Westboro Baptist Church



Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is a controversial U.S. church headed by Fred Phelps and based in Topeka, Kansas. It runs the websites GodHatesFags.com, GodHatesAmerica.com and others expressing condemnation of homosexuals, Roman Catholics, Muslims and Jews, as well as populations it considers to support the forementioned groups, including Swedes, Canadians and Americans.

The organization is monitored by the Anti-Defamation League, and classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group has achieved national notoriety in recent years due to its picketing of funeral processions for soldiers killed in combat, which functions as an extension of the Phelps' anti-United States beliefs.

While its members identify themselves as Baptists, the church is an independent church not affiliated with any known Baptist conventions or associations. The church describes itself as following Primitive Baptist and Calvinist principles. Its first public service was held on the afternoon of Sunday, 27th November 1955.

The church bases its work around the belief expressed by its best known slogan and the address of its primary website, "God hates fags", and expresses the opinion, based on its Biblical eisegesis, that nearly every tragedy in the world is linked to homosexuality – specifically society's increasing tolerance and acceptance of homosexual and bisexual people. The group maintains that God hates homosexuals above all other kinds of "sinners" and that homosexuality should be a capital crime.

Phelps has stated as his purpose for Westboro:

Our goal is to preach the Word of God to this crooked and perverse generation. By our words, some will repent. By our words, some will be condemned. Whether they hear, or whether they forbear, they will know a prophet has been among them... our goal is to glorify God by declaring His whole counsel to everyone... we hope that by our preaching some will be saved.

The members of Westboro Baptist Church have explained their decision to use the word fag, a largely pejorative term for homosexual men, in their FAQ:

The word "fag" is a contraction of the word "faggot" (or, "fagot"). When traced through its etymological history, the word "faggot" simply means "a bundle of sticks used as fuel." See dictionary.com and thesaurus.com (where such words as "fuel" and "brimstone" are used as synonyms). "Scholars" can't decide when such a word began to be used in reference to homosexuals, so we'll give the answer here: "I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord." Amos 4:11. The word translated "firebrand" is the Hebrew word "uwd," which comes from a Hebrew verb meaning "to rake together" (or, "to gather together"). In short, the Hebrew word "uwd" is talking about burning sticks of wood that are gathered together. That is what the English word "faggot" means. Amos 4:11 could just as easily be translated "...ye were as a faggot plucked out of the burning..."

This etymology is unproven, and likely incorrect; see faggot (epithet) for details.

Westboro refers to itself as a Primitive Baptist church, claiming adherence to the philosophy of John Calvin and to the principles of the Five points of Calvinism.

Though Westboro is not officially identified with the King-James-Only Movement, its website quotes the King James version of the Bible and recommends that the reader obtain a King James Bible.

Sky News claims that WBC consists of "about 150 members". BBC Two claims there are 71 members. A compilation of the names of Phelps' grandchildren and great-grand-children, combined with his nine "loyal" children and their spouses, though, numbers 90. Individuals who followed Phelps Sr. after he was voted out of his old congregation, Eastside Baptist Church (a traditional Baptist church), consisted of the Hockenbargers (whose offspring later married into the Phelps clan), George Stutzman, Chris Davis (who also married into the Phelps clan) and Theresa Davis (whose relationship, if any, to Chris Davis is unknown). Around 2000, another family (Steve and Luci Drain, along with daughters Lauren, Taylor and Faith and son Boaz) joined the group after Steve Drain, while taping a documentary on religious groups, interviewed several Westboro members and came to accept their theology. The Drains are not related to either the Phelpses or the Hockenbargers, nor to anyone else from the original group.

The Hockenbarger family that left Eastside to follow Phelps is headed by Charles William "Bill" Hockenbarger, allegedly a member of Christian Identity. Hockenbarger has been a friend of Phelps Sr. since the two men were in their twenties. In 2002, one of Phelps Sr.'s grandsons married one of the Hockenbarger granddaughters, with Phelps performing the ceremony. Karl Hockenbarger, the son of Bill Hockenbarger (and also an alleged Identity member) worked for Washburn University (where Phelps Sr. graduated in 1962).

In addition, at the outset several other Eastside members joined Westboro, but after Phelps began his activities (most notably his shooting of a dog that was irritating him[citation needed]), those members returned to Eastside or went elsewhere.

Phelps does not permit Westboro members to marry persons outside the church. As relatively few individuals have joined Westboro, there have been at least two marriages between the Phelps and Hockenbarger clans, resulting in some members having dual genealogical relationships (ex. married the brother or sister of their father or mother). In the documentary The Most Hated Family in America, the young girls in the church express a disinterest in getting married, because "that's not what we are about" and "we're living in the last of the last days, times are very short".

