Westboro Baptist Church is all about gaining national media attention and suing people who violate their rights…
I never really paid much attention to the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Topeka, Kansas until my attention was drawn to a Facebook post by an online friend earlier this month. He planned to attend the funeral of a young woman that he did not know – just to protect her family from a local church that announced on their website that they planned to picket her funeral.
My friend has requested that he remain anonymous but has agreed to allow me to post his response here:
I am here to thank the WBC for their contribution to society.
I am not being facetious I really do think that without having this kind of evil in the world people get too complacent in their faith. Would a small town line the streets and travel from hours away to lay to rest a hero who had given his life for his country? We would like to say yes but that is not being honest it was because of a vile presence that gave people the resolve to prove that there is still good in the world and to honor someone who should have been given that kind of ceremony without the taint that the WBC brought to it.
When I heard on facebook that the WBC would be in my town to cast their darkness onto a families already darkest hour, something called me to act to challenge them and to show them the error of their ways. I was full of self righteous fury at their intrusion on this family’s grief.
So I answered the call to rally at the church and bring the fight to the WBC but then something happened that I did not expect. I actually took time to reflect on what I was doing there and why. Guess what? To attack the WBC on this day at this place would have made me THEM. Doing something disruptive and disrespectful because I KNEW I was in the RIGHT. So I chose different. I didn’t leave this family to the wolves. I stood for 2 hours in silence holding a flag while creating a perimeter of quiet calm and grief.
While others attacked the WBC and tried to shout them down and show the TV crews how well their signs and shouts and slogans were more right than the WBC’s shouts and signs. I just bore witness to a family in despair trying to come to terms with a daughters passing and also a young girl unable to fully understand a mother’s death.
No one there knew my name I showed up and left without talking to anyone, you know why? BECAUSE IT WAS NOT ABOUT ME OR THE WBC. Grieving families burying their dead, that is what it is about!
You say that if we leave them alone and do not show up they will go away. That is wrong they will continue spewing hate, because in their twisted and shriveled souls they think they are doing the right thing. I would go out again tomorrow to help protect another family from that.
Who is the Westboro Baptist Church?
Wikipedia describes the Westboro Baptist Church as “an independent Baptist church known for its extreme stance against homosexuality and its protest activities, which include picketing funerals and desecrating the American flag. The church is widely described as a hate group and is monitored as such by theAnti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center. It is headed by Fred Phelps and consists mostly of members of his large family; in 2007, it had 71 members. The church is headquartered in a residential neighborhood on the west side of Topeka about three miles west of the Kansas State Capitol at 3701 West 12th Street, Topeka, Kansas, United States.”
I asked Nate Phelps, estranged son of Fred Phelps about Addicted to Hate: The Fred Phelps Story.
He responded, “By and large the information in John Bell’s book is accurate. Some of the discussion about my father’s earlier life I can’t speak to and some minor details, attributing events to one person that actually happened to another for instance, are inaccurate.”
A short chronology of current events
On February 16th the Westboro Baptist Church allegedly created a fake threat purportedly from the hacking group Anonymous. On February 19 Megan Phelps-Roper tweeted “Thanks, Anonymous! Your efforts to shut up God’s word only serve to publish it further. God did that! Our response to you? Bring it, cowards.” Anonymous responded on February 20 with this press release stating that they did not threaten the WBC.
“Our best guess is that you heard about us on that newfangled TV of yours and thought we might be some good money for your little church.”
On February 24, during an on-air confrontation on the David Pakman show, Westboro Baptist Church spokesperson, Shirley Phelps-Roper told Anonymous that he was going to hell and Anonymous responded “I have a surprise for you” and proceeded to hack downloads.westborobaptistchurch.com.
What about the children?
I was very fortunate to have contact with Nate Phelps last night. Not only has he returned from the hell that his father once paved for him, but he is also very proactive as a speaker and author on religion and child abuse, as well as an LGBT advocate. In a reply to my email Nate responded:
Three of the estranged children continue to live their lives outside of the Westboro Baptist Church.
