Fred Phelps is the leader and head minister of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. He is also owner of the web sites godhatesfags.com and godhatesamerica.com and a producer of anti-gay propaganda.
Fred Phelps was born in November 13, 1929, in Meridian, Mississippi. Phelps attempted to work as a lawyer. It became apparent to his peers, however, that Fred Phelps had little regard for ethics, and he was disbarred by the Kansas Supreme Court for ethical violations.
One year after being disbarred, Phelps forcefully gave his wife a crewcut in a drunken rage. He, however, soldiered on, trying to practice law in Federal Court before he was finally disbarred from that in 1989 as well, also for ethical violations. His final disbarrment resulted from a plea deal through which the Federal Court would stop their disbarrment hearings against the rest of his family.
The group originaly carried out daily picketing in Topeka, and traveled nationally to picket the funerals of homosexuals. After 9/11 they started showing up at other events related or supposedly related to gay people including the funerals of dead servicemen some of whom had never even known an open homosexual.
Phelps, his supporters and members of his church (his congregation is made up largely of his extended family) attend said gatherings, as well as other gay-related events, with signs bearing anti-homosexual hate speech. For example, Reverend Phelps has characterized the Names Project Quilt as "100,000 living fags slobberin' around 45,000 dead fags", and declared Elizabeth Taylor, tireless fundraiser for AIDS research, to be a "world-famous Jew whore". Other favorite anti-gay slogans of the Reverend Phelps include "God Hates Fags," "Matthew Shepard Rots In Hell," "AIDS Kills Fags Dead", and "Ellen DeGeneres Is a Lesbian Slut". (The latter was carried at an "Equality Rocks" rock concert and fundraiser. At the event DeGeneres commented that she wasn't so offended by the slogan as the fact that they had drawn pock marks all over her face on the poster.)
On his web site, Phelps maintains a "Perpetual Gospel Memorial" to gay murder victim Matthew Shepard. Some direct quotes/images from this page:
- A photograph of Matthew Shepard's face with animated flames dancing across it.
- A counter which displays how many days Matthew Shepard has "Been in Hell."
- "WBC does not support the murder of Matthew Shepard: "thou shalt not kill." Unless his killers repent, they will receive the same sentence that Matthew Shepard received - eternal fire. However, the truth about Matthew Shepard needs to be known. He lived a Satanic lifestyle. He got himself killed trolling for anonymous homosexual sex in a bar at midnight."
His followers have gone across the country protesting the play The Laramie Project. This play documents the reaction of the people of Laramie, Wyoming after the death of Matthew Shepard. A possible reason for his protests may be due to the fact that he is a character in the play, and is portrayed negatively.
Phelps also gained notoriety in January 1994, when he and his supporters picketed outside the funeral of President Clinton's mother.
September 11 and the Shuttle Columbia
After September 11, Phelps' group went to New York City to protest the rescue efforts going on there. They even brought signs which read "FDNY SIN." Those signs depicted a couple engaged in sodomy. Phelps has repeatedly stated that God hates America as a result of its tolerance of homosexuality, and that the September 11 attacks were an act of divine retribution.
Phelps's group also planned a protest at the funeral of David Charlebois, gay copilot of the plane that was crashed into The Pentagon as part of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack.
Fred Phelps's church, the Westboro Baptist Church, has also produced flyers asserting that the seven astronauts who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster were in hell.
www.godhatescanada.com is a new website launched by Phelps in response to Canada's passage of the controversial Bill C-250, which adds penalties to the Criminal Code of Canada for inciting the hatred of or encouraging the killing of people on the basis of sexual orientation. (Other protected classes include race, religion, ethnic origin, and disability. Gender, surprisingly, is not included.)
Bill C-250, authored by New Democratic Party of Canada Member of Parliament Svend Robinson, has come under fire from Focus on the Family and other conservative religious groups based on the argument that it prohibits the preaching of various Scripture condemning homosexuality. Supporters of the bill consider this argument groundless due to provisions that protect religious groups from prosecution should they criticise homosexual behaviour in a way that does not promote hatred.
An alternative view
Although there are a wide variety of individuals who believe homosexuality to be immoral, even condemning them to Hell, within these same groups there is commonly a belief to "love the sinner, hate the sin." Most individuals believe that a message of hatred, especially one espousing that said hatred comes from the Christian God, is inaccurate and destructive.
For example, Rev. Jerry Falwell, who is known for anti-homosexual views, has been reported to have called Rev. Phelps a "first-class nut".