Shirley Phelps-Roper esq., daughter of Rev. Fred Phelps and an attorney at the Phelps Chartered Law firm, is a prominent member of WBC and often a spokesperson for WBC. For the last couple of years, she has been running the day-to-day operations of the church.

All the principals of the Phelps Chartered law firm, a firm founded by WBC founder Fred Phelps, are members of WBC. Phelps Chartered handles most of WBC's legal work and has received significant awards of attorney's fees from the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Award Act of 1976 when WBC has been improperly prevented from picketing.

The Westboro facility is organized around the edges of a lightly fortified compound, surrounded by ten homes organized in a block at 3701 SW 12th Street in Topeka. The house on the north-west corner of the compound belongs to Phelps Sr., its lower floor serving as the church "meeting hall" (as he refers to it). The other nine houses were once occupied by non-congregants, who moved away either on their own initiative or as a result of not wanting to live near Phelps Sr. and Westboro, and are now occupied by the families of Phelps Sr.'s nine children still associated with Westboro. The properties border an area enclosed by a fence with picketed tops. Inside the compound are U.S. and Canadian flags that fly non-stop (and are lit up at night), in an upside down position. Westboro's stated reason for flying the flags upside down (given on the frequently asked question page of one of its web sites), is that an upside down flag is "the international sign for distress" and that the U.S. is in distress because "our national support of perversity is bringing God's wrath upon us." The church website address is prominently displayed on the exterior of Fred Phelps Sr.'s house.

Westboro services, according to its website, are open to the public and begin at approximately 11:30 am (Central Time) on Sunday mornings. However, the doors are frequently locked during services requiring loud banging on the door to get inside. Pastor Fred Phelps usually gives a one hour sermon which is recorded and available on their website within minutes.

The homes share a communal backyard, in the center of which once sat an Olympic size swimming pool; Phelps Sr. previously obtained tax exemption on the cost of maintenance and water by performing baptisms there and writing it off as a baptismal font. Sometime after 2000, the pool was filled in. No official reason has been given, but two theories (neither of which have been confirmed nor contested) have developed. One theory states that, according to Topeka residents, sometime around 2000 one of Phelps Sr.'s grandchildren nearly drowned in the pool and thus it was removed for safety reasons. The other theory holds that the pool was filled in because Westboro lost, or was about to lose, its tax exemption status on it.

The compound also includes a garage separate from the houses, which is used to store an extended cab/extended bed Ford F-150 pickup truck used to transport Westboro's picketers around Topeka and elsewhere. In one of the many lawsuits that swirl around WBC the Kansas State Board of Tax Appeals ruled that the truck was not used exclusively for religious purposes, because at least 40 percent of the protest signs had a political slant, and would therefore be subject to property tax.

These quotes came from an audio file of sermon clips on satanlovesfredphelps.com.

* "America is doomed and cursed by God irreversibly".
* "It's too late to pray for America. It's a sin to pray for America".
* "Hurricane Rita is an answer to the prayers of the suffering saints of Westboro Baptist Church". (Hurricane Katrina has also been cited on other sources)
* "The Lord God Almighty killed [the people who died on 9/11], looked at them in the face, laughed and mocked at each one of them as he cast each one of them into hell".
* "Nobody that's intelligent and that fears God will fly the American flag any way but upside-down, the international symbol of distress".
* "All ye having business before this honorable [Supreme] Court draw nigh, give your attention and ye shall be heard. No, no. Draw nigh and bend over. They're gonna rape you up the butt".
* "The President of the United States gets his jollies masturbating horses". (This was a reference to a joke told by Laura Bush about her husband's attempt to milk a male horse).
* "The hell with your flag. The hell with your fag army, your fag courts, your fag-run government".
* "This is the hypocritical, fag-infested, fag-run United States of America and we're supposed to respect that fag rag flag?"
* "The red on that flag stands for fag rectal blood".
* "On Pope John Paul II's watch, the Roman Catholic Church became the church of the holy pedophiles. And sodomite feces replaced the wafer for their communion service. And Sodomite semen replaced the wine that the Pope drinks".
* "1.07 billion members of that monstrous machine called the Roman Catholic Church. Every last one of them going to hell".
* "You tweaked His nose, you jackass!" (Referring to George W. Bush.)
* "You're gonna eat your babies!" (In reference to Deuteronomy 28:53.)

The group carries out daily picketing in Topeka (purportedly six per day with fifteen on Sunday, "Lord willing", per the index page of its main website) and travels nationally to picket the funerals of homosexual victims of murder, homosexual-bashing or death related to AIDS, as well as other events related or appearing to be related to homosexual people. They have been known to protest outside theaters in Topeka, under the premise that live theatre (especially Broadway musical productions) is a haven of homosexuality, as well as Kansas City Chiefs football games, and live pop concerts in Topeka. They have also shown interest in picketing productions of the play The Laramie Project. Recently, they have shifted their interest to picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in the Iraq War, believing this to be more of "God's judgment" on America. The FAQ section of the website states that, in their view, soldiers didn't join the military out of a sense of patriotism, but because they are "lazy, incompetent idiots" unable to find work elsewhere. Some states, including Kansas, have passed laws prohibiting picketing at funerals. Westboro has also protested funerals of people ranging from Fred Rogers to Coretta Scott King.

