Countdown to Westboro Baptist Church at Stanford: Meet Fred Phelps

The infamous Westboro Baptist Church is planning to come to the Hillel at Stanford University on Friday, Jan. 29 at 8:00 AM. For those unfamiliar with this zealot group and its disgraceful history, I will spend this week giving you a rundown of what the Westboro Baptist Church is, what it stands for, and who its members are. Tonight we start with its founder and Pastor, Fred Phelps.

![]( "Fred Phelps Protests Matthew Shepard")
Fred Phelps Protests Matthew Shepard
It’s really hard to get into what the Westboro Baptist Church is without getting to know its founder and Pastor, Fred Phelps. He is literally the father of the church–of the WBC’s 71 members, [60 are related to Phelps]( He was born in 1929,  in Meridian, Mississippi, and after bouncing around Bob Jones University and Prairie Bible College, before ending up with a law degree.

As a lawyer, Phelps would eventually be disbarred in the state of Kansas. Wikipedia explains:

A formal complaint was filed against Phelps on November 8, 1977, by the Kansas State Board of Law Examiners for his conduct during a lawsuit against a court reporter named Carolene Brady. Brady had failed to have a court transcript ready for Phelps on the day he asked for it; though it did not affect the outcome of the case for which Phelps had requested the transcript, Phelps still requested $22,000 in damages from her. In the ensuing trial, Phelps called Brady to the stand, declared her a hostile witness, and then cross-examined her for nearly a week, during which he accused her of being a “slut,” tried to introduce testimony from former boyfriends whom Phelps wanted to subpoena, and accused her of a variety of perverse sexual acts, ultimately reducing her to tears on the stand. Phelps lost the case; according to the Kansas Supreme Court.

Phelps’ religious outlooks is probably best described by what he is against than by what he is for. Here are some slogans Phelps is responsible for: “”God Hates Fags”, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”, “America Is Doomed”, “Priests Rape Boys.” According to Phelps, God will be punishing: Ronald Reagan, atheists, Bill O’Reilly, Catholics, Coretta Scott King, Howard Dean, “fag-enablers,” Jews, Swedes, Americans, the Irish, Muslims, Jon Stewart, Americans, Wesley Clark and John Kerry (he calls them “turds”), Canadians, Stephen Colbert, Mormons, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Lady Gaga, the University of Kansas, Twitter, Bill Clinton, pretty much any other Christians, and the United Kingdom. He is not welcome in the United Kingdom, as part of their policy of banning those responsible for hate speech.

Phelps is also known for intentionally provoking his opponents by protesting at funerals of his deceased enemies. He has used (or tried to use) this tactic against American soldiers (resulting in President Bush signing the Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act in response), Heath Ledger, Jerry Falwell, and others. He has posthumously attacked Princess Diana, Sonny Bono, William Rehnquist, . He has gloated about the Haitian earthquake.

Phelps’s favorite hobbyhorse is homophobia. WBC’s flagship site is, and has offshoot websites such as,, and naturally, Phelps and his followers are certainly not politically correct in their criticism of homosexuals, invariably using the term “fag.” Phelps and his followers are hypercalvinists, meaning they take the doctrine of predestination very seriously. Thus, this video, which is in no way intended to be a joke.

Phelps has come under intense criticism from a few estranged members of his family. Mark Phelps has said, “my father is a very unstable person who is determined to hurt people,” and, “He can use foul language and come across with a booming voice to the community, but the truth is, like the Wizard of Oz, when Toto pulls the curtain back, instead of this big powerful individual, it’s only a small, pathetic old man.”

Another son, Nate has alleged that “[Fred Phelps] was cruelly, viciously violent — physically, verbally and psychologically,” and is not the only son to accuse Phelps of child abuse. In one speech, Nate also alleged that Fred Phelps beat his wife, and that his reliance on barbiturates and amphetamines fueled his quick, violent and indiscriminate temper.

Say what you will about Phelps and his church, but no one can say they don’t get out–by their own count (I know), they have been to all 50 states and conducted over 30,000 protests. They are active. This Thursday, Jan. 28th, they will be in San Francisco picketing the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Community Center, Lowell High School, Twitter, Inc., and a production of Fiddler on the Roof. Their Friday stop in Palo Alto only includes Gunn High School and the Hillel at Stanford.

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