If you don’t recognize them by name, then you will certainly be familiar with their colourful signs and hate-filled slogans such as "God hates fags" and "Thank God for dead soldiers." If a national tragedy occurs, chances are that The Westboro Baptist Church will turn up to protest in their own screwed up way with threats of eternal damnation and homophobic slurs. They appear to hate every other group that isn’t them, but their main target is homosexuals. (Even their website is named godhatesfags.com).
The Westboro Baptist Church is a family-run hate cult that was started up by Pastor Fred Phelps in 1955 and is still going strong thanks to a family full of brainwashed kids and grandchildren. The daughter of Fred Phelps, Shirley Phelps-Roper has since become the face of the WBC, appearing on numerous talk shows and documentaries spouting her homophobic rhetoric. Despite being such a small group, this church has gained worldwide attention in recent years and they have become known as the "most hated family in America."
While they definitely deserve this title, it kind of makes you feel sorry for the younger members of the church who have been forced to preach this stuff since birth. The world has become a lot more tolerant of equal rights since Fred Phelps founded this toxic organization and the younger generation are thankfully starting to realize it (at least 20 children and grandchildren of Fred Phelps have left the WBC in recent years). Whatever their individual reasons for leaving, maybe one of these had something to do with it. Here are 15 pitiful truths about the WBC.
15 Founder Fred Phelps Was Originally Focused On Civil Rights
It seems impossible (and even laughable) to consider that the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, was once an advocate for the civil rights movement in America! After getting his law degree in 1964, Phelps apparently set up his own law firm with a focus on fighting racial discrimination. He took on mainly African-American clients, which saw him receive various awards in the 1980s for his efforts in the Civil Rights Movement.
One award in particular was from his local Kansas branch of the NAACP, which put Phelps in the same company as Rosa Parks and JFK! Phelps’ views on racism and civil rights may be the only redeeming thing about the WBC, since the Church still upholds the belief that “the Scripture doesn’t support physical violence or racism.” Still, the hypocrisy in fighting one form of intolerance while basing your entire philosophy on other is idiotic and just confirms how batshit crazy the WBC really are.
14 The WBC Are Hated Even By The KKK
You know you’re pretty low on the morality scale when the Ku Klux Klan doesn’t want anything to do with you. The KKK is synonymous with the term "hate group" and is universally agreed upon as one of the most deplorable communities to ever exist - but even they perceive the Westboro Baptist Church as disgraceful. Wow. Apparently, the WBC’s love of picketing the funerals of dead soldiers is what riles the Klan up the most.
Although, this could be a case of looking out for their own, since many KKK members are war veterans themselves, the Klan are apparently so disgusted by the WBC protests at soldiers' funerals that they often turn up to counter-protest, handing out small American flags and keeping a low profile. Imagine how messed up this is from a grieving family’s perspective - laying your son, father, or brother to rest while the KKK and the Westboro Baptist Church fight it out.
13 They Protested Against Apple Founder Steve Jobs (Despite Using iPhones)
Get ready to face palm and slam your head on the desk at the same time. When it was announced that Apple founder Steve Jobs died back in 2011, the WBC tweeted their plans to picket his funeral, oh wait...on their iPhones. Seriously? The hypocrisy would be infuriating if it weren’t so funny. Shirley Phelps-Roper and other church members sent out tweets via iPhone, one of which read “Westboro will picket his funeral. He had a huge platform; gave God no glory & taught sin.”
In ultimate poetic justice, the WBC never actually made it to Steve Jobs’ funeral in the end. It’s likely they were probably banned in some way, rather than actually having a change of heart. In another stab of irony, the iPhone actually has quite a few religious apps, including a confession app that was sanctioned by the Catholic Church! We’d like to think Steve Jobs had the last laugh with this one. In the words of Beyoncé, “Best revenge is your paper.”
12 They Supported Saddam Hussein
It’s little wonder that the Westboro Baptist Church are labeled the "most hated family in America" when this is the kind of company they keep. Astonishing but true - Pastor Fred Phelps once wrote to Saddam Hussein in 1997 to praise Iraq for allowing Christians to preach in a Muslim state. He also condemned the "militant sodomites" running America into the ground in his letter and asked Hussein if he would allow a group from the WBC to go and preach in Baghdad.
Saddam Hussein soon granted Phelps permission and before long, members of the Westboro Baptist Church were on the streets of Iraq, promoting anti-American views and hateful protests about the US military! Unbelievable. As well as condemning the military, the WBC protestors were also there with signs that attacked the then President Bill Clinton and wife Hillary. Some signs were also condemning anal sex and all forms of homosexuality.
