Fred Waldron Phelps (November 13, 1929 – March 19, 2014) was the pastor of the independent Westboro Baptist Church, an extremist organization located in Topeka, Kansas, and a controversial activist against homosexual behavior. Phelps was noted for rallies displaying signs with highly inflammatory and extremist statements. This has classified the church as a hate group by various organizations. He was 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 are related to the late Phelps either by blood or marriage.
Phelps was a civil rights lawyer, who fought for the rights of African Americans and worked to end many racist policies. However, he also filed several lawsuits against opponents which were later determined to constitute malicious prosecution, and ultimately agreed to permanently surrender his law license as a result.
Phelps openly denounced the Catholic Church and Episcopal Church, and made claims these religious organizations tolerate and harbor homosexuals and pedophiles. He 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. Phelps was a vehement critic of Dick Cheney. His views are rejected by liberals and conservative Christians; evangelical leader Jerry Falwell referred to him as a "first-class nut".
Phelps 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. Phelps is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Phelps was once an active contributor to the Democrat Party and was an enthusiastic supporter of Al Gore for president in 1988, calling Gore "the icon of the conservative faction of the Democratic Party." Phelps's son, Fred Phelps, Jr., served as a delegate for Gore. During Gore's 1984 campaign for the U.S. Senate, he was against a bill that would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and refused to take donations from homosexual rights organizations. Gore said in an interview with the Nashville Tennessean, "I don't pretend to have an understanding of homosexuality that sustains a discussion of its roots ... but I do not believe it is simply an acceptable alternative that society should affirm."
According to Megan Phelps-Roper, Phelps granddaughter who left the church before his passing, late in his life Phelps repented of the hatred he showed toward the LGBT community, and purportedly was excommunicated from the congregation as a result. He spent his last days in a hospital, seen only by handlers who made sure any of Phelps family that had left the church were unable to visit him in the end. No fewer than four of his children and at least two of his grandchildren would leave Westboro; all of them have renounced Christianity in one form or another.
Phelps' Criticism of Religious Leaders
Phelps ran several websites on the internet which preach against homosexuality and immoral living. Phelps espoused a skewed version of his own "literal" interpretation of the Bible and the holy scriptures, and spoke against mainstream religious and Christian leaders who, in his view, distort or twist the literal interpretation of the Bible. Phelps also advocated 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 Democrat Party
Phelps ran for governor of Kansas as a Democrat in 1990, 1994, and 1998. Phelps received 31% of the vote in Kansas's 1992 Democrat Party primary for U.S. Senate. In 1993 and 1997, Phelps ran for mayor of Topeka. He supported Al Gore in the 1988 primaries. Phelps' support of Al Gore took an irrational U-turn in 1998 when he picketed the funeral of Al Gore's father. Phelps has been an extremely vocal critic of President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney, calling Bush "A Bible pervert." Of the Cheney family Phelps said, "They know the iniquity they’ve wrought, but they’re not at all ashamed of it...God hates the Cheneys."
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.  He requested, and received, permission from Saddam Hussein to visit Iraq. When Saddam Hussein was executed in 2006, Phelps said Saddam was in hell for practicing the Muslim faith.
Phelps and activism
Phelps announced that he and his group would picket the funeral service of actor Heath Ledger.
In February 2009, Phelps' group announced that they would travel to the United Kingdom to protest in Basingstoke against a homosexuality-themed play called The Laramie Project, based on the murder of Matthew Shepard. However, the British Foreign Secretary Jacqui Smith later announced on February 19 that they would be barred from entering the country as the group "engaged in unacceptable behaviour by inciting hatred against a number of communities". Phelps' group later responded with a message on their website GodHatesFags.com stating:
- "You British Bastards will not have Jesus Christ to rule over you, and think you can issue bans and pass laws to remove God’s word from the landscape. You do greatly err, not knowing the power of God; and, you do that against your own interests. It is a great kindness to have God’s prophets in your land. But, you ungrateful brutes despise knowledge. It is too late for the UK. God Hates You! God’s wrath and destruction is all that’s left for you, thanks to Secretary Smith."
After the shooting of Arizona U.S. Representative Gabriella Giffords and the death of six people in Tuscon, Arizona in January 2010, Phelps stated in a video that God had sent the shooter, Jared Loughner, to "avenge the nation's sins", and that Westboro planned to protest at the funerals of the six victims. He said, "Thank God for the violent shooter." The Arizona state legislature passed an emergency bill barring protestors from within 300 feet of funerals. Westboro later gave up the idea of protesting at the funeral of Christina Green, the 9-year-old girl who died in the shooting, in exchange for airtime on Phoenix and Tuscon radio stations.
Despite efforts by leftists to link Phelps to the Religious Right, Phelps refers to Christian conservatives as "Lukewarm cowards. Modern day Pharisees. People who have gone a whoring after strange gods. Self-righteous hypocrites. They spend more time harassing people who are preaching the Gospel than anything else, just like the Pharisees did to Jesus." Phelps preaching has much in common with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Phelps also says God hates liberals, referring to them as "the modern day Saduccees", and that they are the ultimate evil.
