Fred Phelps Sr.: Founder of Westboro Baptist Church is "on the edge of death."

Founder of Anti-Gay Hate Group Westboro Baptist Church Is “On the Edge of Death”

Founder of Anti-Gay Hate Group Westboro Baptist Church Is “On the Edge of Death”

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March 16 2014 2:27 PM

Founder of Anti-Gay Hate Group Westboro Baptist Church Is “On the Edge of Death”

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Nine-year-old Daniel Phelps (R), grandson of Westboro Baptist Church pastor Fred Phelps, listens to his cousin Jacob Phelps while they demonstrate outside the Supreme Court in October 2010

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., founder of a Kansas church that has become synonymous with the “God hates fags” signs its members carry to protests and military funerals, is in a hospice and “on the edge of death,” his estranged son wrote on Facebook. A church spokesman confirmed to the Associated Press that the 84-year-old Phelps is in a care facility and is suffering “health problems,” although he would not elaborate.

Nathan Phelps wrote on Facebook that his father is “on the edge of death” and that he had been ex-communicated from his own church last year. "Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way," wrote Phelps, who abandoned the church in 1980 and has been estranged from his father since. "Destroyed by the monster he made."

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After Phelps Sr. was voted out of the church last summer he was moved into a house where he was under watch to make sure he wouldn’t hurt himself but he eventually stopped eating and drinking, Nathan Phelps told the Topeka Capital-Journal in an e-mail. The church declined to comment on the excommunication allegations. "We don't owe any talk to you about that," a spokesman said. "We don't discuss our internal church dealings with anybody. It's only because of his notoriety that you are asking." But Mark Phelps, Nathan Phelps’ brother who is also estranged from the church, confirmed the information.

The Westboro Baptist Church is made of a small group of people, who mostly consist of Phelps’ extended family, but it has managed to gain lots of attention because of its aggressively anti-gay pickets. Members of the Topeka-based group frequently protest at funerals of soldiers carrying signs that say thing like, “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “Thank God for 9/11.” As a result, several states have passed laws limiting protests at funerals but the Supreme Court said the pickets were protected by the First Amendment.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.