People For the American Way Statement on the Death of Fred Phelps

According to reports, Fred Phelps, the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) and its virulently anti-gay protests, died yesterday.

People For the American Way President Michael Keegan issued the following statement:

“Fred Phelps made a name for himself by protesting the funerals of soldiers and hate crime victims. In particular, he spent decades causing immeasurable pain to LGBT people and their families. My thoughts are with all those people today.

“Very much in spite of himself, Fred Phelps was an important figure in the movement for LGBT equality. Other right-wing leaders have chosen their words more carefully, and the WBC even protested some far-right activists for being insufficiently hateful, but plenty of Religious Right leaders have always agreed on Phelps’s core message: that God reacts to gay people with divine punishment in this world and damnation in the next. Fred Phelps just said what so many anti-gay activists have always believed.

“When Americans were faced with the choice of accepting their LGBT neighbors or endorsing Phelps’s unfiltered hate, they chose the former. He showed anti-gay bigotry for what it really is: profoundly un-American. Phelps lived to see a nation that more and more decisively rejected his vile message. That’s his legacy.”

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