The Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., who founded a Kansas church widely known for its protests at military funerals and anti-gay sentiments, has died. That’s according to his son Tim Phelps and KSN Wichita sister station Kansas First News.
Phelps, 84, was being cared for in a Shawnee County facility, Westboro Baptist Church spokesman Steve Drain said Sunday.
Phelps’s estranged son Nathan, who left the church in 1976 when he was 18, had posted on Facebook Saturday night that not only was the elder Phelps in failing health, but that he had been kicked out of the church. “I’ve learned that my father, Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church, was ex-communicated from the “church” back in August of 2013″.
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.
Information from KSN News