God hates Fred Phelps

By Phil Plait | August 4, 2008 5:00 pm

Obviously it’s the only explanation.

Or arson. Sometimes, of course, it’s just barely possible that it is our own hand that writes our fate, and not God’s. That’s a lesson I suspect Phelps and his ilk will never learn.

Tip o’ the fireman’s hat to PZ.


Comments (46)

  1. Alex

    Good. Maybe the money they spend repairing it will be money otherwise spent on being morons.

  2. Old Geezer

    Did anybody check to see if one of his members spotaneously combusted?

  3. Ad Hominid

    Alas, Geezer, there are no such reports.

    If a good-size meteor hits this “church” some lonely night, I’ll start going back to church myself (a real one).

  4. Well, as the good book says, “Phelps is a dork”. I’m actually very surprised at PZ’s somewhat muted reaction to this. Although he is correct in stating that if it was arson, it is clearly wrong to fight the Phelps clan this way, although it would not surprise me. How would you feel if you lost a loved one, a son, daughter, husband, wife or lover in Iraq, only to have these morons show up at their funeral waving their ridiculous placards about. I’m actually very surprised that no one has gone after Phelps in a more violent way. I do not condone such action, but the level of anger that this man has attracted with his disgusting display of hatred is going to come back to haunt him. The bible does say, “You reap what you sow.”

  5. IBY

    No, God hates f.a.g.: garages and fences. (what, you expect he cares about whether the letters of the acronym corresponds to the first letters of the words?) I bet that is what he meant all along.

  6. Yoeman

    In this case, Michael L, I would condone it.
    Some folks just need a good thumpin!

  7. @Yoeman,
    While I agree that he may deserve it, there is no point to stooping to his level

  8. Blizno

    I’m trying to come up with a clever zing about Jehova unleashing Hell against the outbuildings of the Church of the Fools. Something about Allah (blessed be His name) despising the liars denying His Perfect Way. After all, did not JHWH create our homosexual brethren and sisteren in Its image?

    I can’t think of anything…

  9. Davidlpf

    If it was arson I would hate to be the arson investigator, I just seeing one long list of suspects.

  10. Robert

    Might be a pattern. As I recall, that fire that burned the Church in Waco Texas killing a large number of men, women, and innocent children was arson.


  11. CurtisP

    No no, this is the work of Satan, who is upset that Phelps is doing the Lord’s work.

  12. Yoeman

    Michael L, you’re right, but he certainly brings out the USMC in me,
    fortunately I’ve never been around him, or his group.

  13. BMcP

    Personally dislike it when the Phelps get any coverage as it just feeds into their ever-questing desires for media spotlight and attention.

    I hope honestly the fire was an accident, arson, outside of simply being wrong, would also only fuel their persecution complex and harden their stance as they would interpret it as “the world” trying to kill them for spreading “the truth”.

  14. MarkH

    @ Michael L.
    “While I agree that he may deserve it, there is no point to stooping to his level”

    Unfortunatly that is the only level some understand.
    I come from a long line of military members serving in the U.S. going back to my great grandfather, U.S. Calvary(yep, horses). If any of these jokers had shown up to a funeral for a family member or friend, I might have just asked the riflemen to “Take aim, FIRE”.

  15. Mena

    Actually it’s the fault of the activists judges, gays, and their sympathizers.
    Yep, not too unhinged. He really does remind me of that pastor guy in Poltergeist II:

  16. Elf Eye

    I hope it is not arson. Readers of this blog would probably condemn the fact that yesterday extreme animal-rights advocates yesterday set fire to a house and car. Arson against the Westboro Baptist Church would be wrong as well. While the researchers are certainly more worthy of sympathy that Phelps, actions such as arson discredit Phelps’s opponents and may endanger the innocent, as happened in California when a researcher and his family–including children–were forced to escape from a second-floor window.

  17. TheBlackCat

    @ MarkH: Great, so not only would all of you go to jail for the rest of your lives, and have your family financially destroyed, they would sue the town into bankruptcy for failing to protect them and they would walk away even more convinced about the evils of current U.S. culture (and richer). It would end up hurting everyone but them.

  18. TheBlackCat

    I hope it isn’t arson. I consider it both morally reprehensible and counterproductive.