One of Westboro's followers estimated that the church spends $250,000 a year traveling around the world to picket. In the 1990s the church won a series of lawsuits against the City of Topeka and Shawnee County for efforts taken to prevent or hinder WBC picketing. As a result, the church was awarded approximately $200,000 in attorney's fees and costs associated with the litigation. Otherwise, all of the church's money comes from the combined income of its congregants and money won in lawsuits against their opponents.

Phelps Sr., his supporters and members of his church attend the aforementioned gatherings, as well as other homosexual-related events, with signs bearing anti-homosexual slogans. Phelps Sr. has characterized the AIDS Memorial Quilt as "100,000 living fags slobberin' around 45,000 dead fags" and declared Elizabeth Taylor, a fundraiser for AIDS research, to be a "world-famous filthy Jew whore." Other regular anti-homosexual slogans of Westboro include "Homosexuality = Death," "Fags Die, God Laughs," "Matthew Shepard Rots in Hell," "AIDS: Kills Fags Dead" and "Ellen DeGeneres is a Lesbian Slut." (The latter was carried at an "Equality Rocks" rock concert and fundraiser; at the event DeGeneres commented that she wasn't offended so much by the slogan as the fact that they had drawn pockmarks all over her face on the poster.)

A collection of Westboro signs and slogans can be seen at their website called "The signs of the times".

Other slogans are

* God Hates You
* God Hates Your Tears
* God Hates Fag Enablers
* God Is Your Enemy
* Thank God for 9/11
* Thank God for the Tsunami
* Thank God for Katrina
* Thank God for Dead Soldiers
* Thank God for IEDs (improvised explosive devices)
* Thank God for AIDS
* Fag Santa (carried at Christmas time)
* Fag Flag (with an American flag
* Fags Doom Nations
* Fags Are Worthy of Death
* Fags Eat Feces = Scat
* Fag Troops
* Menninger Therapy (complete with two stick figures mounting)
* Repent or Perish
* Dyke nuns and Fag Priests (carried outside Catholic churches)
* Dyke Sows Wed Here (complete with pictures of pigs in wedding dresses covered with feces; carried at lesbian weddings)
* Brides of Satan (referring to lesbian weddings)
* Don't Worship the Dead
* Disney Fags (used during Disney on Ice at the Expo Center.)
* Your Pastor Is A Whore
* Semper Fi Semper Fag

When Kevin Oldham, a homosexual musician, died of AIDS-related causes in 1993, Phelps Sr. sent a photo of Kevin to his parents. The photo contained the caption: "Kevin Oldham: Dead Fag".

The group came into the national spotlight in 1998, when they were featured on CNN for picketing the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a young homosexual man from Wyoming who was beaten to death by two young males. Though Phelps Sr. claimed that Shepard's murder was unjust (and the Westboro's website states that Shepard's murderers face the same fate as Shepard – eternity in hell unless they repent), his overt activism against Shepard's sexual orientation, regardless of the mourning of Shepard's family and friends (he called Shepard's mother, Judy, a whore and a "mother from Hell" during the memorial service and told her she'd "soon be joining Matthew").

On Westboro's website, Phelps Sr. maintains a "Perpetual Gospel Memorial" to Shepard. There is a similar memorial to lesbian dog-attack victim Diane Whipple. Some direct quotes/images from the Shepard page:

* A photograph of Matthew Shepard's face with animated flames dancing across it. When the cursor is moved across his face, viewers with a sound card will hear screams and a high-pitched voice shrieking "For God's sake, listen to Phelps!"
* A counter which displays how many days Matthew Shepard has "Been in Hell".
* "WBC does not support the murder of Matthew Shepard: 'thou shalt not kill.' Unless his killers repent, they will receive the same sentence that Matthew Shepard received – eternal fire. However, the truth about Matthew Shepard needs to be known. He lived a Satanic lifestyle. He got himself killed trolling for anonymous homosexual sex in a bar at midnight".

On January 25, 2004, Phelps picketed five churches (three Catholic and two Episcopalian) and the Federal Courthouse for allegedly legalizing same sex marriages in Iowa. Two women married in Vermont had their marriage mistakenly annulled by a federal judge in Sioux City, Iowa. The ruling was quickly reversed. The community response was to hold several counter-protests and hold a large multi-faith service in the town's city auditorium.

