WBC spokesman said Fred Phelps Sr. was 'healthy' a month before he entered hospice

WBC spokesman: Church doesn't have a designated leader, adding WBC doesn't operate that way

The Topeka Capital-Journal/March 16, 2014

By Jan Biles and Steve Fry

Pastor Fred Waldron Phelps Sr., founder of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, is a patient at a hospice with unspecified health problems, a church spokesman confirmed Sunday.

That contrasts with Feb. 14 when church spokesman Steve Drain twice told a Topeka Capital-Journal reporter that Phelps was "healthy."

But unlike calls in the past several years, Drain declined a reporter's request in February to put Phelps on the phone.

In the past, Phelps would take the phone to chat a while, sometimes chuckling because he understood the purpose of the call was to check on his health in the face of rumors he was ill or dead.

Drain said Phelps had done "his bit" in talking to reporters in earlier years and had passed the torch to younger church members.

After Phelps was voted out of Westboro Baptist Church this past summer, he was moved out of the church and into a house, where he was watched to ensure he wouldn’t harm himself, a son estranged from the church said Sunday.

Phelps eventually stopped eating and drinking, and on Sunday, he was near death, son Nate Phelps said in a Facebook posting. The information also is based on an email sent by Nate Phelps to a Topeka Capital-Journal reporter.

"(Fred) is at Midland Hospice House where, as of yesterday (Friday), he is comfortable without the respiratory difficulty that he was having the day before and is unresponsive," Nate Phelps wrote, quoting a message sent to him.

For many years, Fred Phelps Sr. and his wife, Margie Marie Phelps, lived in an upper floor of the church.

On Sunday morning, the church and surrounding streets where many of the members live were quiet.

Drain declined to comment Sunday on a report that Fred Phelps Sr. has been excommunicated from the conservative church, which he founded in the 1950s and was known for its controversial anti-gay stance.

Nate Phelps, who broke away from the church 37 years ago, posted on his Facebook page that his father was excommunicated from the church in August 2013 and is "now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka."

Nate Phelps made the Facebook post around midnight Saturday. He is one of five sons of Fred Phelps Sr.

Drain was asked Sunday morning whether Fred Phelps Sr. had been excommunicated.

"We don't owe any talk to you about that," Drain said. "We don't discuss our internal church dealings with anybody. It's only because of his notoriety that you are asking."

However, a second Phelps brother estranged from Westboro Baptist Church confirmed Sunday morning that Fred Phelps Sr. is in poor health and has been excommunicated.

"Just a quick note to assure you the information you wrote and published this morning is accurate," Mark Phelps emailed to The Capital-Journal at 10:30 a.m. "I do not know anything more than you know, at this time, but what you wrote I know to be true, personally, just as Nathan (Nate Phelps) knows to be true also."

As for who is the leader of Westboro Baptist Church, there is no head of the church, Drain said.

"The church of Jesus Christ doesn't have a head," he said. "The Lord Jesus Christ is our head."

Multiple elders have preached at Westboro Baptist Church for some time, Drain said. Anecdotal reports of people who have observed preaching at the church confirm that.

"For a very long time, we haven't been organized in the way you think," Drain said, referring to the church having a defined leader.

Drain confirmed Sunday that Fred Phelps Sr. is a patient in Midland Care Hospice and had been a patient for “not too long.”

"He has a couple things going on," he said when asked what Phelps' illness was but declined to elaborate. "The source that says he's near death is not well informed.”

On Nate Phelps' Facebook page, Nate Phelps posted: "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."

Fred Phelps Sr., an ordained minister who started Westboro Baptist Church in 1955, was known early in his legal career as an award-winning civil rights lawyer.

However, after his disbarment by the Kansas Supreme Court in 1979 and the surrender of his license to practice law in federal courts in 1989, Phelps became known for his crusade against homosexuals, marked by picket lines, the mass distribution of facsimiles and a multitude of lawsuits.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.

Educational DVDs and Videos