Nate Phelps on His Father’s Death

I didn’t think I could respect and admire Nate Phelps more than I already did, but I was wrong. On Thursday he released this eloquent, compassionate and moving statement about the death of his father, Fred Phelps, founder of the hateful cult the Westboro Baptist Church.

“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.”

Well said, Nate. Expressions of anger toward Fred Phelps are entirely justified and I begrudge no one their rightful rage. But ultimately the only way to overcome his legacy of hate is by working to bring full equality and acceptance to LGBT people.

"If you have counterevidence, you are free to provide it."

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  • nrdo

    I don’t know the details of Nate’s growth, education or post-WBC experiences, but the his eloquent expression humanist ethics and remarkable clarity of thought demonstrates that even the most terrible indoctrination can be overcome. It gives you hope for humanity as a whole . . .

  • Raging Bee

    What would Jesus do? Pretty much what Nate did.

  • Damion Reinhardt

    What a paradoxically positive and hopeful message. Way to go, Nate!

  • left0ver1under

    I heard it said that the value of a person’s life is how much the person is missed after dying.

    It seems the oply person in the world who will ever mourn Fred Phelps is Nathan Phelps. And considering that the father drove the son out of the family, it’s that much more appalling.

  • Kevin Alexander

    Thank you Nate.

    It’s no consolation but I think that your father actually did some good for the LGBT community and by extension for all of us. His campaign brought this ugly boil of hatred to a head the better to be lanced. Human rights have advanced because of his work.

    In any case, though I have a very strong romantic attachment to the idea of free will, life has taught me that it doesn’t really exist so there’s no basis to hate your father or anyone else.

  • Al Dente

    Thank you for your message, Nate. It brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat.

  • caseloweraz

    Nate Phelps said what needs to be said, and said it well.

    It seems appropriate to reprise What’s Goin’ on?”

    “You see war is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate.”