Fred Phelps

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Fred Phelps giving an interview in 2000
Fred Phelps is pastor of the independent Westboro Baptist Church, an extremist organisation not affiliated with mainstream Baptist churches, and is a controversial activist against homosexual behavior. Phelps is noted for rallies displaying signs with highly inflammatory and extremist statements. He is said to hold a "hyper-Calvinistic viewpoint" generally regarded as far outside of mainstream Christianity by most Christian scholars. Most of the congregants of the Westboro Baptist Church, which is located in Topeka, Kansas, are related to Phelps either by blood or marriage.

Phelps has openly denounced the Catholic Church and Episcopal Church and has made claims these religious organizations tolerate and harbor homosexuals and pedophiles. He has also referred to a variety of political figures as "fag-enablers", ranging from Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush to Democrats such as Howard Dean. His views are rejected by the majority of conservative Christians; evangelical leader Jerry Falwell referred to him as a "first-class nut".

Phelps has led protests at military funerals based on his belief that America is a country that harbors homosexuals and is thus evil. As a result, President George W. Bush signed the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes act, which places limitations on protests at military funerals. These demonstrations led to the formation of the Patriot Guard, an organization of motorcyclists who attend military funerals in order to shield the families of the deceased from the protests by members of Phelps's Westboro Baptist Church.[1] Phelps is being represented by the ACLU.[2]

Phelps has been an active contributor to the Democratic Party and was enthusiastic supporter of Al Gore for President in 1988.[3] Phelps's son, Fred Phelps, Jr., also served as a delegate for Gore. [4]

Phelps' Criticism of Religious Leaders

Phelps runs several websites on the internet which preach against homosexuality and immoral living. Phelps espouses a skewed version of his own "literal" interpretation of the Bible and the holy scriptures, and speaks against mainstream religious and Christian leaders who in his view, distort or twist the literal interpretation of the Bible. Phelps also speaks for greater accountability for religious organizations, such as the Catholic Church, and has been vocal in the press and media concerning the abuse of young boys by Catholic Priests and Church Leaders, and practicing homosexuals in the Episcopal Church.

Phelps and the Democratic Party

Phelps ran for governor of Kansas as a Democrat in 1990, 1994, and 1998.[5] Phelps received 31% of the vote in Kansas's 1992 Democratic Party primary for U.S. Senate.[6] In 1993 Phelps ran for mayor of Topeka. and 1997. [7][8]

Phelps and Saddam Hussein

In 1997, upset about United States sanctions on Iraq, Phelps wrote a letter to Saddam Hussein that read, in part, We understand that Iraq is the only Muslim state that allows the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to be freely and openly preached on the streets without fear of arrest and prosecution. Alas, the United States no longer allows the Gospel to be freely and openly preached on the streets, because militant sodomites now control our government, and they violently object to the Bible message. [9] He requested, and received, permission from Hussein to protest in Iraq. [10]

Lawsuits and Litigation

  • Phelps and his congregation were recently sued by Albert Snyder, the father of a soldier killed in Iraq. Phelps and his congregation protested the Iraq War at his son's funeral. The father sued for defamation over Phelps' statement: "Mr. Snyder raised his son for the devil and hell," during the funeral protest and in statements on his website. A federal jury in Baltimore awarded him nearly $11 million in a verdict against the church; Mr. Snyder won on every count of his complaint, receiving $2.9 million for compensatory damages and $8 million for punitive damages.
  • Phelps has also been threatened with prosecution by the Canadian Government for alleged hate speech in Canada for preaching what he has stated are the literal teachings of the Bible against homosexuality.
Former Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore with Fred and Timothy Phelps.[11]
  • Already picketing daily in Topeka, the Phelpses began to shower faxes on the community, targeting business and political leaders they disagreed with. After Topeka councilwoman Beth Mechler publicly doubted Phelps' claims that wild gay sex was occurring in Gage Park, Phelps responded with an insulting fax.[Citation Needed]

Criticism of Phelps

Phelps has been criticized by a great number of individuals, both conservative and liberal. For example, Jerry Falwell has referred to Phelps as "a first class nut". [12]

Recent Activities

Phelps has recently announced that he and his group will picket the service of actor Heath Ledger.

Outside links


  1. Funeral protesters say laws can't silence them, By Charlie Riedel, Associated Press, July 2006. Retrieved from USA Today October 14, 2007.
  2. ACLU Sues for Anti-Gay Group That Pickets at Troops' Burials, By Garance Burke, Associated Press, July 23, 2006; Page A02. Retrieved from the Washington Post October 14, 2007.
  5. 1998 Kansas Primary Results. Compiled by Congressional Quarterly.
  6. State of Kansas Secretary of State Website
  7. The "God Hates Fags" Left, By Mark D. Tooley,, February 09, 2006.
  8. Kansas anti-gay church embarrasses Topekans, November 7, 2002. Retrieved from, October 11, 2007.
  11. Gore sought help from anti-homosexual group, 'God hates fags' creator preaches 'hate because the Bible preaches hate', By Jon E. Dougherty,, October 25, 2000.