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News Son says Fred Phelps Sr. of Westboro Baptist Church is near death

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Sunday, March 16, 2014, at 11:37 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, July 21, 2014, at 11:23 a.m.

Fred Phelps Sr., founder of the Westboro Baptist Church known for its virulently anti-gay pickets, is in a care facility, a church spokesman said Sunday.

The statement came after a Facebook post that appeared to come from Phelps’ estranged son Nathan Phelps said that Phelps, 84, was near death.

“I can tell you that Fred Phelps is having some health problems,” church spokesman Steve Drain said. “He’s an old man, and old people get health problems.”

A staffer at a hospice told The Star she could release no information, citing health care privacy laws.

The post on the Facebook page for Nathan Phelps, who left the Topeka church years ago, said Fred Phelps “was excommunicated from the ‘church’ back in August of 2013.”

Drain declined to comment Sunday on whether Fred Phelps had been voted out of the church. Drain said Westboro Baptist Church doesn’t have a designated leader.

Writing about his father’s condition, Nathan Phelps said: “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.”

A Kansas gay rights group on Sunday urged the gay community to respect the privacy of the “notoriously anti-LGBT” pastor if his health is declining.

Phelps and the members of his church have “harassed” the grieving families of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Kansans and others, Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said in a prepared statement.

But Witt asked everyone to let Phelps’ family and friends mourn in peace.

“This is our moment as a community to rise above the sorrow, anger, and strife he sowed,” Witt wrote, “and to show the world we are caring and compassionate people who respect the privacy and dignity of all.”

| Tim Engle, tengle@kcstar.com, and The Associated Press

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