Westboro Baptist Church's Founder Fred Phelps Sr. Has Died

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Days after we learned that Fred Phelps Sr., the founder of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, was on his death bed, one of his sons has confirmed that the anti-gay pastor died late on Wednesday night. Timothy Phelps gave the news to WBIW on Thursday morning. Later, Phelps's daughter Margie Phelps also confirmed that her father had died, as did Phelps daughter and Westboro Baptist Church spokesperson Shirley Phelps-Roper.  Phelps was 84 years old.

The church didn't immediately do much to publicly mark the passing of their founder, who also happens to be father and grandfather to many of its members. And that actually makes sense: according to Phelps's estranged son Nate, the WBC patriarch was excommunicated from his own church last year. (Update: later on Thursday, the church issued a long statement mostly condemning the media coverage of Phelps's illness that begins "Fred W. Phelps, Sr. Has Gone The Way of All Flesh.")

Around the time that Timothy Phelps announced his father's death — several hours after he died in hospice — the Westboro Baptist Church was still trolling Lorde on Twitter: 

The church Phelps founded is mainly a family affair, although that family has been split in recent years by defections among their ranks. Recently, for instance, granddaughters Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper left the fold and were excommunicated by their family. What remains of Phelps's family practice is best known these days for their high-profile protests of funerals. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.