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Fred Phelps – Gay Rights Champion!

Fred Phelps – Gay Rights Champion!

As word spread over the Saint Patrick’s Day weekend that Fred Phelps—founder of the Westboro Baptist Church and malevolent maven of the God Hates Fags website—was lying in a hospital near death, a sense of ebullience and justice spread through the ephemera. While it may seem means-spirited to feel the urge to celebrate the impending death of another human being, one must admit that Phelps earned the ire.

Phelps and the WBC came to international attention when they picketed and protested at the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a young Wyoming man who was brutally beaten, strung up and left to die in a field. His murder sparked outrage over homophobic violence and was one of the seminal moments in the gay rights movement in America. The insanely dichotomous images of mourners and vitriolic protesters galvanized millions to take action to stand up against hatred. Ironically, Fred Phelps and his family of followers became one of the motivating factors in the fight for queer rights.

A little Phelps history: He was associate pastor then pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church, which opened in 1955. He was a Kansas State lawyer who was disbarred in 1977, then subsequently Federally forbidden to practice law in the 1980s after abusing his legal privilege. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that Phelps and his followers began targeting venues where gay people congregated and then began picketing funerals of gay people.

In his zeal to become the archangel of anti-gay righteousness, he became a galvanizing force to fight against homophobia, ignorance and hatred.

god_hates_fred_phelpsThe more they picketed and protested, the more press they received and soon they became media mainstays for their outrageous signs and homophobic rants. Phelps became one of the faces of hatred in the 1990s and 2000s with his extremist messages of not only hatred but divine destruction of gay people. While he did garner support from some fringe groups, his next move would put him far out on the margins of society. In 2005, Phelps and the WBC began picketing funerals of war veterans; that is when they became pariah and the object of social and political scorn, as well as legal fodder for new laws banning and limiting funeral protests.

While Phelps may have been fuelled by righteousness and preached hellfire against gay people, the military, and, more bizarrely, Mister Rogers, Jon Stewart and the Irish (to name a few), his certainty that he was a divine messenger to rid the world of homosexuality was not only madness, it’s what did him in. In his zeal to become the archangel of anti-gay righteousness, he became a galvanizing force to fight against homophobia, ignorance and hatred. Even his flock began to take flight as several of his children abandoned him and spoke out against him. His epitaph could read:

Here lies Pastor Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church
1929 – 2014

He was a failure as a lawyer.
He was a failure as a father.
He was a failure as a human being.
He was a failure as a man of God.
He was the accidental champion of gay rights.

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AndyAndrew Vails writing career began in Halifax when he was but a child. In Grade 4, he wrote and produced his own series of comic books entitled “Freaky The Frog”, the on-going tale of a little misfit frog and his pals of the pond. Marvel Comics never came knocking but Andrew knew he loved to create and tell stories. Since then, Andrew has worked in advertising, PR and publicity; has interviewed politicians, rock stars and very interesting yet not-so-famous movers and shakers. He has published articles in a variety of local and national magazines and websites. Andrew is currently working on the project queer50.com.


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12 Comments

  1. For those who hold hate in their hearts for this dying man,Shame, Shame. Many larger atrocities have happened in our lifetime, forgiveness is the answer, why carry such bitterness & anger, only causes you pain not him, enough said

  2. no matter what your religious belief is: the world should be glad to be rid of such a narrow-minded, disgusting and useless failure! Too bad more like him wouldn’t fall off the earth…just sayin’…oh and by the way I don’t hate the man either; just glad he is gone and taken his bullshit with him.

  3. This man is to be pitied…bottom line. He lost his career, family and somehow managed to go through this world with so much hatred, it must have weighed him down. I simply don’t know anyone like that; but, I choose my friends wisely. How this man ended up so entrapped in his beliefs is beyond me. Perhaps, he will get it right next time around.

  4. Forgivness isn’t instant and free…. It cost’s, and he has done NOTHING to earn or deserve it.. Good riddance to bad rubbish…in this case bleeding hearts will get you NOTHING.

  5. It must be remembered his not only hated by the gay community but by the military establishment as well. The picketing of dead soldiers funerals did not endear him to the hearts of many.

  6. I feel compelled to write in on this….what I see is others spouting hate about a man whom they think spouted hate. You’d better be right about your opinions or else Karma will get you, too! ‘ Judge not lest ye so be judged’….others have different opinions and they have a right to those opinions …that has to be the way it goes or else you have no right to your opinion…I think we should live and let live.

  7. Sorry Barb but your waaaayyyyy off the mark on that one… There’s a difference between having a different opinion and spouting out and out hate like this sack of shite does.

  8. I just have to say to Barb…too bad Mr. Phelps, being a religious man of God, didn’t listen to and act on the words of Jesus as you have.

  9. Ahhhh forgiveness. It is not automatic – it must be requested. And there is always a price to pay. Has he asked for forgiveness? Until then, I hope he rots in hell.

  10. Mr Phelps ‘purpose’ was tp use religion as an excuse to espouse hate and bigotry, and to judge others based on their sexuality, in the end however he is the one who will judged in history as a bonafide whackadoodle, who forced two Presidents to sign legislation trying to stop his extreme whackadoodle beliefs which were thinly veiled cult hate crimes right outta the Charles Mason playbook…The only salvation I see for Mr Phelps is knowing eventually all his followers will indeed die and eventually his ‘church of hate’ will de-evolve into thin air – If hell exists there is surely a front row seat reserved for the likes of Mr Phelps…Good riddance…JC

  11. He was North America’s example of Taliban (small scale size). Wherever or whatever is in store for him, I quote Mrs. Crachett from the movie ‘Scrooge’ when asked to offer a Christmas toast to old Ebenezer: ‘I’m sure he’ll be very happy and very merry, indeed!’

  12. Armistead Maupin said it best. The only hell he will fry in is the one he made. I think we should ignore his death and not perpetuate his hatred.

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