The group has also picketed Billy Graham revivals, alleging that the evangelist will burn in Hell for failing to propagate the "God Hates Fags" doctrine. In October 2004, the group protested Graham's mass meetings, calling the 85 year-old preacher a "Hell-bound false prophet".

In press releases, WBC referred to Topeka mayor James McClinton as a "wife-beating tyrant". McClinton, who is black, was portrayed in the press release as a gorilla in a suit with a swastika armband.

On January 15, 2006, Westboro members protested the memorial of 2006 Sago Mine disaster victims claiming that the mining accident was God's revenge against America for its tolerance of homosexuality. Footage of the protest, including several members dancing, was later shown on Fox News.

In July 2005, the Westboro Baptist Church declared its intention to picket the memorial service of Cpl. Carrie French in Boise, Idaho. French, aged 19 years old, was killed on June 5 in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where she served as an ammunition specialist with the 116th Brigade Combat Team's 145th Support Battalion. Her death is seen by the church as divine punishment of the United States. Phelps Sr. was quoted as saying, "Our attitude toward what's happening with the war is that the Lord is punishing this evil nation for abandoning all moral imperatives that are worth a dime."

The Westboro Baptist Church declared its intention to picket the funerals of other soldiers as well and did so in August 2005. A group from the church protested at the funeral of Spc. Edward Myers, a soldier from St. Joseph, Missouri, who died in Iraq. Shirley Phelps-Roper (one of Phelps Sr.'s daughters and main author of the WBC Epics and Hate Letters) told a television reporter, "Who would serve a nation that is Godless and has flipped off, defiantly defied, defiantly flipped off, the Lord their God?" She then reiterated her belief that Myers was burning in Hell.

After University of Missouri coach Kyle Hawkins "came out" as openly homosexual, WBC members announced plans to picket the University and all Missouri's lacrosse games.

In the wake of the tragic Amish school house shooting, members of Westboro Baptist Church planned on picketing the funerals of the five girls killed in the shooting. Their signs were going to call the girls "whores" and that they are "burning in hell". In an attempt to stop them, news radio personality/host Mike Gallagher attempted to dissuade them. After first rejecting a monetary offer, Gallagher offered them an hour of unrestricted airtime on his show. WBC accepted, and the picket was called off. On October 5, 2006, members of WBC were "hosts" of the Mike Gallagher's radio show, with Gallagher giving periodic warnings to viewers that they (the members of WBC) did not represent the views of him or the station.

In February of 2007, the WBC threatened to picket the funeral of ten Bardstown, Kentucky family members who died in a fire as well as a similar one in Tennessee where four children died in a fire. In both instances, fliers were sent to the communities stating that God “hates” both states “for promoting sodomy and immorality” and for the states “rabidly persecuting” the church. However, on the Friday before the Bardstown funerals, the church elected to use an hour of radio time to promote their message.

Recently the WBC has also been picketing against Sweden because the pastor Åke Green was convicted for hate speech after having called homosexuality a cancer in one of his sermons. WBC has also been sending abusive faxes to Princess Madeleine of Sweden.

On the day of the April 16, 2007 campus massacre on the Virginia Tech campus, the church declared its intent to protest the funerals of the students killed. This was announced on the church's www.godhatesamerica.com website. On April 19, 2007, GoDaddy, the Internet registrar responsible for that website and its associated domain had suspended its registration, returning a "whois" DNS server entry of "suspended for spam and abuse". Within hours, however, the domain had been restored. In a deal similar to that struck for the victims of the Amish school shooting, Gallagher and the church have independently announced that the church has agreed to not protest these funerals in lieu of three hours of unrestricted airtime on his show.

In 1993, Charles F. Hockenbarger, Karl Hockenbarger, Timothy Phelps, Jonathan Phelps, Phelps Sr. and Margie Phelps were brought up on a variety of criminal charges stemming from information gathered following a raid of Westboro. Several charges were later dropped; the trials that followed saw every member of Westboro Baptist Church over the age of fifteen testifying in the defense of their family and fellow congregants; over 100 defense witnesses were called in all. Timothy Phelps, Charles F. Hockenbarger and Karl Hockenbarger were all found not guilty. Jon Phelps was found guilty of witness intimidation and misdemeanor battery, and has defended the actions that led to that arrest and guilty verdict as recently as October 11, 2006 on Midweek Politics, while Margie Phelps was found guilty of filing a false report and Phelps Sr. was found guilty of disorderly conduct as defined by aggravated intimidation of a witness; all three lost their appeals. All six filed lawsuits against the city and took their cases to appeals court, where their lawsuits were dismissed.
Fred Phelps' grandson Benjamin Phelps, convicted of assault and disorderly conduct in 1995. He was the person who informed his grandfather about the existence of the Internet and made the first "GodHatesFags" page. The cited Bible verse, Romans 9:13, has nothing to do with homosexuality, but rather promotes the concept that God hates.
Fred Phelps' grandson Benjamin Phelps, convicted of assault and disorderly conduct in 1995. He was the person who informed his grandfather about the existence of the Internet and made the first "GodHatesFags" page. The cited Bible verse, Romans 9:13, has nothing to do with homosexuality, but rather promotes the concept that God hates.