    But the truth is fires happen all the time. That this one just happened to be at a site with some political importance does not change that. I can’t discount the possibility of arson, but it would not be the first conclusion that jumps to mind. I will wait for a conclusion from the proper experts.

    The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations.
    -David Friedman

  19. Blu-Ray-Ven

    i cant but laugh, can any one say karma

  20. Todd W.

    Why does “Judge not, lest ye be judged” come to mind?

    On a serious note, though, I agree with some of the others here that I hope it was not arson. On the off chance that it was arson, let’s also remember the possibility that it could have been committed by one of the Phelps crew themselves, if they felt that it would bolster their position. Stranger things have been done.

  21. Doug Little

    It’s big tobacco hitting back at the Phelps clan, they are sick and tied of their product being blamed for the down fall of America… What’s that…. Oh they hate gay people, never mind, carry on.

  22. Doug Little

    Adds a whole new meaning to the term flaming.

  23. Agent_Bers

    @ Michael L
    “I’m actually very surprised that no one has gone after Phelps in a more violent way.”

    Some have, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrFVjg79_iM&feature=related

    “While I agree that he may deserve it, there is no point to stooping to his level”
    I know , but sometimes it feels real good.

  24. Yeoman and MarkH:

    While I can certainly see your point, all that would do is make Phelps a martyr among the “way over-the-top fundamentalist extremists.” Even the regular home grown brand of fundie disowns this nutjob, but there are those out there that support Phelps and hold views similar to his. As far as I know, the biker veterans that show up at the funerals of service men and women do a great job of keeping Phelps and his band of losers at bay and at a distance.

  25. GK

    A former colleague of mine was one of the five women murdered at the Lane Bryant Clothing Store one Saturday morning last February in Tinley Park, IL. Connie was a wonderful person.

    These people showed up to protest her funeral. I have no words still to describe my horror and hurt when I realized they would be there. But they seemed so small after I saw these kids at the funeral greeting everyone with cheerful signs. One of them shouted to me, “God loves you!” I’ll always remember that.

    Some stories about the tragedy:

    Friends Remember Connie Woolfolk

    Focus On The Love, Not The Protests

    And a picture of those kids. The young man holding the green sign shouted the greeting to me:

    1000+ Bid Farewell To Connie Woolfolk

    I take no joy in Rev. Phelps’ problems. There is something greater than that man’s perspective, and somehow we came a step closer to that through this tragedy. We still miss our Connie.

  26. khms

    While I can’t claim to understand the workings of the religious mind, I wonder …

    I understand these people argue that the soldier’s death is divine punishment for US tolerance of homosexuals.

    Has anyone pointed out that as long as you believe in these things, it just might be divine punishment for US intolerance of homosexuals … as shown by Phelps and similar?

  27. and no one thought to speak to the fence? they almost received commandments 11-20 and they blew it!

  28. Bigfoot

    Good show! This stuff keeps up, and mayble I WILL start believing in God!

  29. Gazz

    The fire may have been arson, and I wouldn’t put it past the WBC to have deliberately started it themsleves just so they can play the victim strategy and claim they’re being unfairly attacked just ‘cos they hate everyone and jeer at funerals.

  30. Don Snow

    First, I go preachy. Since John in his Gospel says, “God is love”, then I doubt that God hates Fred and his followers. He loves them, but hates their hatred and other sins. However, if Fred and any of his followers show hatred for any of God’s little ones, then there’s the verse, (OT, I think), “I will hate those who hate me, and love those who love me.”
    ie, do unto others as you would have others do unto you, God being another.

    Same goes for God and homosexuals as for Fred and his followers: God loves His creation and creatures, but hates the sins of people.

    Now, to the fire. I can see where all three viewpoints have validity. Only time and effort will uncover whether it was spontaenous combustion of materials in the garage; church member arson; or stranger arson. If and only if the latter, then I cannot see that playing into that church’s hatred is any kind of Christian act.

    And, yes Michael L., Rolling Thunder bikers escort military funerals, when Fred and his bunch are present. That makes me pleased, with my fellow veterans. If I hadn’t already decided to go to four wheels from two wheels, for my privately owned vehicle, I would go out and buy a motorcycle, and ride with them, in this part of US of A.

