Fred Phelps Westboro Baptist Founder, Dies

Source: Bart Jansen / USA Today

Fred Phelps Sr., a fierce opponent of homosexuality whose protests at military funerals prompted two federal laws, died shortly after midnight Thursday, his daughter Margie Phelps says. She didn’t give the cause of death or the condition that recently put him in hospice care. He was 84.

Phelps headed the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., and was occasionally involved in politics. He gained national prominence for organizing protests against gays and Jews, including at military funerals.

He led protesters outside the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student who was killed in October 1998 for what a later trial determined was because he was gay. President Obama signed a law in October 2009 making crimes against perceived sexual orientation a hate crime.

The Anti-Defamation League called the church “a small, virulently homophobic, anti-Semitic hate group” and the Southern Poverty Law Center called it “arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America.”

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