Fred Phelps, the much-maligned preacher who was, for many years, the head of the Westboro Baptist Church, was excommunicated from the congregation by members of his own family. That is the claim made by numerous ex-members of the church now that the former leader of the congregation lies in a hospice center reportedly in rapidly declining health.
However, when a church spokesman was contacted by the media, he would neither confirm nor deny the claim, saying that he did not “owe” the public any explanation. He also declared that the only reason he was being asked about Phelps was because “of his notoriety.” The original report came from Nathan Phelps, Fred Phelps’ son, who brought the news of his father’s deteriorating health condition to light over the weekend. Nathan had posted a status update on Facebook saying his father is in a hospice facility. There have been reports that Fred Phelps began to refuse to eat or drink after his excommunication, and that he had been placed on a suicide watch.
While the church spokesman would not confirm the claim that Fred Phelps had been excommunicated from the church by members of his own family, other former church members who are still in touch with people within the church say it is true. Now, reports are emerging about the reason.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that shortly before being excommunicated, Fred Phelps had issued a call for “a kinder approach” with regard to how church members treat each other. After that call was issued, the male elders in the church got together and decided to eject Fred Phelps from the church even though he was the original founder of the Westboro Baptist Church back in the 1950s.
Nathan Phelps says that, in taking this action against his father, the church elders have stripped Fred Phelps of everything he ever had. Says the younger Phelps, “That old man and his reason to exist have gone away.” Steve Drain, who is now the church’s spokesman, said that Nathan Phelps was “not well informed” regarding his father’s health condition. Drain downplayed the report of the elder Phelps’ life-threatening health problems by saying that, as an older man, he is bound to have some health problems but that the younger Phelps was not accurate in saying his father is at death’s door.
There have been reports that Fred Phelps was recently moved out of the actual church building, where he had been living on an upper floor, and transferred to a house. It was after that, it is being said, that he stopped eating and drinking. The implication is that he had become suicidal.
Speculation as to why Fred Phelps was excommunicated from the church by his own family is running rampant. Yesterday, reports began to emerge that one of Phelps’ former church members gave an interview to The Advocate, in which she insinuated that Phelps might be gay. During that interview, Lauren Drain said she found Phelps’ reaction to media questions about his sexuality suspicious, and that she did not understand why he would never answer the question regarding whether or not he may be gay. Social media commentary is now turning to the question of whether Fred Phelps could have been excommunicated from the church over issues surrounding his own sexuality, as well as his call for a kinder approach within the church. As he lingers in a hospice facility, his children who have left the church are calling for compassion for Fred Phelps in his final days.
By Rebecca Savastio