After a recent update by his estranged son indicating his declining health, several reports Thursday indicate Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps Sr. is dead. The Topeka, Kansas ‘church,’ which is infamous for its callous protests of military funerals along with outlandish screeds against Jews and homosexuals, consisted primarily of Phelps’ own family.
According to Nathan Phelps’ update, however, his father was excommunicated from the organization he founded a few months ago.
For years, the 84-year-old led rallies and protests ostensibly based on his bizarre misinterpretation of God’s word. In the end, even he was apparently not immune to the congregation’s hate. Some reports indicate he was kicked out of the group last year after he began advocating a kinder approach to delivering Westboro’s message.
A ‘church’ spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny the allegation.
While Christianity has come under increasing attack across America in recent years, Westboro’s purported affiliation with the faith often gave misguided opponents ammunition to use against true believers. Picketers representing the church routinely arrived, bearing signs with messages like “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” at funerals being held for brave men and women who lost their lives protecting our freedom.
Their activism understandably sparked righteous indignation against the group itself, leading to certain ordinances that limit the ability to protest at funerals. Those who took part in the heartless display, however, were determined by the U.S. Supreme Court to be immune from lawsuits regarding the pain experienced by the soldiers’ families.
Westboro reportedly has no recognized leader, so it is unclear what effect, if any, Phelps’ death will have on its operations. At this point, true Christians can only hope that, along with his reported embrace of a kinder message, he was able to find a real, life-changing relationship with Jesus.
Meanwhile, believers must continue to show by example that Westboro’s remaining congregants represent the polar opposite of Christ’s actual message of love.
–B. Christopher Agee
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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom