Fred Phelps’ Five Most Despicable Acts

Westboro Baptist Church Case to be Heard by Supreme Court

On this, the first day of Spring 2014, the world said goodbye to Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas.

Though he was reportedly excommunicated from the church in August 2013, Phelps was responsible for establishing and pushing the organization’s virulently antigay agenda and hateful teachings for nearly six decades.

Phelps only managed to bring the WBC into the national spotlight in the late ’90s, but in the two decades since, effortlessly became “the most hated man in America.”

Phelps apparently, and ironically, died from Alzheimer’s disease alone last night at the age of 84, and many are still asking, “Is it okay to celebrate his death?”

The values he preached are certainly not worth celebrating, but it’s silly to claim Phelps “had no impact” or was “useless,” as some have done. On the contrary, his vicious agenda made homophobia a nationally debated topic and even inspired legislation protecting against hate crimes and the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Missed? Maybe not. Remembered? Definitely. Here are the five most despicable things for which Fred Phelps will be remembered:


He blamed the LGBT community for all the world’s evils, and began his reign of terror by picketing Matthew Shepard’s funeral

Fred Phelps brought national media attention to the Westboro Baptist Church and their unrelenting antigay agenda for the first time in October 1998, when the congregation traveled to picket the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student who was brutally murdered in a hate crime.

Phelps, along with daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper and others, preached their agenda outside services at the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. It was the first time outside their hometown that they displayed the now-infamous “God hates fags,” “AIDS cures fags” and “Matt in Hell” signs.

A group of protesters dressed as angels organized an anti-protest, standing silently in front of the WBC with giant angel wings to block the view. The ordeal was later immortalized on stage in The Laramie Project, a play depicting Matthew’s murder trial and funeral.

Since then, Phelps and the WBC were responsible for over 52,000 protests and pickets around the world.


He despised organized religion for accepting LGBTs

Phelps wrote a letter to Saddam Hussein in 1997 to praise his regime, claiming it was “the only Muslim state that allows the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to be freely and openly preached on the streets.” He and a group of WBC protesters traveled to Baghdad that year and condemned homosexuality, as well as President Bill Clinton, in the streets.

In 2005, Phelps’ daughter claimed Hitler was “doing God’s work” during World War II, and in 2010, the congregation began protesting Jews for “being tolerant” of homosexuality.


He picketed the funerals of soldiers, and blamed war on “tolerance of gays”

Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church became regular news topics again when they began protesting the funerals of soldiers killed in the Iraq War beginning in 2003. Members of the church traveled the country and regularly appeared in front page headlines brandishing “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “Thank God for 9/11” signs. They claimed the deaths were “God’s punishment for America’s tolerance of homosexuality.”

In 2006, the family of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew A. Snyder, who died in combat in Iraq, brought a lawsuit against the WBC for picketing Snyder’s funeral on grounds of “defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

Snyder’s father, Albert Snyder, testified that “they turned [my son’s] funeral into a media circus and they wanted to hurt my family.” A lower court initially ruled in favor of Snyder’s family, but Phelps appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court, which eventually ruled in his favor and ordered the Snyder’s to pay Westboro’s legal fees.


He claimed the adolescent victims of shootings deserved death for “being tolerant”

Phelps was the ringleader responsible for the picketing of numerous vigils and funerals of shooting victims across America. In 2011, he encouraged the church to begin using social media to threaten protests at the funerals of 75+ people, including children, who were killed in a massacre in Norway.

Phelps claimed the massacre was punishment handed down from God because “Norway made being a fag legal in 1972 and passed laws for fags to marry and adopt children in 2008.” Though the group never officially traveled to Norway, they discovered the Internet to be a great medium to drum up media attention.

Earlier in 2011, Phelps threatened to picket the funerals of a nine-year-old girl who was shot and killed, along with five others, in Tuscon, AZ. He later exchanged the protest for airtime on a local news network. Shortly after, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill that barred protests within 300 feet of a funeral and within an hour from its beginning or end.

In 2012, Phelps and his congregation traveled to Newtown, CT, to picket the funeral of principal Dawn Hochsprung and several young victims of the Newtown shootings. Their protests were blocked by motorcyclists and citizens that stood along the streets where the funeral procession took place.


He threatened “imminent death” and eternal damnation against LGBT celebrities

Even though it was recently reported that Phelps was excommunicated from WBC in August 2013, his message of intolerance continued on as Shirley Phelps-Roper and others protested NFL hopeful Michael Sam‘s coming out in February. They showed up on the Mizzou University campus calling for the “death penalty” and shouting that Sam would “burn in hell.”

When Jason Collins came out last summer, the ‘church’ blamed his homosexuality for inflicting a disastrous tornado on Oklahoma. They claimed Collins would “eat your babies,” and that he should “die of AIDS.” Previously, WBC picketed the funeral of Michael Jackson and “thanked God” for his premature death.

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  • Fang

    Yeh, not shedding a tear on that one.

  • mcflyer54

    Thank you Fred Phelps. You, almost single handedly, brought hatred out of the closet and into the streets of America. You, with your small congregation, managed to bring the subject of equality to the forefront in the USA and made many people look at, acknowledge and abandon their own bigotry and prejudice. So Fred, you inadvertently helped to advance the movement toward equality that you so loudly and proudly protested at every opportunity. And because of your actions Mr. Phelps, you will go down in history as the man who had a major impact on how Americans came to realize that people who might be different then themselves are also human beings and entitled to equality and respect. God will judge you on your words and deeds but it is important to remember that millions of Americans actually owe you a huge “Thank You”.

  • Stocker

    May he rot in hell now. And that is more than he deserves.

  • nudedude

    Am sure there will be many burn in hell signs along his funeral route, imagine the message that would be sent if everyone just stayed away. And not give him any notice. Be bigger than him…..and go on about their, oyr, lives as usual. What a more poignant message that would send.

  • nudedude

    He built his room in hell a long time ago.

  • hotshot70

    How fitting. The first day of spring, a day of rebirth, and the evil bastard dies! Everyone get your “GOD HATES PHELPS” signs ready for his funeral!

  • nudedude

    Am sure there will be many burn in hell signs along his funeral route, imagine the message that would be sent if everyone just stayed away. And not give him any notice. Be bigger than him…..and go on about their, our, lives as usual. What a more poignant message that would send.

  • 10086sunset

    “Sin, death, and hell have set their marks on him,
    And all their ministers attend on him.”
    ? William Shakespeare, Richard III

  • hotshot70

    the Westboro group once photoshopped my face pic from twitter and used it on their page. I sent MANY reports on them, had many Twitter pals also get the pic removed, and tormented them. So, I wish I could be in the area to prtest his funeral, spit on his grave, and be the first to tell him “Welcome to hell!”

  • mcflyer54

    The WBC says there will be no funeral as it is against their religious beliefs. Sounds pretty disingenuous to me. I think there will be no funeral because they want to deprive others of demonstrating they way they do.

  • mcflyer54

    @Stocker: everyone seems to think Freddie is going to Hell. Personally I don’t think the Devil wants the competition.

  • CleJoke

    Oh just give him a pink mass and be done with him.

  • marks2000

    I’m so far from a perfect person it’s not funny yet several things happened to me so far in life that were more horrible than most people will go through and someone asked me if I hated certain people and I said no. That was the truth. I’ve never felt hate for another living thing and find it strange since I can feel anger and hate of things people do and I can feel great love but I’ve never felt hate towards a living thing.

    This person in question is someone I know all too well about over the years and I hated the things he was doing for many years and he was already doing this back in 1970 going by lawsuit records and is how his Church made money was to get people angry so someone would just even touch one of them and they would sue and take money in court. I really hated that but then something happened the day I saw a video of Mathew Shepherd with flames around it saying he was burning in a place they called everlasting Hell (I don’t believe in such things) with sounds as if Matthew were crying out in pain and I cried all night over the death of Matthew once again. It was about that time I realized this Church was going to be a tool to help the Civil Rights movement of LGBT and I then still felt negativity towards what they were doing and worry that young LGBT people would see these things on the Net or TV and lose more self esteem while realizing in the long term it would actually help the many and greater cause. Knowing or believing that gave me a good feeling as I started to see things change for the better and especially in the South where I grew up and it was cruel there at that time and still can be in many places on this topic but I see in Tennessee a gay couple may adopt children today! Can you imagine of all places, Tennessee LGBT can adopt children? LGBT have always been free to marry in all States in a Church willing to perform the ceremony but it was never legal in any States and still isn’t in TN but there is talk of it becoming legal in Kentucky in Civil Union if that has not already passed and it is coming for TN too tho not this year and since this guy started his crusader against LGBT you can see two gay males hold hands and walk downtown Chattanooga today without fear! Can you imagine that? The City that lost the Civil War for the South and the main battle area that opened the door to the March to Atlanta that ended slavery?

    Today, I’d like to thank the founder of that Church and all its members for helping to bring attention to the hate against LGBT which has lead to freedom at last, Civil Rights in most States and in States that still lag behind, a better understanding and progress slowly being made to provide all the full Civil Rights and Liberties to all LGBT so soon everyone will have the same rights not special right as a more rational nation on this topic.

    I’m still holding out for the day when I meet my soul mate and can go to the Courthouse steps down in Mississippi to one of the first gay couples to get married and have my picture on the front page of their newspaper as a gay couple in love and total commitment to each other marries in a State that will likely be the last in the nation and possible through federal laws by force of the national guard if needed to allow the legal document of Civil Union for LGBT to have the same rights and responsibilities of a marriage in MS.! I can then take my future soul mate off to NY State or somewhere by the Great Lakes that I love so much and spoil him with love in a nation that has finally grown up with the help of some people like all members of this given Church of this article of today.

  • clg19672004

    Hope he enjoys hell.


    Well, that’s it then. I can’t remember a single instance in my life so far when I have wished someone dead, but in this case allow me to make an exception.
    And yes, we are well aware of this poisonous cretin in England, and yes, all my friends whether gay or straight feel exactly the same way. We are glad that he is dead, but we all believe it would be better had he never been born at all.

  • lancemullholland

    As a priest, I will pray for his repose when offering the mass tomorrow. It’s part of “the test” for people of faith.

    For every 100 Christ-like acts silently performed by God’s people, one act by a “mouse in the cookie jar” (people in the church, trying to be cookies, but who are really nibbling mice ) nullifies – or tries to – the good others secretly do.

    This fuels people like Christopher Hitchens to make a career out of hating God, and leads others down that sad path. They will never build a hospital or found a university. Christopher was one of my favorite writers at Vanity Fair, and he had his right to disbelieve. But somebody pissed him off along the way – and he took the ball and ran with it.

    Whatever the “devil” may really be, there is an evil force in the world which loves to mock and shock poor souls into disbelief and abiding hate and anger. Mr. Phelps recently affected a GLBT event here in Austin by threatening to picket University Baptist Church near UT. Even though they didn’t show up, it diluted our attention to the service.

    May God have mercy on the soul of Fred Phelps – for whatever his role was and all the pain, anger and disbelief he caused…

    This is a test. This is ONLY a test…

  • JNJ

    My mother taught me to never speak BAD about the dead,,, Fred Phelps is dead, GOOD.

  • SteveDenver

    Just wondering: Did Phelps do anything constructive, caring or charitable in his life?

  • MrEguy

    To borrow from the late, great Charles Pierce: “My mother told me to only speak good of the dead. Fred Phelps is dead. GOOD!”

