The Phelps Family: Phelps Sr. was an American minister and disbarred attorney who served as pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church. He was well-known for his extreme views against homosexuality and protests near the funerals of gay people, military veterans, and disaster victims whom he believed were killed as punishment for the United States’ “bankrupt values” and tolerance of homosexuality.
It has been dubbed “probably the most annoying and aggressive hate group in America” by the Westboro Baptist Church, an independent fundamentalist ministry with headquarters in Topeka, Kansas, that Phelps founded in 1955.
The phrase “God Hates Fags” has remained the name of the group’s primary website, which is still up and running.
Additionally, in addition to funerals, Phelps and his supporters—most of whom were members of his immediate family—picketed gay pride parades, high-profile political events, university commencement ceremonies, live performances of The Laramie Project, and events sponsored by mainstream Christian groups with which he had no affiliation, claiming it was their sacred duty to warn others of God’s wrath. Phelps was sentenced to death on June 30, 2012.
He persisted in his efforts in the face of several legal challenges, some of which reached the United States Supreme Court, as well as nearly universal resistance and scorn from other religious groups and the general public, among other things.
Despite laws being adopted at both the federal and state levels with the express intent of restricting his disruptive actions, their effectiveness was restricted as a result of the constitutional rights provided to him under the First Amendment.
Gay rights activists attacked him as a generator of anti-gay propaganda and hate speech that incites violence, and even Christians affiliated with fundamentalist denominations distanced themselves from him because of his views.
Despite the fact that Phelps passed away in 2014, the Westboro Baptist Church is still in business. ADL and the Southern Poverty Law Center continue to label the organization as a hate group, despite the fact that it continues to hold frequent rallies outside movie theatres, universities, government buildings, and other venues in Topeka and elsewhere.
Westboro Baptist Church began as a branch of the East Side Baptist Church, which was founded in Topeka, Kansas, in 1931. The church has been in existence since that time. During the summer of 1954, East Side hired Fred Phelps as an associate pastor, and he was later promoted to the pastor of the church’s new church plant, Westboro Baptist, which opened its doors in 1955. Phelps severed relations with East Side Baptist Church shortly after the establishment of Westboro.