In 1995, Phelps Sr.'s eldest grandson, Benjamin Phelps, was convicted of assault and disorderly conduct after spitting into the face of a passerby during a picket and then laughing. The security cameras of a nearby business caught the incident on tape.

Also in 2004, Margie Phelps and her son Jacob were arrested for trespassing, disorderly conduct and failure to obey after disregarding a police officer's order that they were not allowed to enter a company's private property with chairs and stand on them with an upside down flag and a picket sign.

In June 2007, Shirley Phelps-Roper was arrested in Nebraska, after demonstrating at the funeral of a soldier, and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The arrest resulted from her allowing her eight-year-old son to step on the American flag during the demonstration, an act which is illegal under Nebraska law. The defense contends that the child's actions were protected speech, and that the state law is unconstitutional. The prosecution, however, claims that the demonstration was not intended as political speech, but as an incitement to violence, and that Phelps-Roper's conduct may also constitute child abuse.

The Westboro Baptist Church attributes membership of most religious groups, such as the Roman Catholic Church or Islam, as akin to devil worship. All non-Christian entities, non-Protestant Christian churches, as well as all Protestant Christian churches which do not strongly condemn homosexuality, are said to be sending their members to Hell.

While the Westboro Baptist Church says that racial discrimination is a sin, it and Phelps Sr. have been accused of various racist acts, including using racist imagery in its fliers and using racial epithets.

However, in the documentary Hatemongers, Phelps and his children quote Bible verses denouncing racism and saying that it is a sin. He goes on to say that it differs from homosexuality in that "God never said it is an abomination to be Black."

In response to a Newsweek article alleging that American soldiers flushed copies of the Quran down the toilet at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Fred Phelps released this statement:
“ So what if our guys flushed copies of the Quran down the toilet? We hope they did. They probably did; We hope they flush more. Mohammed was a demon-possessed whoremonger and pedophile who contrived a 300-page work of Satanic fiction: The Quran! Like America's own whoremonger and pedophile wangled his own hokey Book of Mormon! ”

Phelps went on to give a brief literary dissection of the Quran, using nearly identical grammar and language to his and his children's (likewise identical) dissections of The Laramie Project:

In relation to the war in Iraq a WBC flier implies that God has sided with the Muslims:
“ In His retaliatory rage God is killing Americans with Muslim IEDs: "Saying Touch not my anointed, and do my prophets no harm." 1 Chron 16:22. ”

In the section about Jews the WBC FAQ states: "...the only true Jews are Christians. The rest of the people who claim to be Jews aren't, and they are nothing more than typical, impenitent sinners ... the vast majority of Jews support fags. In fact, it is the official policy of Reformed Jews to support same-sex marriage. Of course, there are Jews who still believe God's law, but most of them have even departed from that. It doesn't matter if you're a Jew or a Gentile...as long as you believe in Christ."

On the subject of Nazis, KKK, and other violent extremist groups: "We don't believe in physical violence of any kind, and the Scripture doesn't support racism. ... The only true Nazis in this world are fags."

Phelps refers to the Holocaust as "minuscule" and led a protest at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. in 1996, proclaiming:
“ Whatever righteous cause the Jewish victims of the 1930s-40s Nazi Holocaust had... has been drowned in sodomite semen. American taxpayers are financing this unholy monument to Jewish mendacity and greed and to filthy fag lust. Homosexuals and Jews dominated Nazi Germany...The Jews now wander the earth despised, smitten with moral and spiritual blindness by a divine judicial stroke...And God has smitten Jews with a certain unique madness...Jews, thus perverted, out of all proportion to their numbers energize the militant sodomite agenda...Jews are the real Nazis. ”

Also in 1996, Phelps began a campaign called "Topeka's Baptist Holocaust", whereby he attempted to draw attention to attacks perpetuated against WBC picketers, saying that they were not random but organized attacks orchestrated by Jews and homosexuals. Phelps announced, "Jews killed Christ", and:
“ Fag Jew Nazis are worse than ordinary Nazis. They've had more experience. The First Holocaust was a Jewish Holocaust against Christians. The latest Holocaust is by Topeka Jews against Westboro Baptist Church. ”

In another statement, he said:
“ Topeka Jews today stir up Kansas tyrants in persecuting Westboro Baptists. They whine about the Nazi Holocaust, while they perpetrate the Topeka Holocaust. ”

WBC was present at a 2002 Holocaust memorial dedication in Topeka, proclaiming "God Hates Reform Judaism".

