Founder of Westboro Baptist Church, Rev. Fred Phelps Sr. dies

Some called his family the most hated in America, and there has been reaction worldwide about the death of that founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps. According to Tim Phelps, one of Fred Phelps Sr.’s sons, Phelps passed away Wednesday night.

With the news of his passing, there is a question people are asking: Will the picketing stop?

It was business as usual for the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, less than a day after their founder’s death.

“So it’s no different today?” Kansas First News asked Westboro Baptist Church members. “No different today. Duty is the same,” answered a member who was picketing on 17th and Gage in Topeka.

The church that is known for picketing against gays and soldiers’ funerals. Continued to stand out on Topeka streets with their signs.

Father Don Davidson has experienced Westboro Baptist Church’s picketing first hand.

“I think we all need to recognize our own sin and not point our fingers at the sin of another,” said Davidson.

Westboro has picketed outside Davidson’s church – Saint David’s Episcopal Church on 17th and Gage for 22 years.

“It will be interesting in this community, a community that has dealt with a very unique perspective in the religion world, and now have to see how things change and that evolves without his presence,” said Davidson.

“I think on a nation-wide basis, them being located here, that it certainly doesn’t do anything for the image of our city,” said Bill Bunten, former mayor of Topeka.

WBC says there will be no changes to how it operates even though Phelps is dead. Thursday, they sent out a tweet saying “Westboro Baptist church thanks God for Fred Phelps Sr.’s passing.”

But most people hope his death will mean an end to WBC’s message.

“Have no really feelings about it at all. He’s gone and i hope the picketing stops,” said Bunten.
“I don’t want them to be invisible, they remind us of what we believe, and the need to be vigilant,” said Davidson.

The reactions from the community have been mixed. One woman we spoke with out in front of Westboro Baptist Church was handing out free “No Fred” buttons.

Westboro Baptist Church will not hold a funeral.

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PHOTO GALLERY:

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT/AP)-The Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., who founded a Kansas church widely known for its protests at military funerals and anti-gay sentiments, has died at the age of 84 according to his son Tim Phelps.

This news comes after some speculation about his health and whether or not he was in hospice care.

Daughter Margie Phelps says Fred Phelps died shortly after midnight Thursday. She didn’t give the cause of death or the condition that recently put him in hospice care.

WBC wrote this BLOG in response to his death.

Members of the Westboro church, based in Topeka, frequently protest at funerals of soldiers with signs containing messages such as “Thank God for dead soldiers,” and “Thank God for 9/11,” claiming the deaths are God’s punishment for American immorality and tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.

Westboro Baptist, a small group made mostly of Phelps’ extended family, inspired a federal law and laws in numerous states limiting picketing at funerals. But in a major free-speech ruling in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the church and its members couldn’t be sued for monetary damages for inflicting pain on grieving families under the First Amendment.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil-rights nonprofit group, has called Westboro Baptist Church a hate group.

Phelps notoriety has grown since the 1950′s- when he started the Westboro Baptist Church.  The church began as a new venture of Topeka’s Eastside Baptist Church, which first hired Phelps in 1954 as an associate pastor. It was Phelps who broke all ties with Eastside.

The WBC believes homosexuality is a particularly heinous sin- falling under the commandment: “thou shalt not commit adultery”

Despite this fire and brimstone attitude toward homosexuals… The Phelps/WBC says it is not a hate group and not affiliated with hate groups or militias. In fact, Fred Phelps was honored by a local chapter of the NAACP for his work as a civil rights attorney.

The church’s building in central Topeka is surrounded by a wooden fence, and family members are neighbors, their yards enclosed by the same style of fence in a manner that suggests a sealed-off compound.

 

 

 

 

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