Nate Phelps, the estranged son of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, has issued a compassionate statement about the death of his father. "I will mourn his passing, not for the man he was, but for the man he could have been," he said. "Even more, I mourn the ongoing injustices against the LGBT community."
Fred Phelps is now the past. The present and the future are for the living. Unfortunately, Fred's ideas have not died with him, but live on, not just among the members of Westboro Baptist Church, but among the many communities and small minds that refuse to recognize the equality and humanity of our brothers and sisters on this small planet we share. I will mourn his passing, not for the man he was, but for the man he could have been. I deeply mourn the grief and pain felt by my family members denied their right to visit him in his final days. They deserved the right to finally have closure to decades of rejection, and that was stolen from them.
Even more, I mourn the ongoing injustices against the LGBT community, the unfortunate target of his 23 year campaign of hate. His life impacted many outside the walls of the WBC compound, uniting us across all spectrums of orientation and belief as we realized our strength lies in our commonalities, and not our differences. How many times have communities risen up together in a united wall against the harassment of my family? Differences have been set aside for that cause, tremendous and loving joint efforts mobilized within hours...and because of that, I ask this of everyone - " let his death mean something. Let every mention of his name and of his church be a constant reminder of the tremendous good we are all capable of doing in our communities.
The lessons of my father were not unique to him, nor will this be the last we hear of his words, which are echoed from pulpits as close as other churches in Topeka, Kansas, where WBC headquarters remain, and as far away as Uganda. Let's end the support of hateful and divisive teachings describing the LGBT community as "less than," "sinful," or "abnormal." Embrace the LGBT community as our equals, our true brothers and sisters, by promoting equal rights for everyone, without exception. My father was a man of action, and I implore us all to embrace that small portion of his faulty legacy by doing the same."
I am deeply moved by this man's compassion, humility and understanding. His call to action against hatred is one I take seriously. I have little doubt that Westboro Baptist Church will continue on with their sad, angry protests until infighting finally destroys them for good. The irony is their legacy of hate will be all they will have to show for it. I firmly believe they helped expedite our triumphs. They certainly did not slow them down.
Nate Phelps repudiated his father's beliefs on his 18th birthday, and has since become a spokesman for atheism and LGBT rights. He's one of four of Fred Phelps's children who renounced their father's activities, which included hateful protests at veterans' funerals with signs such as "thank god for dead soldiers." It's incredible to think of what Nate must have had to work through and shake off to become the compassionate person who wrote the statement above.
His statement was released by the group Recovering From Religion.