London Britain’s government has banned anti-gay American pastor Fred Phelps from the country on the grounds that he worked to incite hatred, an official said Thursday.
Britain’s Border Agency said Phelps and his daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, would be turned back at the border if they attempted to enter the country — although it was unclear whether either of them intended to travel to Britain.
Phelps, who leads a tiny but fanatically anti-gay church in Topeka, Kan., is particularly notorious for picketing the funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq — deaths he believes are the result of God’s fury at homosexuality.
“The government has made it clear it opposes extremism in all its forms,” the border agency said in a statement. “The exclusions policy is targeted at all those who seek to stir up tension and provoke others to violence regardless of their origins and beliefs.”
Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church issued a news release Thursday saying it learned about the decision from a British newspaper report. The church said in its release: “God hates the UK — Land of the Sodomite Damned.”
Church spokeswoman and attorney Shirley Phelps-Roper, a daughter of the pastor, said in an interview Thursday night that the British government did the church a favor because of the publicity created by the ban.
“We prepared ourselves to go over there and they took the burden off our backs,” Phelps-Roper said. “We don’t have to go there and stand on their ground for the word to get out. They do it for us.”
She said some church members still planned to try to enter Britain, but she wouldn’t provide details other than to say it wouldn’t be her or her father.
“All they did was create a huge door for the word of God to get through. The more they mess with us, we get the publicity,” Phelps-Roper said. “They don’t have any understanding of these things because they are Bible ignorant.”
A Border Agency spokesman said Phelps had called for protests at a play about the murder of a gay man due to be shown in the English town of Basingstoke, about 50 miles west of central London.