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Who Was Fred Phelps?

Who Was Fred Phelps?

By H. Alan Scott

WBC/ Splash News

So, old Fred Phelps died, you may have heard. You know his website (which won't link to). You know his church, Westboro Baptist Church, which protests the funerals of homosexuals, government officials and soldiers. But like, who was Fred Phelps and why did anybody ever pay attention to him if he was so hateful?

He Was an NAACP Honored Attorney

True story. After founding his church in 1951, he went to law school, barely passed the bar, and quickly became a popular civil-rights lawyer in Topeka, Kansas. It’s unclear why he was so in demand, perhaps he offered services cheaply or was just very bombastic, but he made a name for himself. Well, that is, until he ruined that name by becoming a really bad lawyer. He was eventually disbarred.

Was the Westboro Baptist Church Even Real?

Sorta, kinda. Technically it’s a non-denominational church that subscribes to the Baptist set of Christian beliefs, but don’t tell that to any self-respecting Baptist. From the beginning to this very day, the church was made up primarily of members of the Phelps family. So it’s less of a church and more a really well-organized year-round family reunion.

Why Did He Hate the Gays So Much?

The origin of his hatred towards homosexuality is unclear. Since 1951, when he founded Westboro, Phelps had always been considered far outside the box, even for staunch evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell (who called him a “first-class nut”). He sued Ronald Reagan for establishing diplomatic relations with the Vatican, which could be considered the beginning of his protest career. By 1991, he was protesting the funerals of people who died from complications caused by the AIDS virus, and then famously protested the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the gay Wyoming college student whose death is often credited for igniting more awareness of gay related hate-crimes. His right to protest even went to the Supreme Court, who ruled that the Westboro Baptist Church had a legal right to protest the funerals of soldiers because of free speech.

What’s Next for the Church?

Some members of the congregation (aka his family) have abandoned the church and spoken out against it. There were even claims that Phelps himself had been excommunicated from the church (though Westboro Baptist denies this). So what’s their final word on Phelps? “God still hates fags, God still hates fag enablers and any nation that embraces that sin as an ‘innocent’ lifestyle can expect to incur the wrath of God. Repent or Perish.” I guess that’s a, “We’re OK, thanks.”

Personally we don’t approve of these protests. We strongly encourage the members of Westboro Baptist Church to abandon protesting “fags,” and switch to protesting bags.

Further Reading...

Fred Phelps, Founder of Westboro Baptist Church, Dies at 84

Extremism in America: Westboro Baptist Church

The Man Who Loves to Hate

Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church

Are you happy to forget Fred Phelps and his personal brand of hate?

Topics: Life
Tags: news, deaths, nutcases, fred phelps, westboro baptist church, religion youre doing it wrong

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About the Author
H. Alan Scott

I'm a writer/comedian based in LA and NYC. My work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, xoJane.com, MTV, Logo, Splitsider, The Advocate Magazine, Somecards.com, Sirius XM Radio, WitStream, and my Mom's refrigerator. Oprah said my name. In 2012 I got cancer. I tweeted/blogged about it with #Chemocation for various media outlets. Follow and support #Chemocation at chemocation.com.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.