Nate Phelps is the estranged son of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps. His father's church became notorious for its hateful picketing of dead soldiers' funerals, and a vast variety of other intrusive public demonstrations, mostly aimed at gay people.
It was Nate who broke the news over the weekend, first that the elder Phelps was on the "edge of death," and then that he had died.
Everything beyond that will surprise you. Nate issued a public statement through the organization "Recovering From Religion," on whose board he serves.
First, here is some of Nate's online bio at the "Recovering From Religion" site:
"Nathan Phelps is an author and engaging speaker on religion and child abuse, as well as an outspoken LGBT advocate, and the Executive Director for the 'Center For Inquiry' in Calgary. He has dedicated his life to spreading his message and has become an inspiration to those who grew up in oppressive religious families.
"The son of the notorious Fred Phelps, Nathan was raised inside Westboro Baptist, America’s most infamous church family. He grew up physically, emotionally and mentally bullied every single day by his father, all in the name of God, until his 18th birthday when he managed to finally escape. Despite his background, Nathan hopes to continue spreading his message of healing, love, and acceptance through the goals and vision of Recovering From Religion."
This is Nate's statement on the death of his father, Fred Phelps:
"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."
Obviously, the sins of the father are not propagated by the son.
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