  • Zoe Brain

    @lancemullholland: I’m an atheist. But in case I’m wrong, please add an additional prayer for him from me. I think he needs it. As do we all.

    We’re not just called on to be charitable to good people. That’s easy. To be charitable to those like Fred helps is a lot easier when they’re dead, but we should still do it when they’re alive, even when implacably opposing them.

    Thank you for your example. I’ll try to follow it. Being human, I may fail, but that’s just part of the way things work. I’ll do my best not to.

  • robho3

    Well he’s down in hell right now sitting in a bar next to Hitler and Stalin. Hope he enjoys his eternity in hell.

  • lancemullholland

    @Zoe Brain: Thanks for your trust – will do. Cover all the bases, right ?

    I look at this man’s face, and wonder if it absorbed his bitterness. The last thing I want to be on this earth is an angry, bitter old white man!

    I have some very fine atheist friends who actually drag me to the Unitarian Church once in a while. You’re in good company – when Jesus hung on the cross, he lost it for a few seconds, because he took on our humanity there (the “why hast thou forsaken me?” part) He experienced every human emotion – even lack of faith. As a priest, I need prayer too.

    The GLBT community has a lot of hurt to heal. Sometimes I just hug and cry with someone who tells me of a preacher pointing at them straight from the pulpit – telling them where they’ll “go” if they don’t quit being gay. It amazes me. No wonder “Jesus wept”.

    As for my favorite atheist of all time (other than Madelyn O’Hair – once a neighbor of mine), I’m trying to figure out why Christopher Hitchens was all down on Mother Theresa. Have just ordered his book “God is Not Great” on half.com – he thought that she was a big ‘ol fake – I want to know why just to know, y’know ?

  • yaoming

    I think I’m right in saying that the gospel of their Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t not even mention homosexuality, so how could Fred claim to be so devoted to the gospel, yet obsessed with what “the fags” we’re doing?

  • yaoming

    p.s. I love how in all the pictures there are so few WBC protestors that each one has to hold up 4 signs.

  • mezzacanadese

    Ding dong, the wicked man is dead, but his equally nutty daughter will carry on his “legacy”.

  • LJ Thomas

    I’m not going be a hypocrite and say that I feel anything but complete jubilation at the death of this evil anomaly named Fred Phelps. This is the most comforting news to me since the capture and death of Osama Bin Laden. I only wish he had taken his abomination of a daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, and her misguided puppets like Steve Drain with him. When they get to Hell, they will echo Dorothy’s famous words to Toto, “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”.

    This family and their cult of hate masquerading as a church is the greatest embarrassment to this free and democratic nation in its history. The fact that the Supreme Court allows this group to spread evil, hateful messages publicly under the guise of freedom of speech is another abomination.

    They are a public nuisance whose messages engender violence, bullying, intolerance, contempt, and desecration of the funerals of grieving family members trying to deal with the death of our most precious national heroes-our veterans. Freedom of speech? I don’t think so!


    Good riddance you son of a whore

  • Kernos

    Ding Dong! The Witch is dead. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch!
    Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead.
    Wake up – sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
    Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead. She’s gone where the goblins go,
    Below – below – below. Yo-ho, let’s open up and sing and ring the bells out.
    Ding Dong’ the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
    Let them know
    The Wicked Witch is dead!

  • Allen D.

    @SteveDenver: Yesterday on NPR, they interviewed someone that was saying that Fred Phelps did SO MUCH good for the black community after segregation was ended. In fact, no, he made a lot of money off of them by filing frivolous lawsuits that paid him a lot more than the plaintiffs received. For more information on that, I recommend the links below:

    9 chapters of a book that was being written about him (which goes into his supposed “civil rights work” quite a bit – I wish NPR would have researched this a bit more):


    And a fun little song that features some of his BS rantings:


    Have a good day, as any day without Fred Phelps is a pretty great day.

