Topeka reacts to Phelps' health and excommunication from Westboro

CNN
Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 9:02am

Topeka, KS (WIBW) -- News that the founder of Westboro Baptist Church is seriously ill in hospice care has gained national attention.

WBC is known world-wide for its picket signs and protests at military funerals. The group claimed deaths of service members in Iraq and Afghanistan, were God's retribution for America's acceptance of homosexuality.

"We are going to undertake and picket their funeral," said Fred Phelps back in 1993.

In a statement on Facebook, a son who left Westboro Baptist Church says family patriarch Pastor Fred Phelps Senior was in hospice and "on the edge of death."

"And hopefully we can get there before the legislator of that state or the city council will work up a technical ordinance that we will have to work around," laughs Phelps in 1993.

Nathan Phelps statement also revealed the man who became known worldwide for a movement first, protesting, against homosexuality, then later picketing military funerals, was ex-communicated from his own church in August 2013.

Nathan Phelps told the Topeka Capital Journal it was because the Senior Phelps advocated a kinder approach to church members.

Nathan Phelps posted, "I feel sad for all the hurt he has caused so many."

Reactions from Topekans and community leaders varied.

"I extend my concern to the family. Their picketing of the churches and funerals was never the right thing for them to do, but hopefully in the years to come they will give all that up," said former Topeka Mayor, Bill Bunten.

"I think he deserves time to rest and I hope he makes peace with God," says Ashanti Spears, Topeka resident.

While some online posters suggested picketing Fred Phelps' funeral. Stephanie Mott, Executive Director of the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project, disagrees.

"I think its important to take the high road. Hate doesn't drive out hate. That's what Martin Luther King says, it takes love to drive out hate," said Mott.

Former Westboro Baptist Church member Lauren Drain's Facebook post said, "the news to me is incredibly devastating. Consider this there are members still there, like my younger siblings, who can learn from experiencing compassion from others not polarizing hate. Prove the WBC wrong. We all seek peace not vengeance."

Westboro Baptist Church spokesman Steve Drain told 13 News the church does not rise or fall with any man. And as far as who will lead the church next, Drain says the church has no leader, their head is the Lord Jesus Christ.

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