Fred Waldron Phelps Sr, who launched the Topeka-based Westboro
Baptist Church in the 1950s, "is on the edge of death at Midland
Hospice house," his son, Nathan Phelps, wrote on his Facebook page.
The younger Phelps, one of several members of the family to have
parted ways with the church, also said his father was excommunicated
by his own church last August, but did not say for what reason.
"I'm not sure how I feel about this," he said. "Terribly ironic that
his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he
The Westboro Baptist Church did not respond Sunday to an email
seeking confirmation that Fred Phelps had been excommunicated.
Phelps had long been pastor of the church, which is best known for
carrying anti-gay signs and picketing events including military
funerals, gay rights rallies, political gatherings and mainstream
The protests reflect the Westboro church's view that God is
punishing America for tolerance of gays and lesbians.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, has
called the church "arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group
Though the church has been sued in the past, it has successfully
defended its right to free speech in court.
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Nathan Phelps and some other members of the family have left the
Westboro group in recent years. He has spoken out on behalf of gay
and lesbian groups.
In his Facebook post, he said family members who had parted ways
with the church were not allowed to visit Fred Phelps in hospice.
"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," he
wrote. "And I'm bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family
members who left from seeing him, and saying their goodbyes."
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in New York; editing by Scott
Malone and Matthew Lewis)
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