Archive for Monday, April 26, 2010

Phelps’ son predicts church won’t last

April 26, 2010


— The estranged son of a controversial Kansas pastor encouraged people to feel sympathy for members of his father’s church, “at least for the young children stuck in that situation.”

Nate Phelps, 51, spoke in Topeka on Saturday, marking his first trip in 20 years to the city where his father, Fred Phelps, runs Westboro Baptist Church. He described the fear, intimidation and abuse he endured before leaving the family and church on his 18th birthday.

He said that while society is quick to take steps to protect children, it seems “curiously blind” when religious beliefs jeopardize a child’s safety. He also predicted that the group would eventually die out.

None of its members picketed the speech.

Westboro Baptist members, many of them Fred Phelps’ children and grandchildren, have conducted anti-homosexual picketing in Topeka and other cities since 1991. They began picketing soldiers’ funerals in recent years, saying military deaths were the work of a wrathful God who punishes the United States for tolerating homosexuality.

The Supreme Court will hear one such case this fall in which a soldier’s family sued the church to halt the demonstrations. A lower court ordered the soldier’s family to pay the church’s court costs — a $16,500 judgment that the congregation said it would use for more protests.

The Supreme Court said it would consider whether the protesters’ actions were protected by the First Amendment.

Westboro Baptist first grabbed widespread notice in 1998, when members appeared outside the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student whose murder drew national attention.

Nate Phelps, who describes himself as an atheist, said he believed his father’s group would eventually become a footnote in Topeka history. But he encouraged people to do whatever they could to ensure Westboro Baptist’s actions “fall on barren soil and are cast away like dust in the wind.”

About 675 people attended Saturday’s free talk, said Ryan Seddon, event coordinator for Topeka Performing Arts Center. The event’s sponsors were the Richard Dawkins Foundation, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center and the Metropolitan Community Church of Topeka.

In an interview with the Topeka Capital-Journal last week, Nate Phelps described his father as “combative, angry, hateful, destructive.” He also said he hadn’t talked much about his origins since fleeing Topeka at the stroke of midnight on his 18th birthday.

But in 2008, the media began writing about his father and calling him for comment, he said.

“That forced me to think about whether I have an obligation to speak out,” he said. “I have a unique voice and maybe some positive things could come out of that.”

He also said he is writing a book and working with different organizations “for changes in laws to make it more difficult for people to abuse their children based on religion.”

Nate Phelps said the public didn’t pay much attention to his father’s anti-homosexual protests until it started picketing soldiers’ funerals.


tomatogrower 7 years, 7 months ago

I'm glad to hear this son is finally speaking out. It can't be easy to relive what he went through, but people need to know what a creep Fred truly is. And kudos to the law he is supporting. I only hope the children that are there now will have the courage to leave when they turn 18.

Ron Holzwarth 7 years, 7 months ago

The best teachers do so by example. Mark and Nate have already run away as soon as they turned 18, and I'm sure that fact has not been lost on the younger generation.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 years, 7 months ago

"He said that while society is quick to take steps to protect children, it seems “curiously blind” when religious beliefs jeopardize a child’s safety."

And this is the great question! Why is this lothsome viper not in prison along with most of his "followers" for child abuse?? Where is the SRS who is supposed to be protecting the defenseless young people who are being savagly harmed by this group of lunitics? What aabout their rights to have a decent and normal upbringing? Why as the State of Kansas ignored this horrible prison that this demon has created for his offspring??

When will something be done about the child abuse that Fred Phelps and his coven of hate have created??

Ron Holzwarth 7 years, 7 months ago

The SRS? Shirley Phleps-Roper works there, in Topeka!

Ron Holzwarth 7 years, 7 months ago

Old age and death have no fear of Fred Phelps. He's 80 years old, and has badly damaged his body through the use of amphetamines and barbiturates.

After he's gone, the "Westboro Babtist Church" will become an odd footnote in the history of Kansas, just like Dorothy and Toto.

Ron Holzwarth 7 years, 7 months ago

Well, of course Shirley will attempt to carry on, but very few movements that can't seem to make any converts last for very many generations.

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