Originally published on Advocate.com March 16 2014 12:41 PM ET
Fred Phelps, the 84-year-old founder of Westboro Baptist Church who gained a name for himself by picketing Matthew Shepard's funeral and insisting "God Hates Fags," was removed from his own church and is about to die, according to a Facebook post from his son, Nathan.
I've learned that my father, Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the "God Hates Fags" Westboro Baptist Church, was ex-communicated from the "church" back in August of 2013. He is now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made. I feel sad for all the hurt he's caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I'm bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their good-byes.
Nathan is the seventh of Phelps's 13 children to abandon his incendiary church, which was started in 1955 but turned heavily to fiery antigay rhetoric in the early '90s. Nathan Phelps, who left Westboro as a teen in 1976, says he doesn't know exactly why his father was booted from his flock. Nathan says his father was moved to another house so he wouldn't harm himself, according to LGBTQNation.
After Shepard's 1998 funeral, church members took to picketing events like the funerals of soldiers and the Academy Awards, actions justified by the church as responses to a gay-permissive society; the demonstations were upheld by a 2011 Supreme Court case. Fred Phelps's daughter, Margie, is seen as the current de facto leader of the church, based in Topeka, Kan. Reports indicate she has already segued into her father's role and is the person behind tweets thanking God for the Boston marathon bombings and threats to disrupt funerals of people like Steve Jobs and Whitney Houston.