No Funeral For Westboro Baptist's Phelps

Image: No Funeral For Westboro Baptist's Phelps

Friday, 21 Mar 2014 02:16 PM

By Courtney Coren

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There will be no funeral for Fred Phelps, who picketed the funerals of soldiers and disaster victims during his tenure as pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.

Phelps' daughter and church member Margie Phelps made the announcement on a local radio station in Topeka, WIBW-AM.

Nathan Phelps, the estranged son of the late pastor, left the church 37 years ago, and said it makes sense why no funeral will be held.

"They see death as a judgment from God, so why would you celebrate or mark that?" Nathan asked.

Phelps died on Thursday at the age of 84. He founded the church in Topeka in the 1950s. However, it was not associated with any existing baptist denomination.

Phelps lead the controversial church to picket funerals and other events, including military funerals, as part of its anti-gay campaign, carrying signs with inflammatory slogans such as "God Hates Fags," and claiming that all natural disasters, wars, terrorist attacks and cancer occurred because God was punishing Americans for "the modern militant homosexual movement."

The church was labeled a hate group by groups on the left and the right.

Nathan Phelps, who claims he was severely abused by his father, announced on his Facebook page on Sunday that he had learned that his dad was near death in a Kansas hospice center. 

Nathan Phelps also said that his father along with other members of the family had been excommunicated from the church in August 2013.

He told the Daily Mail that Phelps was excommunicated on his deathbed because the church believes that his death was a sign that he was not chosen by God.

"All along he has played this line that he was special, that he was going to go to heaven without dying and that death is a judgment from God that shows you are not one of His elect," the estranged son said.

After his excommunication, the church elected eight male elders to lead the church in Phelps' absence.

Phelps' death raises the question how long Westboro Baptist Church will continue, USA Today said.

"It's unclear whether this so-called church will survive the death of its founder," Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, told the newspaper. "In some ways, it was a cult of personality."

Westboro Baptist only has about 20 members, mostly from Phelps' family.

"More members have left, three in recent weeks," Nathan Phelps told the Daily Mail. "There will be a tipping point where they cannot lose any more of their children," he said.

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