TIME Religion

Westboro Baptist Church Founder Fred Phelps Sr. Dead at 84

The Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church, on Sept. 12, 2012.
The Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church, on Sept. 12, 2012. Michael S. Williamson—Washington Post/Getty Images

Rev. Fred Phelps, Sr., notorious for arguing that the deaths of U.S. soldiers were punishment for America’s tolerance of homosexuality and abortion, died Thursday at 84. He was reportedly sick with an unknown illness

Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., the founder of the provocative Westboro Baptist Church, died Thursday at 84, the Associated Press reports.

Phelps’ daughter, Margie Phelps, confirmed he died early Thursday morning but did not provide a cause of death, according to the AP. A Westboro spokesman told the AP Sunday that Phelps had been moved to a care facility in Shawnee County, Kan.

The Westboro Baptist Church, which is primarily made up of Phelps’s extended family members, became notorious for holding protests outside U.S. soldiers’ funerals, claiming the deaths were punishment for America’s tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.

The demonstrations prompted a suite demanding compensation for the pain inflicted on grieving families. The Supreme Court ultimately rejected that suit, upholding the group’s right to picket funerals.

[AP]

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