11 They Will Protest For The Pettiest Reasons
The WBC are so utterly obsessed and consumed by their own message that they will protest under the flimsiest pretense imaginable. Each and every one of their protests has a ridiculous reasoning behind it, but perhaps one of their strangest targets was once a store that sold Swedish vacuum cleaners. In 2005, members of the Church protested outside an appliance store in their hometown of Topeka, Kansas.
Their reason? Because at the time, Sweden had arrested a homophobic Christian pastor. The Pentecostal Christian named Ake Green was arrested and sentenced to a month in prison for inciting hatred against homosexuals, but in the eyes of the Phelps family, he was simply doing God’s work and saying what needed to be said. The fact that his arrest made the entire Swedish nation a target, in their view, is unbelievably pathetic. These guys will literally protest anyone with a shred of human decency.
10 They Parody Popular Songs Using Their Own Hateful Lyrics
Thought The X-Factor or your local karaoke bar was the only place you’d hear your favourite songs get completely slaughtered? Think again. The Westboro Baptist Church have another way of spreading their message other than wielding giant signs at roadsides and funerals – they also like taking popular songs and re-working the lyrics to reflect their own threatening, anti-gay agenda. Some of their parodies have included Katy Perry's "Roar" and Adele’s "Rolling in the Deep."
The Church recently re-worked the lyrics of the Lorde hit "Royals": "Bloodlust, scoffin’, trashin’ your Creator. You don’t care; you’re really bad-asses in your dreams." In a particularly hateful move, the WBC planned a special protest in response to Michael Jackson’s death back in June 2009. As well as thanking God on their website for the death of an “adulterous, gender-confused brute beast,” they also released a protest song called "God Hates The World" which parodied Jackson’s charity song "We Are The World."
9 They Have Had The Support Of The Supreme Court
Disgustingly, the Westboro Baptist Church has actually had the backing of the Supreme Court before. This came after the death of a Marine in 2006 named Matthew Snyder. The WBC did what they always do in this situation and went to picket his funeral. Understandably, Snyder’s family were enraged by this and proceeded to sue the WBC for invasion of privacy. The Snyder family were all set to receive over $10 million in damages and emotional distress, but this was soon overturned.
The Snyder’s financial settlement was eventually blocked by a federal appeals court when it was decided that the WBC had a right to free speech and were entitled to "special protection" under the First Amendment (even if it meant picketing funerals). To make matters worse, the court actually had the temerity to order Snyder’s family to pay the WBC’s court fees, which amounted to around $16,000! The fact the Supreme Court gave the green light to this kind of behaviour is beyond belief.
8 Their First Big Protest Was Against Murdered Gay Student Matthew Shepard
Up until the late 1980s, the Phelps family and their church of ignorance were relatively unheard of. They protested at gay pride parade’s and similar festivals but decades of hateful protests and picketing went unnoticed until the death of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard in 1988. Shepard was a university student in Wyoming who was brutally beaten to death for being gay. The American people were in shock at the cruel and needless loss of a kind young man with his whole life ahead of him.
The Westboro Baptist Church, on the other hand, saw Shepard’s death as the perfect platform for their "message" to be heard and they made no hesitation in picketing Shepard’s funeral. They even passed home-made flyers around that read: “All who say, ‘It’s OK to be gay’, have the blood of Matthew Shepard on their hands.” To this day, the WBC continue to picket some of the events that are sponsored by the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Sick.
7 The WBC Even Have The Hackers Pissed Off
The online hacker group known only as "Anonymous" are seen as the masked vigilantes of the online world - they try to fight corruption and intolerance wherever they find it, so it was only a matter of time before they crossed paths with the Westboro Baptist Church. In the past, Anonymous have managed to hack into FBI websites and the US Department of Justice to name a few, so taking over the official WBC site and their Twitter accounts was a cinch.
The hacking group was provoked by the WBC when the Church announced their plans to picket the funerals of the Sandy Hook victims. The Sandy Hook school massacre back in 2012 killed 20 children and six staff members in Connecticut. Anonymous responded to their threats by hacking into the official WBC website to post inspirational photos, hacking into Shirley Phelps-Roper’s Twitter account and even leaking the personal info of all WBC members. Burn!
6 They Make Their Money By Constantly Filing Lawsuits
The main spokesperson for the Church, Shirley Phelps-Roper is actually a lawyer (as are most of the Phelps children) - which comes in handy when they want to generate income. The WBC make most of their money by settling lawsuits that involve the Church. Excluding the cost to create their signs and placards, organizing and attending protests costs the Church around $300,000 every year, and they fund this by settling a ton of lawsuits thrown at them, usually in response to funeral picketing.
