Fred Phelps, Sr., Westboro Baptist Founder, Is Dead at 84

USA Today reported this morning that Fred Phelps, Sr., founder of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., died early this morning at the age of 84. His daughter, Margie Phelps, announced the death, although she did not give the cause of death nor the illness that required him to be admitted to hospice care. She did say there would be no funeral.

Phelps gained national prominence for organizing protests against gays and Jews. The church also protested military funerals by saying soldiers deserved to die for defending an irreversibly corrupt government.

President George W. Bush signed a law in May 2006 that established a 150-foot zone prohibiting picketing at military funerals within an hour of the service. Obama signed a similar law in August 2012 that increased the buffer to 300 feet and doubled the prohibition to within two hours of the service.

Westboro remained a small church throughout Phelps’ life, according to local media. It maintained less than 100 members, most of them relatives of the Phelps. Its website says people are free to visit weekly services to get more information, though the congregation can vote at any time to remove a member who they decide is no longer a recipient of God’s grace.
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