Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps has died - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps has died

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Pastor Fred Phelps delivering his Sunday sermon. (Source: Nicole Caprio/Showtime Networks/MGN) Pastor Fred Phelps delivering his Sunday sermon. (Source: Nicole Caprio/Showtime Networks/MGN)
Westboro Baptist Church members demonstrate at the Virginia Holocaust Museum on March 2, 2010. (Source: Wikicommons) Westboro Baptist Church members demonstrate at the Virginia Holocaust Museum on March 2, 2010. (Source: Wikicommons)

(RNN) - The Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., founder of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS, has died at age 84.

He had been in hospice care at a Shawnee County, KS, facility.

"The death of Fred Phelps' body, a man who preached a plain, faithful doctrine to an ever darkening world, is nothing but a vain, empty, hypocritical hope for you," the Westboro Baptist Church said in a statement released on Twitter.

WARNING: The following contains language that may be considered offensive.

The Westboro Baptist Church is known for protesting military funerals and other sensitive situations while holding signs with anti-gay sentiments, such as "God Hate Fags" and "Thank God for 9/11."

According to the church's website, godhatesfags.com, Phelps and his followers mission is to show Americans their transgressions and abominations.

"We adhere to the teachings of the Bible, preach against all form of sin (e.g., fornication, adultery [including divorce and remarriage], sodomy), and insist that the sovereignty of God and the doctrines of grace be taught and expounded publicly to all men," the site states.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights nonprofit group, has called Westboro Baptist a hate group since the 1990s.

Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, said the church was added to the list after "the bombastic protest" at Matthew Shepard's funeral.

"There is no more obnoxious hate group in American society," Beirich said.

Beirich also said Phelps may have been excommunicated from Westboro in late 2013 because of issues of women in authority.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, Fred Phelps' daughter, is the spokeswoman for the church and had been prominent in its dealings. As certain men came to be on the church's board, they cited theology that stated women should not be in positions of power.

"It's questionable - the future of the church in the wake of this conflict," Beirich said.

Nathan Phelps, Fred Phelps' estranged son, wrote a statement on his Facebook page March 16, explaining his father's failing health:

I've learned that my father, Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the "God Hates Fags" Westboro Baptist Church, was excommunicated from the "church" back in August of 2013. He is now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made.

I feel sad for all the hurt he's caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I'm bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their goodbyes.

Before founding the church, Phelps was a disbarred lawyer who founded the Phelps Chartered Law Firm.

Phelps showed "little regard for the ethics in his profession," according to the Kansas Supreme Court that disbarred him in 1979, according to the SPLC.

The SPLC also reported WBC won't accept outside donations. Funds are provided by the small congregation and Phelps, but most of the church's income comes from settling lawsuits involving the church. The church is represented by the Phelps family.

He married Margie M. Phelps in May 1952. He leaves 13 children and 54 grandchildren.

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