  31. Don Snow

    @ Phil –

    I caan’t resist…
    Gee, in the title of your Blog, are you validating the concept of God?

    Seriously, I find Preacher Phelp’s concept of God small minded. My concept of God, is one who does not need human help of any religion, to chastise people. He has earthquakes, tsunamis, hurrricanes, tornadoes, floods, asteroids and much more in His arsenal. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
    First post quoted scripture which justifies the Almighty in using the arsenal mentioned in this post.

  32. Cheyenne

    Phelps should be completely ignored, and shouldn’t be given any extra media attention. It’s all that they want.

  33. TheBlackCat

    I’m not as happy with tbe biker veterans as other people here seem to be. Yes, interfering with Phelps in a peaceful manner is a worthy goal. But few people noticed when he was protesting funerals of murdered homosexuals or AIDS victims. The biker gangs were not there, the legislation to stop him was noticeably absent, the cries of protest from the public were few and far between. People only started noticing and fighting him when he started picketing veterans. That is probably why he made the switch in the first place, he wasn’t getting enough attention.

    Also, although the thought of WBC starting the fire themselves did occur to me, I did not think it was worth bringing up. I cannot rule it out entirely, but like I would not immediately jump to the conclusion of arson, I would not immediately jump to the conclusion that the fire was started by them, either. The truth is there are a lot of people who would like very much to see harm done to Phelps, a few have even appeared in this thread. Bringing up the possibility of Phelps doing it seems to me at least somewhat an attempt to avoid having to deal with this fact. There are almost certainly violent people on our side of this issue, I think it is worthwhile to remember that. I recall when that biology professor was assaulted a lot of people on the creationist side brought up the idea that he had faked it for publicity. They were rightfully lambasted for this. I see no difference here, despite that fact that it is coming from the side I agree with this time.

    I would personally consider it far more plausible if it was arson that someone else did it. If Phelps wanted more attention there are numerous other ways to do it that won’t put them at legal risk. Starting the fire themselves would be illegal, and they have a lot of lawyers so they would know that. So far they have been very careful not to break any laws, and to the use the law for their own purposes. I find it unlikely they would suddenly break it now.

  34. Unbeknownst to the family, Fred Phelps is feeling his mortality coming on, and so he decided he needed to get an early start burning some of his collection of gay porn when the fire got away from him. This won’t be the last time. Fred has a lot of gay porn.

  35. MattGS

    You reap what you sow.

  36. MarkH


    You did notice that I said “might” ask, right? My great grandfather spent most of his adult life serving in the U.S. Calvary, My grandfather commanded a destroyer in the pacific during WWII & Korea, my father served 4 years in the navy during Viet Nam before transfering to the Coast Guard. I served in the Coast Guard myself. I grew up a “Coasty”, whose mission is to save lives, so while I may feel the urge to strangle some of these people sometimes, I would be more inclined to help them.

    I live in Washington state. A few months ago Phelps and his mary band were going to picket a Gulf veterans funeral. One of the good dicisions our governor made was to pass an ordinance prohibiting these guys from getting within, I think, 500 yards. Phelps and his crew canceled the picket.

    So while I may feel that these people need to be “Thumped” as another poster put it, I am a little bit more level headed than that.

  37. Joe Meils

    Not to stoop to his level of irrationality, Fred Phelps should realize that by being a high profile dick, he faced the risk of other people acting like dicks against him. (The socialological equivilent of Newton’s 3rd law.)

    At least he’s gotten a mild taste of what it’s like to be a despised minority now… not that it will enlighten him, or his nutcase followers one iota.

  38. TheBlackCat

    @ MarkH: I didn’t say that anyone in this thread would do it themselves, I said that they would like to see it done.

  39. dragonet2

    Odds on that it was arson by one of the ‘church’ members (i.e., one of his kids) to get publicity since the media, especially around here, is doing it’s best to ignore them.

    Just a guess from someone who lives way too close.

  40. Todd W.


    I brought up the possibility of one of Phelps’ group starting the fire partially as a serious consideration to keep on the table, but also partly playing to conspiracies. I am duly chastised.

  41. Don Snow

    @ TheBlackCat

    “I would personally consider it far more plausible if it was arson that someone else did it. If Phelps wanted more attention there are numerous other ways to do it that won’t put them at legal risk. Starting the fire themselves would be illegal, and they have a lot of lawyers so they would know that. So far they have been very careful not to break any laws, and to the use the law for their own purposes. I find it unlikely they would suddenly break it now.”

