The ailing founder of the Westboro Baptist Church was excommunicated for encouraging church members to be “kinder” to one another, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported Monday.
That approach didn’t go over too well in an organization known for its anti-gay slogan and for protesting military funerals. Founder Fred Phelps’ estranged son, who announced Sunday that his father was “on the edge of death” in a Topeka, Kansas hospice, told the Capital-Journal that Phelps was forced out in a power struggle with a board of church elders.
Nate Phelps, who says the elder Phelps was excommunicated in August 2013, told the newspaper that his father advocated a kinder approach between church members after the newly formed all-male board of elders ousted the organization’s longtime spokeswoman, Shirley Phelps-Roper. Phelps said that while decisions were made previously by a vote of church members, the board of elders now has the power to issue all decisions.
The spokesman for the church who replaced Phelps-Roper refused to discuss the founder’s excommunication with the newspaper.
“We don’t discuss our internal church dealings with anybody,” spokesman Steve Drain told the newspaper.
Drain also disputed that Fred Phelps’ health concerns were grave.
“The source that says he’s near death is not well informed,” he told the newspaper.
h/t Huffington Post
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.