(RNS) Reports that Fred Phelps, 84, founder of the Topeka, Kan., church known for its anti-gay message and protests of military funerals, is on his deathbed have some looking forward to the Westboro Baptist Church pastor’s passing.

Fred Phelps preaching to the Westboro Baptist Church.

Fred Phelps preaching to the Westboro Baptist Church. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


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The Facebook page Fred Phelps Death Watch was created March 16 and has nearly 1,900 likes. The page states, “While we wait for God to take him, because he hates homosexuals, let’s relive some of his more memorable moments while we wait.”

Brandi Lynn Wallberg, a stay-at-home mother in Wisconsin who created the Facebook page, said it is meant to be a satirical outlet for people who oppose Phelps.

“Sometimes it’s easier to make light of an ugly situation and to just laugh at everything,” she said.

One of the Facebook posts reads, “Like this page. 1 like = 1 death prayer for Fred Phelps!”

Wallberg said she has received comments questioning the morality of celebrating a man’s death. She also said commenting on the page can be “cathartic.”

Another Facebook page, Protest Fred Phelps’ Funeral, was created in 2012 and posted a link about a documentary project to include footage from Phelps’ funeral.

Nate Thomas, one of the page’s creators, said the page is more symbolic and not advocating a protest.

“Our page offers Facebook users a place to vent anger and frustration or forgiveness and well wishes,” said Thomas, a recent college graduate.

Westboro Baptist Church protesters and Patriot Guard Riders in 2008.

Westboro Baptist Church protesters and Patriot Guard Riders in 2008. Photo courtesy of k763, via Wikimedia Commons


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Thomas said he’s not looking forward to Phelps’ death, “but I’m glad he will no longer be able to hurt anybody else.”

The problem with Phelps’ death will be that he has not recognized how much pain his actions have caused, said Bethany Cseh, pastor at Catalyst Church in Arcata, Calif.

“I am a follower of Jesus, and I think Jesus is grieved with the idea that (Phelps) is dying before he could apologize and make things right,” Cseh said.

Westboro responded in an online statement to the deathbed rumors, saying they are “highly speculative.” Phelps’ estranged son, Nate, has said his father was excommunicated from the church. Westboro said, “Membership issues are private.”

Azariah Southworth, a blogger and student at Purdue University, said the best way for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transexual community to respond to Phelps is with love.

“We’re preaching love for ourselves and for our right to love,” said Southworth, who wrote a blog post titled “Fred Phelps, You’re Loved” about an encounter with Westboro protesters in 2010. “Let’s go all the way with the message and show love to the most unlovable person.”

For Al Snyder, there will never be forgiveness for Phelps. Snyder is the father of Matthew Snyder, a Marine who died in the Iraq War and whose funeral was picketed by Westboro members.

“I hate the man,” Snyder said.

Snyder sued Phelps for damages based on emotional distress. In a 2011 ruling, the Supreme Court sided with Phelps, saying Westboro was protected by free speech to picket military funerals.

Though Snyder dislikes Phelps, he said, “I still feel everybody has the right to be buried in peace.”

“People should just say good riddance,” Snyder said. “A bad man has left the Earth, and now he will answer to a higher power.”

(Jolie Lee writes for USA Today.)

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7 Comments

  1. The man served a purpose while he walked the earth. He was a model for every parent to use to teach their children what not to be and what God does not approve of. I spoke with the man one time and in my opinion he was not a happy man. He was full of anger, resentment and hate. He helped and not hurt the Gay and Lesbian agenda by his vile remarks. Some people for the first time came to see the oppression Gay’s and Lesbian’s suffered because of him. God be with you Mr. Phelps for you will need God’s mercy and grace to stay out of hell!

  2. When anyone like Phelps uses religion to spread bigotry it only demonstrates their awful ignorance about religion and all other areas in the history of knowledge. That do not deserve charity or forgiveness, they only deserve forgetting, starting with ignoring their death. No reason to express joy over their death, just be glad one source of evil in the disguise of their distorted ideas of religion is over.

    There will be more like Fred Phelps, you can count on that. Many loud ones remain. Religion has a history as full of evil as any other human behaviors. The worst of those evils is always demonstrated when someone like Phelps or Oliver North attempts mix religion with politics. It is up to honest followers of the precepts of Jesus to practice what is true and what is good. If it is not good, it is not true. People like Fred Phelps are certainly no exemplars of Jesus.

  3. When anyone like Phelps uses religion to spread bigotry it only demonstrates their awful ignorance about religion and all other areas in the history of knowledge. They do not deserve charity or forgiveness, they only deserve forgetting, starting with ignoring their death. No reason to express joy over their death, just be glad one source of evil in the disguise of distorted ideas of religion is over.

    There will be more like Fred Phelps, you can count on that. Many loud ones remain. Religion has a history as full of evil as any other human behavior. The worst of those evils is always demonstrated when someone like Phelps or Oliver North attempts to mix religion with politics. It is up to honest followers of the precepts of Jesus to practice what is true and what is good. If it is not good, it is not true. People like Fred Phelps are certainly no exemplars of Jesus.

    • Edward Borges-Silva

      You speak rather blithely of the “precepts of Jesus” yet you have ignored one of his most paramount instructions. I am a conservative evangelical whose perspective is no doubt anathema to you, though I do agree that that Phelps was hateful and misguided. However, Jesus placed forgiveness on a high plane. For example. He taught His disciples to forgive “70 times 70 times,” …parenthetically, this means without end. We all sin, we all do hateful things, and we are all in need of both Jesus forgiveness, and the forgiveness of others. Perhaps you need to reexamine your own sense of compassion and forebearance.

      • The revisionism is already starting. Its just a matter of time before conservative Christians all start coming out and saying that they never agreed with Phelps from the outset. The truth of the matter is Phelps was saying in a loud and crass way, what they all were saying with more hushed tones. Conservative Christians weren’t the people opposing Phelps or his message nor criticizing his brand of religious expression.

        We can put this all in a Biblical context. Phelps sowed the wind, he can reap the whirlwind. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

        Its funny how people like yourself talk about compassion and forebearance when you spend so much time finding excuses for not treating people with the same. Typical Christian blinkered attitude. Things only matters if it happens to them. Humanity is for other people.

        God may forgive Phelps, but there is no compelling reason for anyone else to.

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