During the 2004 United States presidential election, Phelps campaigned against United States Senator John Kerry, claiming that his affiliation with Judaism made him unfit to run the country, and on his webpage gave a lengthy recitation of Kerry's family tree, naming all of his Jewish ancestors.

A March 25, 2006 flier regarding a Jewish adversary of Phelps uses the phrase "bloody Jew" four times and the phrase "evil Jew" more than once every twelve sentences. A sampling of WBC's fliers regarding Judaism can be found at the ADL's website. Phelps has also been targeted by the Anti-Defamation League for anti-Semitic statements.

Westboro is also anti-Catholic and claims that the Roman Catholic Church is a "fag" church and that a third of Catholic priests are active homosexuals, seducing helpless children and women; Westboro refers to priests as "vampires" and "Draculas," and talks of Catholic priests sucking semen out of children's genitals like vampires suck blood from their victims. Phelps has also reproduced an alleged "Diary of Another Fag Catholic Priest" on Westboro's homepage and claims that "fag priests and dyke nuns is the order of the day for Kansas Catholics. They deserve the sick, perverted leadership that now dooms and damns them". About Catholics, he says "They're mean. Mean as Hell. Headed for Hell. The meanest, most hateful people on Earth."

The day after the death of Pope John Paul II, Phelps held a service to "celebrate his entrance into Hell", during which he boasted, "You don't think he split Hell wide open? We're the only ones telling the truth about that son of a bitch!" That evening he posted a flier on his webpage showing a doctored photo of a screaming John Paul II with horns coming out of his forehead, with the caption:
“ Deal with it, you idolatrous morons! The pope is in Hell. Westboro Baptist Church members are competent expert witnesses, having picketed hundreds of Catholic churches in all fifty states over the past fourteen years. We will bear witness on Judgment Day: Catholics are the meanest, most violent people on Earth, and their churches are filled with filthy fag priests. On John Paul II's watch, the Catholic Church became the CHURCH OF THE HOLY PEDOPHILES and sodomite feces and semen replaced bread and wine. ”

Westboro operates three separate websites related to this issue, though two are not yet operational (see below).

On June 5th 2007, on ITV's (UK) Jeremy Kyle Show, Church Member Shriley shockingly told a Catholic member of the audience that the Catholic church is "the largest paedophile machine in the whole world, and God hates them" These sectarian remarks were her last before the satellite link was broken.

In response to the protests conducted by Westboro members at Indiana funerals, a bill was introduced in the Indiana General Assembly that would make it a felony to protest within 500 feet of a funeral. The bill provides penalties of up to three years in prison in addition to a $10,000 fine for those found to be in violation of the law. Shortly before this bill was signed, members of the church had threatened to protest in Kokomo, Indiana, at a funeral service that was being held for a soldier who was killed in Iraq. On January 11, 2006 the bill unanimously (11-0) passed a committee vote, and while members of the church had showed up in Kokomo, Indiana, to protest, they were nowhere to be seen during or after the funeral service.

Several other states have adopted similar legislation, such as South Dakota. Some have been critical of these laws, however, saying that they could prevent other protests as well, and may possibly violate the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. WBC has expressed their intention to contest these laws, and if victorious collect damages while the Phelps Chartered law firm collects attorney's fees under the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Award Act of 1976.

On 5/23/2006 the state of Michigan banned any intentional disruption of funerals within 500 feet of the ceremony. Violating the statute would be a felony, punishable by up two years in prison and a $5,000 fine for the first offense and up to four years and $10,000 for a repeat offense.

The church recently avoided a funeral in McDonald County, Missouri, due to a recently enacted law. Juvenile court authorities stated that using their children in their protests (as they often do) constituted child endangerment and the children could be put into foster homes. WBC often issues press releases claiming they will show up to protest an event but do not show up.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of Fred Phelps, was arrested on June 5th, 2007 on suspicion of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Police alleged that she allowed her son to trample an American flag while protesting the funeral of a soldier in Bellevue, Nebraska, which is a misdemeanor in the state. She is the first member of the Westboro Baptist Church to be arrested while protesting a funeral.

On July 14, 2006, Mundy Township, Michigan billed the WBC $5,000. The Westboro church had informed township authorities on June 28 that a protest was planned at the Swartz Funeral Home. The bill to the church ensued, according to the local police chief, because the congregation failed to keep a verbal contract for security. Fred Phelps' daughter claimed that the Holy Ghost had informed them not to fly to Michigan even though they had already purchased airline tickets. Security at the Webb funeral was high: fifteen fire trucks were involved as well as numerous police officers from nearby jurisdictions. The township has now stated that it will not pursue the matter.

Counter protests are generally organized to provide an opposing viewpoint at sites that Westboro pickets. In some cases counter protesters have lined up and turned their backs on the Westboro pickets or encircled them in a ring, explaining that they want to symbolically shield the community from the hate. This has become frequent with Westboro's picketing of the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq; veterans' associations and biker groups such as the Patriot Guard have led the counter protests in recent months.