- 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.
- 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 sodomy was occurring in Gage Park, Phelps responded with an insulting fax.
Criticism of Phelps
Criticism of Phelps has been virtually universal within both the conservative and liberal movements. The Reverend Jerry Falwell has called Phelps "a first class nut". Illinois Family Institute Executive Director Peter LaBarbera said "Fred Phelps' curious message is hardly Christian, and only fuels societal bigotry toward those who espouse genuine Biblical views on social issues like homosexuality and abortion,"
Phelps was also cited during Canadian deliberations about declaring anti-homosexuality sentiments to be a hate crime.
Reasons why people call Phelps “hateful”:
- ”Bloody-Knife Bombastic Big Mouth Bastard Beast Obama is going to change times and laws; we have the word of God for that fact. He will do this by his charismatic smooth forked tongue, as he’s highly skilled in the art of telling people what they want to hear. The people of this nation are in terror, at God’s hand, afraid for their future, in distress and crisis, and afraid of many unnamed enemies. Germany was stinging and laboring under financial hardship, including punishing reparations from World War I. Hitler tapped into their national pride and need for financial stability to come to power. Also like Germany, this nation has weak legislative and judicial branches. Hitler was able to quickly seize power and strip the German legislative branch of any ability to curtail him. The Congress of doomed America is full of pandering cowards; they will be putty in Beast Obama’s hands, afraid to oppose him because of the “mandate” he has from the raging masses. The cowardly congress members have no stability or moral compass, so they are subject to the whim of the people. They’ll cave like a cheap deck of cards while Obama cleverly and masterfully plays the people like banjos, to get what he wants.” Phelps on beastobama.com launched in early 2009
- ”God hates America, and those calamities last Tuesday [September 11, 2001] are none other than the wrath of God, smiting fag America... That wasn't any accident. That wasn't any coincidence. There's only America to blame for those tragedies.”
- “How many do you suppose of those hundred (sic) and thirty soldiers died (sic) in the Pentagon last Tuesday were fags and dykes? And how many do you suppose were working in that massively composed building structure called those two World Trade Center buildings, Twin Towers? There were five thousand or ten thousand killed and, counting all those passengers in those airplanes, it's very likely that every last single one of them was a fag or dyke or a fag enabler, and that the minute he died, he split hell wide open, and the way to analyze the situation is that the Lord God Almighty, pursuant to His threatenings and warnings, killed him, looked him in the face, laughed and mocked at each one of them as He cast each one of them into Hell!... God hates America, and God demonstrated that hatred to some modest degree only last Tuesday -- sent in those bombers, those hellacious 767 Boeing bombers, and it was a glorious sight. What you need to do is see in those flames -- those sickening, twisting, burning, life-destroying flames, brightly shining from every television set around the world! You need to see in those flames a little preview of the flames of Hell that are going to soon engulf you, my friend. Burn your soul forever!” September 14, 2001
- ”Same-sex marriage, by any name, civil union or otherwise, is the ultimate smashed-mouth in-your-face insult to God Almighty, and you think He's going to let England and America and the rest of this evil world get by with it? God Almighty has not joined fags in holy wedlock. God no longer keeps America safe. America is doomed. We're getting the pants beat off of us, in Iraq, in Afghanistan. God is now America's terrorist, that's who Bush is fighting, that's the terrorist that he best be afraid of. You tweaked His nose, you jackass, you tweaked His nose! God put it in your wicked heart to start that war. That's the message we've got at the funerals of these dead soldiers. God duped you into starting a war, so He could punish you. And any preacher preaching it any other way is a lying hell-bound false prophet. So almost eighteen months now and the siege has got people eating their babies, and their small children, and each other! You're gonna eat your babies! God Himself duped Bush into a no-win war, and He did that by the technique of putting a lying spirit in the mouth of all his trusted advisers, to punish America.” Phelps on April 1, 2007
- ”The Lord sent a world-class whopper of a massacre to Virginia Tech, killing thirty-three, drawing headlines like 'Shocked!', 'Horrified!', 'The worst massacre in US history!'. Well, we wish you were thirty-three thousand killed, but we are thankful to our Father for thirty-three.” Phelps on April 23, 2007
- ”Canada is a filthy country run by fags, which has Draconian laws making it a crime to preach the Gospel there. All of these cowardly kissy-poo preachers who telecast their milquetoast sermons into Canada have to edit out every single word critical of fags -- snip, snip, snip -- or the fag officials of Canada will arrest and criminally prosecute the Canadian affiliates, and shut down their stations! There's no freedom of speech in Canada. There's no freedom of religion in Canada. It is against the law to read the Bible in Canada.... Our church has had a lot of bad dealings with those demon-possessed Canadians! A big Canadian flag flies at our church upside-down, the international symbol of distress. We fly it day and night, to educate and warn people about the fagi-nazi regime just to the north of us. Canadians are afraid of their tyrannical fag-run government. You can determine for yourself about Canada, and keep as far away from them as you can.” Phelps on July 31, 2008
- ”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...The same majoritarian sodomite tyranny that now guides the Clinton administration's repressive policies toward Gospel preaching on America's streets, is apparently responsible — at least in part — for the merciless slaughter by starvation of 400 innocent Iraqi babies each day in your country. If our government and laws will allow it, and at the invitation of your government, we would like to send a delegation from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, to preach the Gospel on the streets of Baghdad for one week in the near future.” Phelps’ November 30, 1997 letter to Saddam Hussein.
