Westboro Baptist Founder at the Pearly Gates: What Did Fred Phelps See?

4 years ago

Fred Phelps, Sr., former leader of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, is dead. He died on Wednesday night in hospice care. Phelps hit the international news scene when he and his church protested Matthew Shepard's funeral in 1998 bearing signs that reflect their website's URL: God Hates Fags.

Source: Sacramento Bee/ John Decker/ZUMA Press

I live in Kansas City. I had never heard of Fred Phelps until I went to a Lipizzaner horse show in Topeka with a friend and was shocked to see a group of people holding up signs saying in ten or twelve different ways that God, and they, hate homosexual people. What that had to do with horses, I have no idea. I asked my friend what was going on, and she sighed and explained who they were, what they stood for, what they'd been doing, what they continued to do and still continue to do on and on for years after I drove past them, my mouth hanging open in shock and my skin tingling with rage.

I learned that the Westboro Baptist Church liked to picket military funerals, too. That even bothered the Ku Klux Klan, according to The Washington Post:

The expression of Rev. Phelps’s bigotry managed to offend the conscience of the Ku Klux Klan, which staged protests to counter Westboro’s demonstrations at military funerals.

Now that Phelps is dead, you might think the hate will stop. You would be wrong. Phelps' family excommunicated him from his own church for asking his family to be nicer to each other. In fact, last night when Phelps reportedly died, they were in Kansas City protesting Young the Giant and tweeting about it.

I feel how I felt when Osama bin Laden died:

I don't think I'm the only American who hung that stinking wreath of excrement around Osama bin Laden's neck, let him represent all that was wrong with humanity.

And I'm mad and sad that he taught his church to follow in his footsteps so well they continue what he started and will for who knows how long. I'm waiting and watching for the world to react. A group of Satanists said they'll turn him gay. There's a Facebook group to picket his funeral. What next?

I recently lost my devotedly religious father-in-law. My brother-in-law spoke at his funeral, wondering what his dad did when he got to heaven. It was a beautiful and moving speech, and the image of my father-in-law falling down on his knees in bliss stuck with me and comforted me in my grief.

I wonder what Fred Phelps did when he met his God.

Rita Arens is the author of the young adult novel The Obvious Game & the deputy editor of BlogHer.com. Find more at www.ritaarens.com.

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