I worked for years with Mark in southern California in the printing industry. He moved back to the Kansas City area in 2000. Since the plan was for them to stay there permanently, he went to court and had his last name changed to protect his two daughters. They returned to southern California after a year and eventually moved to the Phoenix area where he lives now. He was actively involved in providing information to John Bell for Addicted to Hate but a subsequent effort to sell a movie met so much resistance from his wife that he dropped everything and has maintained a policy of not talking about it since then.
Dortha left when she was in her early 20′s. She had a strong support system in her boss and co-workers and has continued her work with them in Topeka since then. She immediately had her name legally changed to avoid conflict in Topeka and has, by and large, declined to discuss our family. She did appear, at least her voice, in the documentary Fall from Grace by Ryan Jones, and if I recall she also provided some information to John Bell for his work as well.
Special note to Nate: you deserve a huge hug. All that you do in this world is noted.
Margie Phelps is director of re-entry for the Kansas Department of Corrections, where her job is protected under the Civil Service Act. Classified employees can’t be fired except for offenses spelled out in the law, such as problems with workplace conduct and performance.
Fred Phelps Jr. was hired as a parole officer for the Department of Corrections in April 1991. Now, as a staff lawyer, he is considered an “unclassified” employee and is not protected under the Civil Service Act. However, unclassified employees who are fired may sue if they believe the firing was discriminatory.
Abigail, the Phelps youngest child, works for the state’s Juvenile Justice Authority.
Katherine (once estranged) is currently living in Topeka.
Her brother, Nate Phelps responded in an email to me:
She attends my father’s church and preaches a version of his theology when pressed. She is married and has…I think…6 or 7 kids. She obtained a law degree from Oklahoma but I understand her license to practice has been suspended. She was never allowed back into the church so she is ostracized from the family. I’m given to understand that she and her family sit in a side room during church services and leave without socializing afterward.
Martie Lownsberry, The Lost Childhood of the Descendants of Fred Phelps: Childhood Denied has much to say about the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Fred Phelps.
Imagine what it must be like to be a 6 or 7 year old, and instead of playing with friends after school, you are loaded into a van, driven to a street corner and made to carry a sign that says Thank God for Dead Soldiers. Imagine growing up in a home where words of love are seldom spoken, but dinner time conversation centers around the need to hate.
This is the life the grandchildren and great children of Fred Phelps are forced to live. It is the life his children lived and in turn are forcing their children to live. They are all indoctrinated with the beliefs of a man who is so filled with hate that it is alleged that he beat his children and verbally and physically abused his own wife whenever she disagreed with him.
While we may despise and hate what Fred Phelps and his family stand for, we should pity the children who are innocent victims of this man’s personal vendetta against the world. These children are being denied the chance to have a normal childhood, loving and caring parents and a chance to grow up to be a caring adults. They are suffering for the beliefs of a man who cares nothing for them and sees them merely as pawns to satisfy his own perverted logic and needs.
I could not have stated this better than Martie did. What about the children?
My personal opinion
I’m not sure how they are actually making their money, but it is obvious that they thrive on negative publicity. What they have taught their children is reprehensible.
The Stanford Review warns: “Please DO NOT engage the members of the Westboro Baptist Church IN ANY WAY — not verbally, or physically. They make money suing people who “violate” their rights; they’re very good at provoking people into doing just that.”
Perhaps it is time for society to begin considering “funeral laws.” How family, friends, and society as a whole deal with grief should not be left up to fringe groups to decide according to “freedom of speech” stronghold tactics. We are a land that exemplifies freedom and our laws should reflect that fact. Where is freedom when a family is unable to grieve over the loss of a loved one because that right has been removed due to the manipulative stance of a fringe group?
A message to the grandchildren of the Westboro Baptist Church
There is a way out! Just look at the example of your aunts, uncles, and cousins. There are plenty of people in this great nation that would be willing to step forward and help you. Perhaps you feel that you are too little or are too afraid to report abuse. Don’t be. You deserve to have a life exempt of picket signs and harsh punishments. You can call the Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline 800-922-5330 and ask for help.