- ”In our experience, no modern country is more repressive of human rights than the U.S.A. The vaunted First Amendment is nothing but empty words on paper...we will journey to China at our expense, and tell our story of modern American repression of human rights, upon invitation.” Fred Phelps, demanding permission to picket in the People's Republic of China, February 26, 1997.
- ”Mr. Rogers gave aid and comfort to homosexuals. He was a man who preached tolerance of all sorts of people in ways that directly contradicted the Bible. His syrupy teachings led millions astray. He was a wuss and he was an enabler of wusses.” Phelps on March 2003.
- ”You are a Bible pervert, [President George W.] Bush! And I knew it, the minute you hired that fag Scott Evertz to run your White House and told Rumsfeld to hire that fag [Stephen] Herbits, to screen all the applicants for employment to the Pentagon.” Phelps on September 14, 2001.
- ”Whatever righteous cause the Jewish victims of the 1930s-40s Nazi Holocaust had, (probably miniscule, compared to the Jewish Holocausts against Middle Passage Blacks, African Americans and Christians -- including the bloody persecution of Westboro Baptist Church by Topeka Jews in the 1990s), has been drowned in sodomite semen. American taxpayers are financing this unholy monument to Jewish mendacity and greed and to filthy fag lust…Homosexuals and Jews dominated Nazi Germany…just as they now dominate this doomed U.S.A. … The Jews now wander the earth despised, smitten with moral and spiritual blindness by a divine judicial stroke…And God has smitten Jews with a certain unique madness, whereby they are an astonishment of heart, a proverb, and a byword (the butt of jokes and ridicule) among all peoples whither the Lord has driven and scattered them…Jews, thus perverted, out of all proportion to their numbers energize the militant sodomite agenda…The American Jews are the real Nazis (misusers and abusers of governmental power) who hate God and the rule of law.” WBC news release, December 26, 1996
- Fred Phelps believes that Barack Obama is the Antichrist. According to Phelps, we are living in the end of days and Obama will form an Unholy Trinity with the Catholic Church and Satan.
- Addicted to Hate: the story of Fred Phelps
- The Most Hated Family In America
- Fred Phelps' Unhinged Video Message to the Cheneys
- Poisoning the Web: Hatred Online, Anti-Defamation League (2001). Retrieved 05/23/07.
- God Hates Fred Phelps, Retrieved from http://www.godhatesfredphelps.com/ October 25, 2007.
- Phelps denouncing Jerry Falwell after his death.
- What is Westboro Baptist Church?, at GotQuestions.
- Funeral protesters say laws can't silence them, By Charlie Riedel, Associated Press, July 2006. Retrieved from USA Today October 14, 2007.
- 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.
- Bradley rips Gore's 'scare tactics' to win gay votes By Bob Hohler and Michael Crowley, Globe Staff, 2/15/2000, cache.boston.com, retrieved November 26, 2011
- 1998 Kansas Primary Results. Compiled by Congressional Quarterly.
- State of Kansas Secretary of State Website
- The "God Hates Fags" Left, By Mark D. Tooley, FrontPageMagazine.com, February 09, 2006.
- Kansas anti-gay church embarrasses Topekans, November 7, 2002. Retrieved from ReligionNewsBlog.com, October 11, 2007.
- Arizona suspect could face death penalty msnbc.com, Crime & Courts, January 11, 2010, retrieved November 23, 2011.
- Arizona enacts funeral protest legislation cnn.com, January 11, 2010, retrieved November 23, 2011.
- Westboro Baptist Church Won't Picket Christina Green Funeral Surge Desk, aolnews.com, January 12, 2011, retrieved on November 23, 2011.
- Gore sought help from anti-homosexual group, 'God hates fags' creator preaches 'hate because the Bible preaches hate', By Jon E. Dougherty, WorldNetDaily.com, October 25, 2000.
- Beast Obama website
- Phelps on Sept. 11 attacks
- Phelps on war, same-sex marriage, gays
- Phelps on Virginia Tech massacre
- Phelps on Canada
- Phelps’ letter to Saddam Hussein
- Phelps on China, U.S.A. and human rights
- Phelps on Mr. Rogers
- Phelps’ tirade toward President Bush
- Phelps on Jewish people
- Phelps on the Antichrist and Unholy Trinity