Anti-gay pastor’s death gives us chance to reflect on hatred

When the Rev. Fred Phelps Sr. died late last month, the word most often used by journalists in relation to his activities was “controversial.” However, the word does not adequately describe the so-called man of the cloth.

Given Phelps’ outrageous and hate-filled protests at the funerals of American soldiers, there’s just one word that should be applied to him: evil.

“Thank God for dead soldiers” read the signs that he and his followers held up for mourners to see as they laid to rest loved ones who gave their lives for this country.

Phelps was founder of a small Kansas church, Westboro Baptist in Topeka, with a congregation made up almost entirely of his extended family.

The fiery preacher drew international condemnation for blaming almost everything, including the deaths of AIDS victims and U.S. soldiers, on America’s tolerance of gay people.

The 84-year-old hatemonger’s despicable assault on gays and lesbians was condemned by many thoughtful Americans, but there also was uncomfortable silence from members of the clergy.

He should have been publicly berated and rejected by the leaders of all established religions in this country. Indeed, his death in a hospice- care facility was a perversion of the concept of humanity.

Phelps had not earned the right to die in peace. He should have suffered and ultimately succumbed to the punishment from his creator.

Why? Because he perverted the word of God. Here’s what he said to the Associated Press in an interview in 2006:

“Can you preach the Bible without preaching the hatred of God? The answer is absolutely not. And these preachers that muddle that and use that deliberately, ambiguously to prey on the follies and the fallacious notions of their people, that’s a great sin.”

Phelps believed any misfortune, most infamously the deaths of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, was God’s punishment for society’s tolerance of homosexuality. God, he preached, had nothing but anger and bile for the moral miscreants of his creation.

To those Americans who had the courage to stand up to the evil preacher and his followers, there was nothing but abuse.


“They need to drink a frosty mug of shut-the-hell-up and avert their eyes,” his daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, once told a group of Kansas lawmakers.

If there is a silver lining in this sordid tale of man’s hatred, it is that some members of Phelps’ congregation had grown weary of him and had excommunicated him from the church last year. The pastor’s son had broken away from the church and was alienated from his father.

Unfortunately, the silver lining has been ruined by a group of church members who seem intent on continuing Phelps’ evil deeds. About 20 of them protested outside a concert by pop star Lorde in Kansas City, Mo., days after Phelps’ death.

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