Two days after the September 11th attacks, a lone 19-year old named Jared stood on the street corner facing the church holding up a cardboard sign that said "Not today Fred." In two days, about 90 people joined him, waving American flags and anti-hate signs. Since then, "Not today Fred" has become a commonly used motto for counter protests against Phelps.

* During a March 26, 1993 protest at Topeka's Vintage Restaurant, a riot broke out and eight WBC members were hospitalized for various minor injuries; WBC now pickets the restaurant every day, as well as the places of business where employees went after leaving the Vintage in an attempt to escape Westboro. In addition, the congregants hold a memorial service every year on the 26th, commemorating what they refer to as "the Vintage Massacre".
* In 1994, a woman tried to run down protesters in Topeka after one of them screamed obscenities at her while her pick-up truck was parked at a stop light. She was arrested, but was later found not guilty due to temporary insanity.
* In 2002 Blue Valley North High School held productions of The Laramie Project play. Westboro members made it known that they were coming to picket the school. To their surprise many students cut class to meet the picketers and a small riot ensued with a few instances of car vandalism. The school later made tickets to the shows "buy ahead" in order to keep Westboro members from interrupting the play. Subsequently Phelps' website started declaring that "God Hates Blue Valley North" and proceeded to picket every year's graduation ceremony following the event.
* In 2003, WBC member Charles Hockenbarger, who was in his 70s at the time, had his face crushed in a beating after standing on a street corner holding a sign reading "THANK GOD FOR SEPT. 11". Hockenbarger was recovering from open heart surgery at the time and ignoring the usual doctor's orders for bed rest. Westboro posted photos of the aftermath of the attack on its homepage, claiming that the (still unidentified) perpetrator was a homosexual and that the attack had been part of a murder conspiracy to kill Hockenbarger, though offering no proof of these allegations.
* During a protest at the 2005 presidential inauguration of George W. Bush, WBC protesters were slapped, kicked and had their signs forcefully taken by other protesters.
* There have been differing reports on actions at an October 5, 2005, picket of a Wisconsin soldier's funeral. One report was that Dodge County Sheriff Todd Nehls asked Paulette Phelps to move so he could protect her. Her group called him a Nazi and refused to comply. A conflicting claim put forth by members of the WBC alleges that Sheriff Nehls punched Paulette Phelps in the face. Video of the purported incident at godhatesfags.com — which claims to show Nehls striking one of the church members — is ambiguous, and at the point the purported attack takes place, the camera is pointed at the ground (indeed, large portions of the video are made up of shots of Westboro members' feet and the ground).
* During a picket in Seaford, Delaware on May 21, 2006, a mob broke through police lines and tried to assault WBC members who fled into a police van. Some of the mob then began banging on the van attempting to get inside. Two windows of the van were shattered before the van could get away. Five people face criminal charges.
* It has suggested that a Liberty University student who intended to bring a bomb to the funeral of Jerry Falwell may have intended to use the device against a WBC protest at the funeral.

Responses include the creation of an opposing website, godlovesfags.com, a pro-gay rights website, launched by Kris Haight on March 1, 1999. The site focuses on the debate surrounding religion and homosexuality and especially homosexuality and Christianity.

On August 18, 1999, an unidentified hacker transferred ownership of the domain godhatesfags.com to Kris Haight. Apparently, this was done by forging an email message from Phelps. Haight promptly redirected all traffic to godlovesfags.com. After much media attention, Phelps threatened to sue and the domain name was returned on August 21.

In 2006 godhateswbc.com, as well as godhateswbc.net, were created, focusing on the debate surrounding religion and homosexuality.

A satire website called God Hates Shrimp was created in 2004 in response to WBC's inflammatory website. The website cites Leviticus 11:10, the same book and section that labels sodomy as an abomination, where it says "And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you". The website argues that this means Long John Silver's and Red Lobster restaurants should likewise be picketed by WBC. Another satirical site, God Hates Figs, was created noting that Jesus struck a fig tree dead in one biblical account.

Journalist Charles Firth of Australian television enterprise The Chaser's War on Everything appeared with members of Westboro Baptist Church, at the picket of an U.S. Marine's funeral, in early 2006. With the camera rolling, he proceeded to ask a male member of the church several questions about his motivations. Firth then started complimenting the man on his appearance, following him around as he avoided the camera, and stroked his shoulder lamenting how he wished they could be a couple. Other members of Phelps' congregation then turned on the reporter and cameraman when the homosexual innuendos became obvious.

Michael Moore organized a humorous counterprotest to the church for his TV Show The Awful Truth. He followed Phelps around the country in "the Sodomobile," a pink bus filled with homosexuals.

