder and patriarch Fred Phelps, sat for a half-hour interview in Canada a few weeks ago:
God Hates Figs
March 14th, 2009
This flyer was distributed during a recent Chicago counter-protest against members of the “God hates fags” Westboro Baptist Church. Food for thought:
[Hat tip: Dan Savage]
Westboro Baptists Flee Student Counter Protest
November 25th, 2008
The Westboro Baptist clan was at it again, this time near Omaha Central High School last Friday. A counter protest by students turned, well, theatrical — in a rotten-tomatoes sort of way:
Students threw hamburgers and bottles of lemonade and milk at several members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., students said after the protest. A video of the protest — recorded by 16-year-old student Mason Hartwell — showed one counterprotester on the ground, seated with his hands behind his back and flanked by two law enforcement officers.
Students also chanted several slogans — including the Pledge of Allegiance, where they yelled “Liberty and justice for all.” Police persuaded the Westboro clan to leave once the situation threatened to get out of hand. Police said no one was injured and no one was arrested.
Westboro Baptist To Debate Amendment 2
October 21st, 2008
Florida International University is hosting a debate on Amendment 2, Florida’s so-called “marriage amendment.” Guess who they got to show up to support Amendment 2?
Westboro Baptist. I kid you not.
It turns out that Westboro Baptist was invited by the Stonewall Legal Alliance, an LGBT advocacy group at the FIU College of Law.
This should be fun. Not enlightening, but fun. Some on the right are not amused. I’m not a fan myself of giving this group legitimacy. What do you think?
A “Guest Post” from Shirley Phelps: Nine Reasons Why “God HATES Colorado”
August 29th, 2008
The Democratic National Convention is over. The Obama has been nominated, the speeches have been made, and now everyone is beginning their long treks home, inspired by the closing night and energized for the fall campaign.
The convention drew quite a few people to Denver, many of them with differing agendas and messages. Among them was a contingent from Westboro Baptist, the famous God-Hates-Fags brand of “Christians.” BTB contributing author Daniel Gonzales recently moved to Denver, and when he learned that the WBC folks have labeled the entire state as the “land of the Sodomites,” he wondered how all of Colorado happened to earn such a reputation. So he decided to write to Shirley Phelps:
Good morning Shirley,
I’m one of Jeremy Hooper’s activist friends out of Denver and I also write for a local gay magazine (the gayzette) here so I had a question about your DNC press release, specifically “Colorado – Land
of the Sodomites.” Could you elaborate on how you reached that determination? Most locals would agree Denver can be pretty gay at times but I’m curious what the state as a whole did to earn this title.
I would be happy to print your response in it’s entirety (as long as it’s not like a thousands words) and may swing by one of your protest sites to say hi during your visit.
Ms. Shirley’s response managed to cross the thousand word threshold — 1,860 words, to be exact — listing nine reasons why “God HATES Colorado.” It’s robably too long to appear on the pages of the Gayzette, but since we strive to present differing points of view from time to time on this web site, we thought you might be interested in what’s on her mind.
Or then again, maybe not. To me, it all has the quality of a car wreck — you know its ugly, but you can’t help but look. So go on. You know you want to.
“Million Fag March” Descends on Westboro Baptist
March 31st, 2008
The name of the march was a bit facetious, but the results weren’t. About 400 people gathered in Gage Park near Fred Phelp’s Westboro Baptist Church to demonstrate against the “God Hates Fags” message that the Phelps clan has been spreading. Kansas City’s Fox4 has the details:
Now This Is Just Sad…
January 31st, 2008
For misguided reasons you are hiding the body of Heath Ledger, and refusing the divulge the time, date, and place of his burial in Perth, Australia, so that we at Westboro Baptist Church cannot attend — in respectful proximity — and conduct a religious service. …
… Please tell us the time, date and place of Heath’s funeral in Australia. Thank you.
That was Monday, January 28, and I guess Westboro’s engraved invitation still hasn’t arrived. So yesterday the Phelps moved to Plan “B”:
WBC will soon launch a new Website — titled GodHatesAustralia. Watch for it.
Doesn’t it just break your heart?
Update: Sadder still. As the commenters have noted, the Phelps clan sent out their second press release, but they neglected to do one very important thing: they didn’t register the domain name. Click on GodHatesAustralia.com, and you see this:
There has been recent statements in the media that godhatesaustralia.com was registered recently by the Westboro Baptist Church. While their intention may have been to register godhatesaustralia, they were too late. Love thy neighbour.
The dancing bear is a nice touch. Poor Westboro. They just can’t get a break.
Phelps Clan To Protest Heath Ledger’s Funeral
January 23rd, 2008
Never one to pass an opportunity to put a “Christian” face on things, the anti-gay Phelpsian cult has announced that they will be protesting Heath Ledger’s funeral:
… God hates Fags! & Fag-Enablers! …
Heath Ledger is now in Hell, and has begun serving his eternal sentence there — beside which, nothing else about Heath Ledger is relevant or consequential.
A lovely bunch.
That Didn’t Take Long
December 27th, 2007
A tiger escaped its enclosure in the San Francisco zoo and killing one young man and seriously mauled two more on Christmas Day, just as the zoo was about to close. Our friends at Westboro Baptist had their press release ready to go the very next day:
Uh, happy Feast of St. Stevens (a.k.a Boxing Day)…
Flirting With A Westboro Man
November 18th, 2007
Charles Firth is an Australian comedian living in the US. He appears on the ABC’s (Australian Brocasting Company) The Chaser’s War On Everything in a recurring segment called “Firth In America.” In this segment, he discovers the allure of a “Westboro Boi.”
Phelps Liable for $10.9 Million
October 31st, 2007
Rueters is reporting that a jury ordered Westboro Baptist Church to pay the family of a serviceman whose burial service was picketed by Phelp’s church.
The jury in federal court determined that the Westboro Baptist Church based in Topeka, and three of its principals had invaded the privacy of the dead man’s family and inflicted emotional distress when they protested at his funeral last year.
This bothers me in a few ways.
First, I am in favor of protected speech, even vile disgusting speech like that of Fred Phelps and his family. While there is no question that this celebration of the poor kid’s death was disturbing, I don’t like the precedent this sets. Perhaps as I hear more about the details – such as whether the protest was on public property or at a private funeral home – I may reconsider. But I recognize that my speech could be unwelcome and distressing to anti-gay activists or devoutly religious bigots.
Second, I can’t help but wonder if the outcome would have been different had Westboro been picketing a gay person’s death. I somehow suspect that the family of the serviceman was held by the jury to be more deserving. Perhaps I’m cynical, but I doubt they would have given $2.9 million to a grieving same-sex spouse.
UPDATE: The final award was much more:
The federal jury first awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages. It returned in the afternoon with its decision to award $6 million in punitive damages for privacy loss and $2 million for distress.
Fred Phelps On BBC 2
April 3rd, 2007
The BBC’s Louis Theroux spent three weeks with the Fred Phelps clan, with a BBC camera crew in tow. The resulting documentary aired on BBC 2 last Sunday. Theroux told BBC Magazine why he wanted to do this documentary:
What we’re trying to do in the documentary is look at an activity that is so antisocial, so strange, so futile and at its worst, so cruel, and we’re saying ‘Why? Why do that?’, especially when you seem to be, for the most part, kind and sensitive people. We’re exploring what is cruelty, trying to explain how something that really does very often just amount to cruelty could be perpetuated and passed down in a family. Why would nice people do such horrible things?
Here are the results: