Fred Phelps Sr., the anti-gay pastor known for picketing funerals with signs that read “God Hates Fags,” is dead at the age of 84.
A family member confirmed to the news to a local news affiliate in Topeka, Kan., where Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church is based.
Phelps Sr.’s son Timothy told WIBW his father died late Wednesday night at a care facility.
But, his daughter Margie Phelps told The Associated Press that Fred Phelps died shortly after midnight Thursday. She didn’t provide the cause of death or the condition that recently put him in hospice care.
Just days earlier, Phelps Sr.’s estranged son Nathan Phelps, who now lives in Calgary, revealed his father was on the “edge of death” at Midland Hospice House in Topeka.
Phelps, the sixth oldest child of 13, also said his father had been “ex-communicated” from his notorious church.
“I’m not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made,” Phelps said in a Facebook post late Saturday.
Phelps Sr. and his followers have become notorious for holding protests at funerals of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, particularly those who have died as a result of hate crimes.
Most notably, the group picketed the 1998 funeral of Matthew Shepard – a gay Laramie, Wy. man who died five days after he was abducted, beaten, pistol-whipped and left tied to a fence for 18 hours in frigid temperatures.
The Westboro Baptist Church followers have also protested outside funerals and commemorations for fallen U.S. soldiers, claiming they died as a result of God’s punishment for U.S. policies supporting gay rights.
In recent days, the group has tweeted messages about the suicide of fashion designer L’Wren Scott.
The designer, who was Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger’s longtime girlfriend, died on Monday. The group tweeted posts with the hashtags #LWrenInHell and #PicketFuneral.
— Westboro Baptist (@WBCSays) March 18, 2014
Global News reached out to the Westboro Baptist Church on Sunday to confirm Phelps Sr.’s health condition and his status as a member of the organization, but no response was ever received.
The next day, the group tweeted a blog post responding to media queries saying Phelps Sr. is “a person of advanced age, and such people sometimes have health issues.” In regards to his position in the Westboro Baptist Church, which he founded in 1955, the organization said “membership issues are private.”
Westboro Baptist Church in Canada
In 2008, the Canadian government blocked members of Westboro Baptist Church from entering the country to protest the funeral for 22-year-old Tim McLean, who was decapitated on a Greyhound bus on July 30 of that year.
Phelps Sr., who founded the Westboro Baptist Church in 1955, attended the Prairie Bible Institute, located in Three Hills, Alta., his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper confirmed.
She said her father attended the evangelical institution in 1949 and 1950, according to an article posted on the Vancouver Sun website in Sept. 2013.
Nathan Phelps, who does not share his father’s and family members views and has spoken about enduring years of abuse at the hands of his father, left the family and moved to California in 1981. He eventually moved to Vancouver and later settled near Calgary. He now works as an advocate for LGBT rights.
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