TOPEKA, Kan. – Founder of the Westboro Baptist Church and Anti-gay extremist Fred Phelps, has died, family members confirmed on Thursday.
Timothy Phelps, the fifth son of Fred Phelps, told WIBW that his father died shortly before Midnight last night.
Phelps, who was 84, founded the Topeka, Kansas based church, Westboro Baptist in 1955, which became famous for their “God Hates Fags” fundamentalist movement and has been involved in actions against the LGBT community since the early nineties.
The church which consists of about 40 members, almost all of which are members of Phelp’s extended family, first came into the national spotlight in 1998, when it picketed at the funeral of Matthew Shephard, an openly gay student at the University of Wyoming who was tortured near Laramine, Wyo. in October 1998, and then tied to a fence and left to die.
The church has since protested at many funerals, even including those of deceased members of the military as well as the funerals of celebrities.
At the beginning of the week we learned that Phelps had been on his death bed when his estranged son, Nathan Phelps posted a status on Facebook confirming that his father was dying in hospice care in Topeka. and that he had been ex-communicated from his church in August of 2013, but was unclear on all the details.
“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.”
When referring to Phelp’s excommunication from the church, his estranged son vented on a Facebook comment and had this to say “I only have hearsay on the reason, and two different versions, so I won’t comment at this point other than to say he was moved into another house and watched over so he wouldn’t harm himself.”
Nathan Phelps had been estranged from his father for 30 years or so and is now an LGBT advocate, speaking out against the dangers of religion and child abuse. The seventh of 13 children, he left the family home and Westboro Church at the age of 18, in 1976 and has often referred to the gay hating congregation as “the most hated church and family in America”.
Now that the hateful founder is dead, many in Topeka are wondering who will lead the church in his absence.
Earlier this week, a current church elder of Westboro told WIBW that they “need no leader, their head is Jesus Christ.”
It looks like the Gay community can’t rejoice just yet. We may never see the end of the Westboro Church, but we can at least have the decency to not stoop to their level. While it may seem tempting to give the Westboro Church a taste of their own medicine, fighting hate by spreading more hate is probably not the answer, but still I am curious to see how this is all going to play out.