Fred Phelps, the controversial founder and preacher of the Westboro Baptist Church, is reportedly on the verge of dying. The 84-year-old pastor, whose church is known for picketing the funerals of US soldiers killed at war and holding outrageous anti-gay signs such as “God Hates F*gs,” was admitted to a hospice facility and is “on the edge of death.” The news was confirmed via Facebook post by his estranged son, Nathan.
I feel sad for all the hurt he’s caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved.” His estranged relative also revealed in the Facebook post that Phelps had been ex-communicated from his own church last August. Steve Drain, a Westboro spokesman, confirmed the news but declined to go into specifics. He said that “I can tell you that Fred Phelps is having some health problems. He’s an old man and old people get health problems.”
Phelps started the Westboro Baptist Church in 1955, but his hateful attacks against gays didn’t begin until the early 1990s. The church first attracted international attention while protesting the 1998 funeral of Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in Wyoming simply because he’s gay, by carrying signs including “AIDS Kills F*gs.” They have also claimed that the death of American soldiers and tragedies such as 9/11 are punishment for the country’s tolerance of homosexuality.
Because of their ongoing activity, a federal law was created limiting protests at funerals for soldiers and many states now require that the church picket several hundred feet from the funeral. The church most recently attracted attention for picketing the Golden Globes. The church now consists of 40 members, most of whom are family members.