Founder of Westboro Baptist Church, Rev. Fred Phelps Sr. dies

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT/AP)-The Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., who founded a Kansas church widely known for its protests at military funerals and anti-gay sentiments, has died at the age of 84 according to his son Tim Phelps.

This news comes after some speculation about his health and whether or not he was in hospice care.

Daughter Margie Phelps says Fred Phelps died shortly after midnight Thursday. She didn’t give the cause of death or the condition that recently put him in hospice care.

WBC wrote this BLOG in response to his death.

Members of the Westboro church, based in Topeka, frequently protest at funerals of soldiers with signs containing messages such as “Thank God for dead soldiers,” and “Thank God for 9/11,” claiming the deaths are God’s punishment for American immorality and tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.

Westboro Baptist, a small group made mostly of Phelps’ extended family, inspired a federal law and laws in numerous states limiting picketing at funerals. But in a major free-speech ruling in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the church and its members couldn’t be sued for monetary damages for inflicting pain on grieving families under the First Amendment.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil-rights nonprofit group, has called Westboro Baptist Church a hate group.

Phelps notoriety has grown since the 1950′s- when he started the Westboro Baptist Church.  The church began as a new venture of Topeka’s Eastside Baptist Church, which first hired Phelps in 1954 as an associate pastor. It was Phelps who broke all ties with Eastside.

The WBC believes homosexuality is a particularly heinous sin- falling under the commandment: “thou shalt not commit adultery”

Despite this fire and brimstone attitude toward homosexuals… The Phelps/WBC says it is not a hate group and not affiliated with hate groups or militias. In fact, Fred Phelps was honored by a local chapter of the NAACP for his work as a civil rights attorney.

The church’s building in central Topeka is surrounded by a wooden fence, and family members are neighbors, their yards enclosed by the same style of fence in a manner that suggests a sealed-off compound.

I’m so sorry for the harm he caused. That we all caused. But he could be so kind and wonderful. I wish you all could have seen that, too.

— Megan Phelps-Roper (@meganphelps) March 20, 2014


I understand those who don’t mourn his loss, but I’m thankful for those who see that “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”

— Megan Phelps-Roper (@meganphelps) March 20, 2014


Westboro Baptist Church thanks God for Fred Phelps Sr.’s passing:

— Westboro Baptist (@WBCSays) March 20, 2014

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