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Fred Phelps Once Worked for Civil Rights

Fred Phelps Once Worked for Civil Rights

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Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, once fought for the civil rights of African-Americans as an attorney in Kansas. Former colleagues say they are shocked by his antigay enterprise today, but his daughter says it should come as no surprise because civil rights for African-Americans and gay rights are separate issues.

According to a profile by CNN, Phelps may be well known for his hateful messages against gays, "But there is another Phelps that few know. He was a 'brilliant' civil rights attorney in the 1960s who would take on racial discrimination cases that no other lawyers would touch, say longtime African-American civic leaders in Topeka.

"He fought for the rights of blacks, they say, with the same passion he now reserves for the condemnation of gays."

While colleagues say they never heard Phelps express antigay attitudes, his daughter tells CNN that no one should draw any conclusions based on his work for African-Americans.

"Phelps declined to talk with CNN about his civil rights work or his ministry," reports the network. "But his daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, says there is no contradiction between her father's civil rights work and his ministry. That's because there's a distinct difference between gay people and black people, she says.

"'You're born black. It's something you can't change even if you're Michael Jackson,' she says. 'God never said it was an abomination to be black.'"

Phelps's background is under scrutiny as the Supreme Court prepares to hear a case about Westboro's right to picket the funerals of fallen soldiers.

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