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Westboro Baptist Church


Westboro Baptist Church continues “hater” tradition

After the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Philips, passed away on March 19, 2014, in Topeka, Kansas, many people were hoping the church would stop its extreme activities such as protesting at funerals and dooming everyone who isn’t part of the church to hell. But even though Fred Philips may have passed on, his spirit still hates on through his children and congregation.

The followers of the Westboro Baptist Church believe that homosexuality is a sin and hate anything and anyone they consider supportive of the “homosexual agenda.”  This perspective includes gay and lesbian events, churches, organizations, and the funerals of soldiers (who fought in a war they say was caused because of America’s tolerance for homosexuality) that they feel do not follow their beliefs. And still, Westboro’s website (godhatesfags.com) listed several protests that were scheduled for the month of April. The protests were to be held at The White House and several different 

The Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., founder of the small Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas who drew international condemnation for outrageous and hate-filled protests that blamed almost everything, including the deaths of AIDS victims and US soldiers, on America's tolerance for gay people, has died at the age of 84. Phelps and his congregation, made up almost entirely of his extended family, tested the boundaries of free speech, violating accepted societal standards for decency in their unapologetic assault on gays and lesbians. 

The activities of Phelps's church, unaffiliated with any larger denomination, inspired a federal law and laws in more than forty states limiting protests and picketing at funerals. He and a daughter were even barred from entering Britain for inciting hatred. But in a major free-speech ruling in 2011, the US Supreme Court held that the church and its members were protected by the US Constitution’s First Amendment and could not be sued for monetary damages for inflicting pain on grieving families. Yet despite that legal victory, some gay rights advocates believe all the attention Phelps generated served to advance their cause.

Phelps’ final weeks were shrouded in mystery. A long-estranged son, Nate Phelps, said his father had been voted out of the congregation in the summer of 2013 “after some sort of falling out,” but the church refused to discuss the matter. Westboro’s spokesman would only obliquely acknowledge that Phelps had been moved into a care facility because of health problems. (The Associated Press, 3/20/14) [IT 5.2]

Libby Phillips Alvarez, granddaughter of Fred Phelps, founder of the antigay, anti-Semitic Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), says her life has completely changed for the better since she left the Kansas-based group. The most bizarre thing she had to do as a member was “pray for people to die,” she told an interviewer. She decided to leave when the church objected to her wearing a bikini during a family vacation. Instead of apologizing and asking forgiveness, she fled the strictures of the church. Forbidden while a member to leave the United States, she has now visited numerous countries in Europe. She only wishes her cousin would leave the WBC: I would take her to Covent Garden in England for ice cream and tea in London. And there was a place in Germany, the Hofbrauhaus, it’s really famous, there’s a brass band. And I know that Megan would love going on the tube in England. (Opposing Views, 1/28/13) [IT 4.2 2013]

Fred Phelps, pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church, in Topeka, KS — which has 75 members, most of them his relatives — leads picketing at the funerals of people who, he says, have been struck down by God and are on their way to hell because the country tolerates gays. [csr 5.2 2006]

The victims include soldiers killed in Iraq — “Thank God for IEDs” (improvised explosive devices) — and homosexuals — “Fags die, God Laughs.” Phelps and his followers have also picketed the funerals of Mr. Rogers, September 11 victims, and West Virginia coal miners, among many others. The church blames disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the September 11 attacks, and AIDS on what it sees as America’s permissive morals in violation of biblical dictates.” They welcome disasters and pray that all of the chosen will join them in Kansas to await the second coming and the end of the world. [csr 5.2 2006]

Protests by Westboro Baptist at funerals, parades, and other events — it claims to have held some 22,000 since 1971 —have led to 22 states enacting or proposing laws to limit the rights of protestors at funerals. President Bush signed a federal law on Memorial Day that now prohibits such protests at national cemeteries.[csr 5.2 2006]

Phelps, 76, raised a Methodist, gained an appointment to West Point but felt a calling to preach after attending a revival meeting. He later became a civil rights attorney, honored by minority groups for his dedication to the cause, but he was disbarred for improprieties. He ran as a Democrat for mayor, governor, and senator, but lost each time and is now rejected by both parties.[csr 5.2 2006]

Some of Phelps’ children defend him unquestioningly, but others say he was abusive and unstable, flying into rages over the way a child peeled an apple or forgot to wipe his shoes. A loyal Phelps daughter, who lost one of her sons to the “outside world,” says, “What you come to terms with is that the child is going to hell.” A disaffected daughter says followers “believe that what my dad says is law. He’s the shepherd and he gets his inspiration from the Bible — he’s the voice of God on earth.”[csr 5.2 2006]

The father of one of the soldiers whose funeral Phelps picketed has sued the Westboro Church for defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Church says it will counter-sue “for conspiracy to violate civil rights, and violation of civil rights.” “We [protestors] were,” said the church attorney, “seven people exercising protected rights of free speech and religion.” [csr 5.2 2006]