Controversial Pastor Fred Phelps of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas passed away late Wednesday, March 19th of natural causes according to church spokesman Steve Drain.
Westboro Baptist Church gained international notoriety for picketing over 50,000 public events ranging from funerals of slain American soldiers to Lady Gaga concerts by displaying provocative signs condemning homosexuality.
Phelps founded Westboro back in 1955 and built a confrontational ministry which focused on many of America’s problems being God’s judgment on the United States’ acceptance of homosexuality.
Although Westboro was a small congregation, around a dozen or more members towing children would hold signs that would say “God Hates Fags” or “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”. The presence of Westboro’s members would infuriate those at funerals or other public events.
Westboro’s reputation was so confrontational that in 2013 more than 367,000 petitioners contacted the White House in order to place Westboro on a hate list. The White House called the actions of Phelp’s church “reprehensible”, but declined to do so since the federal government does not maintain a list of hate groups.
Two years earlier the US Supreme Court upheld Westboro’s right to picket military funerals because of First Amendment free speech.
Westboro had a preoccupation in dealing with homosexuality and was branded by other Christians as failing to show compassion. To many Christians Westboro displayed lack of love with their signs that pronounced things as judgment for hell with a pious attitude of Westboro members appearing to be glad gays were going to hell.
Many Christians rightly determined that there are far more heterosexual sins plaguing society than to be overly focused on homosexuality.
Phelps’ son Nathan less than a week earlier declared that his father had been excommunicated from the church, perhaps a clear signal that many did not see eye to eye with Fred Phelps’ approach.
A huge banner currently hangs from Westboro Baptist Church’s front declaring “godhatesamerica.com”.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been declared or where the final resting place will be for Pastor Phelps.