    You are making a whole lot of sense. Especially, since they take care to not break the law. So, that leaves spontaneous combustion of materials in the garage, or stranger arson, then. In my mind, anyway.

  42. Calli Arcale

    Joe Meils sez:
    Not to stoop to his level of irrationality, Fred Phelps should realize that by being a high profile dick, he faced the risk of other people acting like dicks against him. (The socialological equivilent of Newton’s 3rd law.)

    This reminds me of a wonderful Babylon 5 quote. Centauri ambassador Londo Mollari was attempting to justify the ongoing feud between the Centauri and the Narn. (“Feud” is putting it rather lightly; conquest, slavery, revolution, war, reconquest, genocide…. It’s one of the major threads of the series.)

    “Physics tells us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. They hate us, we hate them, they hate us back. And so, here we are, victims of mathematics!”

    Except that people don’t have to follow that. We are masters of our destiny. We can choose to end the cycle at any time. Because neither the Centauri nor the Narn were ultimately willing (as a people) to do so, it continued, costing many millions of lives. If this was arson and not an accident, then it’s sad that someone has chosen to continue the cycle — and perhaps escalate it. After all, disgusting as Fred Phelps and his followers are, they have not attempted violence to my knowledge. But if they believe that this is war, then perhaps now they will. I doubt they will; it doesn’t seem to be their style. But they’re kooky enough that I can’t say I know what goes on inside their heads.

  43. GK

    @ TheBlackCat: “I didn’t say that anyone in this thread would do it themselves, I said that they would like to see it done.”

    I wouldn’t. When they showed up the day of the funeral, police required them to be 100 feet away from the chapel per a recent Illinois state law. They were on a corner to the north on the only available public land in the area. Regardless of the law, I doubt they would have been given permission by the property owners south of the chapel, so that was really their only alternative.

    They were noticed by some, but the distance really mitigated their impact.

    You have no idea how much it hurts to see these people show up when people’s emotions are raw with the pain of loss.

    Has anyone else had a direct experience with this group?

    I was proud of those high school students who chose to bring a positive message to a painful afternoon.

  44. Gary Ansorge

    Interesting, that there are still people who revile homosexuality in humans but say nothing of its presence in other species.

    Research indicates it’s a reaction to species stress, especially from overcrowding. Just one more way Nature has of limiting an overly successful species excessive reproduction.

    On the other hand, in humans at least, brain development in gay humans seems to be more conducive to developing artistic talent. I have no problem with that. Artists, like scientists, are cool.

    One item to remember: human sexuality is very complex and is seldom as simple as straight vs gay. People exhibit a range of behavior, from one end of the curve to the other. On a scale of 1 to 10, I prefer being in the middle,,,I get to meet so many interesting people that way,,,

    GAry 7

  45. Mike

    Phelps disturbs me as a Christin. He makes anyone who’s Christian look bad, just by him trying to include himself in the same religion as the rest of us.
    I try to hold to the “Don’t judge” rule myself, but this guy just…

    If it was set by one of Phelps’ guys, then they’ll just claim Satan or he was framed by the evil government. If it was set by someone against him, much as I’d like to applaud him, he just made the situation worse.
    If it was by accident… doesn’t matter. He’ll milk it. Hopefully those kids will grow up and get their own mind someday, I feel sorry for them.

    So please, when you make fun of Christians because of people like Phelps, keep in mind that most Christians hate him just as much as you do. Possibly more, since he’s the voice people hear from Christianity.

  46. By now most of you have probably heard of the senseless and brutal murder of Tim McLean, and young man riding from Edmonton to Winnipeg on a Greyhound bus last week. I will spare you the gruesome details, only to say it was the most horrific thing I have heard in a long time. It seems that Freddy and his merry gang of hate mongers have heard about it and are planning on protesting his funeral in Winnipeg this Saturday. I can only hope that they are stopped at the border and turned away.

    @The Black Cat,
    I agree with you 100% when you ask, where were people when they were protesting the funerals of murdered homosexuals and AIDS victims. People need to rise up and stop this kind of hatred.


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