Fred Phelps, the “God Hates Fags” chronic cleric protester from so-called Westboro Church, who died yesterday, proved America’s endless capacity to hype charlatans and kooks. He became a national personality because he persuaded his family cult of several dozen children, grandchildren and in-laws to follow his absurd crusade.
Many of the Phelps progeny are lawyers, so they sustained their sect by litigation, often against their adversaries, while spending reputedly hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to demonstrate around the country. Their signage was printed at their own print shop.
Phelps was himself a disbarred lawyer who in his early years apparently litigated against racial segregation. He presided over his Westboro Church in Topeka for nearly 60 years. Professing to be Baptist but not tied to any denomination, it touts a deviant form of Calvinism that emphasizes divine hatred for the wicked.