Fred Phelps died early Thursday morning. Phelps was best known for his deeply rooted hatred and promulgating the tasteless slogan “God Hates Fags.” His little group of mostly extended family members that comprised the 59-year-old Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, carried their signs with such ugly and painful statements all over the country. Phelps’ small cult got the most attention for their protests of military and other high-profile funerals, claiming that the slain soldiers deserved to die as a consequence of God’s judgment against America’s tolerance of gay and lesbian people. Such shameful and angry messages, understandably, caused great pain among the mourners and family members grieving their loved ones.
The Washington Post story of Phelps death was appropriately headlined “Dry eyes for Fred Phelps,” and commented, “Westboro is an ugly family affair. So ugly that two sons (Mark and Nathan) and a daughter (Dortha Bird) fled their father and his “church.” Another story in the Post reported that Phelps’ group even protested the funeral of Fred Rogers, aka “Mr. Rogers,” explaining that the children’s TV show host neglected to warn young viewers that sodomy is a sin.”
Phelps was 84. The circumstances and health of the last several months of Fred Phelps’ life are surrounded with some mystery. He seemed to have died alone except for a few of the family members who comprised his cultish followers. One estranged son expressed his grief that his father had hurt so many people and reported that the family members who had left Topeka were now being blocked from returning to see Phelps. The Westboro family reports there will be no funeral. The obvious question is, “who would even have bothered to attend, or protest?”
Read the full piece on TIME.com.
Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good, is now available. Watch the Story of the Common Good HERE. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.