Please Don’t Plan to Picket Fred Phelps’ Funeral

Word is that Fred Phelps Sr., the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, is dying.

His estranged son Nathan Phelps, reported on Facebook:

I’ve learned that my father, Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the “God Hates Fags” Westboro Baptist Church, was ex-communicated 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 good-byes.

There’s been a lot of talk about protesting at his funeral, and I approve of the sentiment but not the action.

Funerals are private family affairs, in my view, and I’d never show up at one to cause some kind of fuss. Of course I can’t advise the ones who have been directly harmed by his funeral protests; it may be those people — the families of deceased gays and dead soldiers — have every right to come back at him and his family in like manner. But I sort of hope they don’t, and I don’t think any of the rest of us should.

I want to say clearly that I limit this sentiment of non-interference, non-commentary, to the funeral alone. The shitty human being who created the cesspit that has now cast him out — Ha! Apparently some turds are so bad even the toilet rejects them! — is fair game for replies in every other avenue of speech. Whatever general “don’t speak ill of the dead” respect one might normally owe a person simply doesn’t apply in some cases, and this is one of those cases. (For instance, I don’t mind saying the world will be better off without this creepy, hateful bastard in it. )

His public actions and attitudes SHOULD be replied to … but in public places (Twitter, Facebook, TV interviews, talk shows, podcasts, blogs!) rather than in the private space of a funeral. The fact that he gleefully breached the privacy of so many during a time of grieving was one of the things we so hated about him, wasn’t it?

I have a hard time imagining anyone actually loving him, and that seems to be borne out by reports that he’s dying alone in a hospice, unattended by family members. But however they want to play it, the time before and after his death is his family’s private choice.

As for me …


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  • GaryLayng

    My protest shall consist of staying home and partaking of a book of the science variety. The Greatest Show on Earth, or A Brief History of Time. Or fitting the individual whose shell is being interred, Calculus for Dummies. I’d far rather learn something (or refresh my memory about something) that is real, than wallow in nonsensical fairy tales as the soon-to-be-deceased has done.

  • Yonah

    What David said. You could have just said nothing and gone on with real life.

    • Hank Fox

      I’d say something in reply, but I don’t understand what either of you just said. If you understand him, explain it to me, and then maybe I’ll know what you mean too.

  • Yonah

    In my view, the Phelps story was never worth the hype the media gave it. This was a mentally ill person who took to nonsense after some psychotic reaction to losing some local elections he was a candidate in. His church never comprised any more than his family. I have worked much in the helping professions. I have met people like Phelps in many places. They are crazy. The fact that such people can form whole familial units of crazy is also not a new thing. It’s a human tragedy. It seems to me that thought about this kind of thing could be done in general…in terms of mental health perils in the culture…the stigmatization of mental illness…and the lack of resources and treatment vis a vis the health care sector.

    I think that it would have been more constructive to say nothing about his death, and just contribute to those influences striving for improved mental health resources and services.

    • Hank Fox

      I definitely agree his story wasn’t worth the media coverage. But … he was covered.

      I think a certain number of televangelists are crazy too, those that aren’t outright con men. But I don’t discount the damage they do, owing to their public visibility. You kind of have to answer back.

      Worse, in Phelps case, he targeted a specific vulnerable minority group, viciously, loudly, and often. To sit in silence would be to not only let him have his say, but to sway people ourselves — by default — by letting them think Phelps’ views were mainstream and acceptable.

      I’m just one of the many voices replying. Considering the mildness of my own message here, compared to Phelps’ years-long hateful ranting, I have a hard time feeling that any of this is significantly inappropriate.

      • Yonah

        In the scheme of things, I would tend to agree with you that too much can be made out of the matter one way or the other. On answering the televangelists in general, my take on that is that their public profile should have been more effectively challenged by the mainline Church, but it wasn’t…and that would be a long discussion as to why…and quite off topic here, but suffice it to say, I fault the mainliners for not providing the “answer” you feel compelled to give.

  • Machintelligence

    As usual someone else said it better:

    Mark Twain — ‘I did not attend his funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.

    Nevertheless: I will not speak ill of the dead. He is dead, and that is a good thing.