In the United States, possibly the most vicious opponent of LGBT rights on religious grounds is Westboro Baptist Church based in Topeka, Kansas. This small but infamous church carries the “Baptist” name but has no affiliation with any denomination. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) describes Westboro as “arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America.”
Westboro condemns all other religions and also all other Christian congregations. Westboro alone has the truth. They also have a near-singular obsession with homosexuality. In their theology, nearly every event and issue ties back to homosexuality — specifically God’s hated of “fags.” Their trademark is picketing funerals throughout the United States to celebrate people’s deaths, particularly the deaths of U.S. servicemen because “America is a nation of proud, sodomite hypocrites.” They celebrated the death of Matthew Shepard who was beaten in 1998 in Wyoming, tied to a fence, and left to die. The church’s website is literally GodHatesFags.com.
Westboro Baptist Church has roughly 70 members nearly all of whom belong to the extended Phelps family, formerly led by its patriarch Fred Phelps. He died at age 84 in 2014 with 13 children, 54 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Phelps was once a successful civil rights attorney, surprisingly enough, but was eventually disbarred for misconduct in 1979. Eleven of his 13 children are also attorneys.
In 2011, Phelps won a case before the U.S. Supreme Court — Snyder v. Phelps — in which it was ruled that Westboro’s Freedom of Speech rights under the First Amendment extend to picketing funerals provided they stay off private property when doing so.
ABC News Report
ABC News reporter Nick Watt spent a weekend with the Westboro Baptist Church in 2013 and filed this report.
Westboro Baptist Church: Warriors for God?
Cult Kids: Westboro
In 2012, Vice.com looked at Westboro in a two-part documentary “Cult Kids: Westboro.”
Part 1 of 2
Part 2 of 2
BBC’s “Louis Theroux: Most Hated Family in America”
In 2007, the BBC did a documentary by Louis Theroux, “Most Hated Family in America.” As described on BBC Documentary’s YouTube page,
“The Phelps family, all 71 of them, live on a single block in a wealthy suburb of Topeka, Kansas and Louis moved right in! Along the way Louis uncovers the peculiar and intense dynamics of this family that ironically embody the American dream yet simultaneously seek to destroy it for others. Living with these people was tough; as individuals they are hard to dislike — but as a group they hard to stomach.”
These are a few excerpts.
Theroux Meets the Phelps
Placards for Westboro Children to Use at Pickets
Theroux Asks Westboro Children What They Understand
Westboro Pickets a Dead Soldier’s Funeral
Reluctantly, Fred Phelps Talks to Louis Theroux
Is there life after Westboro Baptist Church? I’ll look at this question next week.
Title image: JCWilmore / License
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