Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., the founder of the infamous, vehemently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, has died at 84 years old. Nathan Phelps broke the news on his Facebook page on March 16 that his estranged father was "on the edge of death," and later, his daughter Margie Phelps informed The Associated Press that Phelps died around midnight on Wednesday, but didn't provide the cause of death or the condition that recently put him in hospice care.
While losing a loved one is never easy, the country's reaction to Phelps' passing is overwhelmingly dry-eyed. After all, this is a man who led a small Kansas congregation (made up almost entirely of his extended family) in some of the most hate-filled protests this country has seen in recent years, aimed at everything and everyone -- from AIDS victims to gay people to soldiers.
A man who believed the deaths of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan were God's punishment for society's tolerance of homosexuality. A man who encouraged children to carry placards covered in shockingly vile language and delivered equally shockingly quotes on the regular, like the following about 9/11:
God hates America, and those calamities last Tuesday are none other than the wrath of God, smiting fag America ... That wasn't any accident. That wasn't any coincidence. There's only America to blame for those tragedies.
And of same-sex marriage:
Same-sex marriage, by any name, civil union or otherwise, is the ultimate smashed-mouth in-your-face insult to God Almighty.
Ironically, though, many believe that Phelps and his Westboro cohorts' extreme intolerance even furthered gay rights. Perhaps that's one aspect of his legacy to appreciate ... and an aspect that hopefully reflects a new chapter of peace and tolerance that we may be able to look forward to in the wake of his passing.
How do you feel about Fred Phelps' passing?
Image via Wikimedia