  • sejjo

    @SteveDenver: Apparently, he fought for civil rights for African Americans. Nevertheless, any little bit of good he did in his Hitleresque existence was undone by his enthusiastically executed evil.

  • oldbrit

    Actually, you missed his two most despicable actions:

    1) Putting children in danger by bringing them to protest with him where there was a real chance the children could be injured. Of course, they were already being abused by being made to stand there with him holding hateful signs.

    2) In Dallas, Texas he and his family picketed the alternative prom which was held for high school seniors who couldn’t attend their own proms because they had been abused and bullied in their own schools. He told these kids they were going to burn in Hell. Many were LGBTI, but others were bullied for being goth, fat, or whatever bullies could think of to single them out.

    3) I know I said 2, but then there was his picketing of the Dallas Holocaust Museum and other holocaust museums around the country – I suppose because he thought Hitler’s only failure was that he failed to complete his work.

    By the way, there were at least 1,000 counter-protestors at the Dallas Holocaust Museum to his 10 family members and no supporters. No one took him seriously or tried to argue theology with him. They just held up signs that ridiculed him such as, “God Hates Orange” and “God Hate Flowers”

    He also picketed a Jewish elementary school and the LGBT/AIDS Resource Center – which used the event to raise money for a new ice machine, which proudly bears a plaque which reads “Fred Phelps Memorial Ice Machine”. Fred was invited to the ceremony when it was installed, but he didn’t show up.

  • oldbrit

    @BRENT: Well, I’m afraid I’ve wished for the death of Dick Cheney and a number of other right-wingers who would improve our planet greatly be exiting to the nether regions of Hell, where they belong.

  • Allen D.

    @sejjo: Check out the link to the aborted book I posted. He didn’t give a damn about civil rights. It was all about lining his pockets. His clients would get a tiny pittance, but he’d get several-times-that in his attorney fees.

  • jonjct

    the problem i have with this guy is that he was ONE extremist, he did not represent fundamental christians. yet everyone came to believe that all christians / religious believers were just like this guy. he has made me appear like a nut job for being a catholic (and gay). the gay christian haters were brought out of their closets by this guy and now persecute me for my beliefs. so for me, this guy did me some personal harm. and it’s irrevocable because he has forever indelibly changed liberals perceptions of christians, so it is now permissible, even encouraged to mock and ridicule christians for being just a regular, mainstream religious. not good. phelps has brought the haters to my front door.

  • Shannon1981

    @jonjct: The Catholic Church made people hate them all on their own by being a child abusing religious cult, and having members such as yourself blindly support them, despite the despicable acts therein. That isn’t Fred Phelps. That’s your own church.

    As for Phelps- the world is a much better place without him.

  • lancemullholland

    See? It’s a “what do I think about this” kind of world these days.

    Logic has no place in it.

    What’s for lunch, and what will I wear ? Hmmm…

  • Dakotahgeo

    @nudedude: According to the Primitive Baptists Doctrine, there will be no funeral. So you might as well forget about those signs of hate. Time to put our time to positive use in his honor.

  • Dakotahgeo

    @Shannon1981: The bile and blood on the hands of the Catholic church is still spewing through the Court system and will be for quite some time. The wound can only spill so much blood before it dies, as Freddy Phelps has proven. Of course, his age factored in also.

  • jonjct

    @Shannon1981: thank you for showing up and proving my point about how catholic haters such as yourself have come to my door to do me harm. you are a hater of the worst kind, and your hatred scares me. it is exactly the same hatred that Phelps had for gay people. how can you live with yourself?

  • Dakotahgeo

    @jonjct: You really need to separate your two subjects: The Catholic church child abuse factor; and 2) the Fred Phelps GLBT Abuse factor. Until the Catholic church takes FULL responsibility for its abhorrent actions, they will always be suspect; The mere fact that Fred is dead, and Shirley Phelps-Roper has been excommunicated from their church before Fred died spells a rather quick demise of that church cult. May it happen quickly, Lord.

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