Unsurprisingly, many US states and cities have tried to sue the WBC overtime for invasion of privacy and aggressive protesting. Alas, the Phelps family have managed to win a fair amount of these cases on the grounds that their free speech has been stifled under the First Amendment. In recent years, they have even sued their native state of Kansas for $100,000, as well as their hometown of Topeka for $43,000.
5 The White House Doesn’t List The WBC As A "Hate Group"
In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy in 2012, the Westboro Baptist Church announced plans to picket a vigil for the victims. They suggested that God had sent the shooter to murder schoolchildren and teachers as a way to “punish America for tolerating homosexuality.” In response to their despicable behaviour in the wake of a national tragedy, a petition was sent to the White House to have the WBC listed as a "hate group" and have their tax exempt status revoked.
Despite multiple submissions of the petition - some with more than 500,00 signatures - the White House declined, declaring that it couldn’t officially consider the WBC as a hate group, because it “doesn’t collect any such lists.” The White House set up a digital platform in 1999 called ‘We the People’, which welcomed petitions on issues that mattered to the public. Sadly, an outraged and offended public wasn’t enough to convince the government of the evils of the WBC.
4 They See Natural Disasters And Tragedies As "God’s Work"
In the warped minds of the Phelps family and their Church, any tragic event, celebrity death, or natural disaster is always God’s way of punishing America for tolerating homosexuality. The Westboro Baptist Church has even dedicated a section on their website - godhatesfags.com - to the celebration of world disasters and terrorist attacks under the title "God Smacks." They even praise serial killers for doing "God’s work." Messed up.
On the 13th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, the WBC actually protested at Ground Zero and outside the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. While demonstrating their usual hate message of "sinful" homosexuality, one of their signs read "Thank God for 9/11." (Appallingly, some of the youngest WBC members have been spotted holding up this particular sign). The behaviour of the Phelps family has previously prompted former President Obama to place restrictions on demonstrating at the funerals of servicemen. Surely, the same should go for Ground Zero?
3 They Indoctrinate Their Kids From A Really Young Age
If you’ve ever seen the WBC protesting on the news or in a documentary, you might have noticed something especially disturbing about their protests and pickets. Among the adult protesters in the group, there are also children taking part in the hate demonstrations - some as young as seven years old. These poor kids should be out playing and having a childhood, but instead, they’re being brainwashed and forced to hold up signs they don’t understand, that read "God Hates Fags" and "Thank God for AIDS."
British documentary film-maker Louis Theroux called attention to this when he joined the Phelps family on one of their pickets to observe how it all works. One of the youngest Phelps children, seven-year-old Shirley, is asked by Louis if she understands the sign she’s holding up. She shakes her head, prompting Louis to suggest to Shirley Senior that the young kids are just there to “make up the numbers” and that they are being “groomed into the weird behaviour of the group.”
2 Their Hatred Has Gotten Them Banned From Canada And The UK
They may be able to get away with hateful protests across America, but several members of the Westboro Baptist Church have been barred from entering the UK and Canada after taking part in hateful demonstrations in both countries. The WBC found themselves banned from Canada in 2008 after they picketed the funeral of a man who was brutally murdered on a bus. The Church blamed Canada’s laws on abortion and homosexuality for the man’s death, which was "God’s punishment."
A year later in 2009, head of the Church Pastor Fred Phelps and daughter Shirley were refused entry into the UK after they had announced their intentions to boycott a production of The Laramie Project (a play about a man who is killed for being homosexual). The UK Home Office later declared that they wouldn’t allow any other member of the Church, since they appeared to be “fostering hatred which might lead to intercommunity violence in the UK.”
1 They Label Anyone Who Believes In Equal Rights a "Fag Enabler"
This is probably the most despicable fact of all about the Westboro Baptist Church and this is essentially what they stand for. Aside from their huge focus on the "sin" of homosexuality and the frequent waving of placards that read "God hates fags," the WBC pretty much condemn anyone who doesn’t judge homosexuals. In other words, even if you are not a practicing 'fag" you are still doomed to burn in hell for not condemning the gay community yourself - a "fag enabler."
In truth, the term "fag enabler" can essentially be applied to anyone who isn’t a part of their family cult. A big target the WBC come after is often the media, particularly any famous figure who is well-loved by the public. When the world lost the much-loved Robin Williams to suicide back in 2014, the WBC tweeted that he was now "in hell" and that other fag enablers should “repent or join him.” They also condemned Williams for using his talent to “push filthy lifestyles and debauchery.”
Sources: abcnews.go.com, nzherald.co.nz, starobserver.com, thedailybanter.com