The name Fred Phelps has become synonymous with the most unspeakably hateful antigay rhetoric imaginable, but before the reverend passed away earlier this year he’d been excommunicated from the notorious Westboro Baptist Church he founded for reasons that have remained unclear. Now his grandson, 23-year-old Zachary Phelps-Roper, who left the church in February, has shed some light on the surprising reason his grandfather was kicked out of the hate-spewing ministry — he’d expressed admiration for the rainbow-striped Equality House, described as a symbol of peace and positive change for the LGBTQ community,” located across the street from Westboro headquarters in Topeka, Kansas.
A message posted on the Facebook page for Equality House and attributed to Zachary reads:
Fred W. Phelps, my grandfather, came out in support of the Equality House before he was voted out of WBC.
Specifically, on the day that he was excommunicated, he stood outside of the front door of the church (but not within anyone’s earshot but a few members of WBC who happened to be in the immediate vicinity)… I say, he spoke words to this effect to the Equality House: “You are good people.”
I feel like he had a change of heart after my grandmother nearly passed away, and he felt the pangs of loss … he waited for news of her every day and night while she was in intensive care. I think this triggered a chain reaction whereby he developed great empathy for others… which would explain why he would support
Planting Peace‘s anti-suicide and anti-bullying platforms, and their charities across the world….
I love my grandfather! And I believe people DO change, if they are inspired enough!
Facebook commenters wondered if the Equality House’s page had been hacked, but the administrator insists the message is legit.
Author Nathan Phelps, Fred’s son who left the church in 1980 and has since become a noted straight ally to LGBT people, posted a note of his own:
It’s the first I’m hearing of it. I have heard some remarkable testimony from my niece about his kindness to her near the end.
I also heard that he was still singing hymns and praying to his god at the end.
Then there is the conflict with the “elder board”…if you sense ironic disdain in my tone don’t be surprised…that ended with his removal from the pulpit and isolation from his
Church and family.
It’s hard to know what to believe.
Let’s hope it’s true and the man eventually saw the error of his ways and that the rest of his rapidly decreasing number of followers will soon follow his lead.