American pastor and activistDied when: 84 years 126 days (1012 months)
Star Sign: Scorpio
Fred Waldron Phelps Sr. (November 13, 1929 – March 19, 2014) was an American minister and disbarred attorney who served as pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church and became known for his extreme views against homosexuality and protests near the funerals of gay people, military veterans, and disaster victims who he believed were killed as a result of God punishing the U.S. for having "bankrupt values" and tolerating homosexuality.
The Westboro Baptist Church, a Topeka, Kansas-based independent fundamentalist ministry that Phelps founded in 1955, has been called "arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America".
Its signature slogan, "God Hates Fags", remains the name of the group's principal website.In addition to funerals, Phelps and his followers—mostly his own immediate family members—picketed gay pride gatherings, high-profile political events, university commencement ceremonies, live performances of The Laramie Project, and functions sponsored by mainstream Christian groups with which he had no affiliation, arguing it was their sacred duty to warn others of God's anger.
He continued doing so in the face of numerous legal challenges—some of which reached the U.S.Supreme Court—and near-universal opposition and contempt from other religious groups and the general public.
Laws enacted at both the federal and state levels for the specific purpose of curtailing his disruptive activities were limited in their effectiveness due to the Constitutional protections afforded to Phelps under the First Amendment.
Gay rights supporters denounced him as a producer of anti-gay propaganda and violence-inspiring hate speech, and even Christians from fundamentalist denominations distanced themselves from him.
Although Phelps died in 2014, the Westboro Baptist Church remains in operation.It continues to conduct regular demonstrations outside movie theaters, universities, government buildings, and other facilities in Topeka and elsewhere, and is still characterized as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.