Shirley and her children have also been parodied many times on The Howard Stern Show, where their extreme views are used to contribute to the environment of the program.

Periodically Shirley and her daughters are call in guests on The Adam Carolla Show morning radio show. They would call in and sing hateful songs but would be insulted by Adam and company with the insults going right over their heads.

A small number of Phelps' critics have suggested, however, that the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church are a ploy to receive attention above all else. Counter-protesting against the group, they suggest, gives them attention and incentive they do not deserve; and a more effective response against Phelps would be to ignore his congregation completely. WBC, through the closely related Phelps Chartered law firm, has collected fees under the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Award Act of 1976 when their protests have been unlawfully disrupted.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) describes the Westboro Baptist Church as "virulently homophobic", whose anti-homosexual rhetoric they say is often a cover for anti-Semitism, Anti-Americanism, racism, and anti-Catholicism. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an anti-hate group, has added the Westboro Baptist Church to its list of hate groups. Many mainstream conservative and fundamentalist Christians (including those who oppose homosexuality, such as Jerry Falwell), have denounced Phelps' remarks as hateful and un-Christian, and in general oppose Phelps' view that homosexuals cannot repent (the traditional view is that homosexuality is not the "unpardonable sin"; homosexuals may renounce their ways as may any other sinner). Falwell is often credited with referring to Phelps as "a first-class nut". WBC picketed the funeral service of Falwell on May 22, 2007.

In 2004, Libertarian columnist Keith R. Wood suggested that the Westboro Baptists are actually trying to create sympathy for homosexual activism and to engender anti-Christian sentiment due to the offensive nature of their activities and Phelps' own statements regarding tactics.

In December 2006, the Ku Klux Klan distributed flyers attacking the church in Albemarle County, Virginia.

Mainstream Calvinist churches have claimed that Westboro's agenda and its message of hate are at variance with Calvinism.

Westboro has been labeled as a cult by many Christian ministries; and even some of the more extreme "anti-cult" figures such as Rick Ross. Also, another church considered extremist by mainstream churches, A True Church, claims that "God Hates Phelps."

For such a small group WBC receives attention from major media organizations. WBC is proud of their media coverage and comments on most media coverage, no matter how negative, on their web site.

Fred Phelps appeared on Scarborough Country on April 11, 2006 and his microphone was promptly cut after ranting about God's damnation of the U.S. instead of answering a question. His daughter, Shirley Phelps Roper appeared on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes show on April 18, 2006 to defend the WBC protests. On the June 10, 2006 edition of The Big Story Weekend, host Julie Banderas exclaimed to Shirley Phelps-Roper, "You are the devil! If you believe in the Bible, miss, you're going to hell!" Another Fox News host, Bill O'Reilly often has guests on his show, The O'Reilly Factor, who speaks out against the church and its tactics, while steadfastly refusing requests by church members to appear and defend themselves. His tactics provoked the appearance of a video on the church's website proclaiming O'Reilly's inevitable damnation as a result of his "persecution". Shirley Phelps Roper also appeared with her two daughters on The Tyra Banks Show, Shirley being frequently portrayed as unreasonable and belligerent.

In 2005, the British TV network British Sky Broadcasting produced an investigative piece using hidden cameras, which included footage of two of Phelps' granddaughters, Libby and Jael. In the testimonial, Libby and Jael explain that they hope and pray that no one outside of Westboro becomes "elect," because they want everyone else in the world to die horribly and burn in Hell, and that even if they didn't believe their actions were dictated by God, they would still do and enjoy them anyway. The interview was not part of the hidden camera segment, and although much of the footage was taken without the knowledge or permission of Westboro, the church maintains a link to the entire report on its website.

On April 1, 2007, the British television channel BBC Two broadcast a documentary by Louis Theroux about WBC and the Phelps Family, called Louis Theroux: The Most Hated Family in America. Theroux has presented a number of documentaries about unusual or unconventional people and groups in the UK, the US, and elsewhere.

On June 5, 2007 the website godhatesfags.com was prominently featured in The Jeremy Kyle Show, a talk show aired on the ITV network in the United Kingdom. Church members Shirley and her daughters were protesting about their beliefs live via satellite to the UK. Jeremy Kyle and the majority of the audience were in strong opposition of the family's views on the church.

On June 21, 2007, WBC featured in the Channel 4 documentary Keith Allen Will Burn In Hell. It showed Keith Allen profiling the controversial Westboro Baptist Church. Allen took a very pugnacious stance, repeatedly called one of the Phelps family a fool (in response to when a member of the church stated "don't believe everything you read"), and labeled certain sections of the Bible, particularly Leviticus, "absolutely fucking vile". He attempted to try and argue against the church's beliefs when he questioned Shirley Phelps-Roper on her illegitimate son, asking why her sins should be forgiven by Jesus if other's were not.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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