Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelp’s estranged son has spoken up about his father’s death and what it means for the community. The 55-year-old gay rights activist left the controversial religion when he turned 18, and has been alienated from the family since.
The elder Phelps headed the WBC until his death on March 19 at the age of 84. Under his rule, the church became known as a bigot group that promoted hate at various public events, such as funerals, gay pride gatherings, celebrity concerts, and political meetings.
Nathan, one of Fred’s 13 children, fled the church even before it earned notoriety in the early ‘90s after it began picketing what they thought were gatherings of homosexuals.
Now, as one of the most outspoken ex-members of the hate group, Nathan has spoken up about Fred’s death, saying he mourns his father’s passing “not for the man he was, but for the man he could have been.”
Nathan, a director of the atheist group Recovering from Religion, previously disclosed that Fred was excommunicated from the church he founded in August 2013 after advocating a kinder approach between church members.
His full statement is posted here.
Fred Phelps is now the past. The present and the future are for the living. Unfortunately, Fred’s ideas have not died with him, but live on, not just among the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, but among the many communities and small minds that refuse to recognise the equality and humanity of our brothers and sisters on this small planet we share. I will mourn his passing, not for the man he was, but for the man he could have been. I deeply mourn the grief and pain by my family members denied their right to visit him in his final days. They deserve the right to finally have closure to decades of rejection, and that was stolen from them.
Even more, I mourn the ongoing injustices against the LGBT community, the unfortunate target of his 23 year campaign of hate. His life impacted many outside the walls of the WBC compound, uniting us across all spectrums of orientation and belief as we realised our strength lies in our commonalities, and not our differences. How many times have communities risen up together in a united wall against the harassment of my family? Differences have been set aside for that cause, tremendous and loving joint efforts mobilised within hours... and because of that, I ask this of everyone – let his death mean something. Let every mention of his name and of his church be a constant reminder of the tremendous good we are all capable of doing in our communities.
The lessons of my father were not unique to him, nor will this be the last we hear of his words, which are echoed from pulpits as close as other churches in Topeka, Kansas, where WBC headquarters remain, and as far away as Uganda. Let’s end the support of hateful and divisive teachings describing the LGBT community as “less than,” “sinful,” or “abnormal.” Embrace the LGBT community as our equals, our true brothers and sisters, by promoting equal rights for everyone, without exception. My father was a man of action, and I implore us all to embrace that small portion of his faulty legacy by doing the same.”