I've been, admittedly, fascinated with Phelps' insane tribe of haters since seeing BBC journalist Louis Theroux's 2007 documentary about the WBC, The Most Hated Family in America.

Even before seeing Theroux's documentary, there was an episode of Michael Moore's TV show, The Awful Truth, in which Moore fills a pink RV (dubbed the "Sodomobile") with gay men, who party and make the bus rock before Phelps' bulging eyeballs as he attempts to preach about how "God hates fags."

Phelps dispatches members of his clan all around the country to demonstrate, and I thought I'd run into them in November, when they were expected to picket Glendale Community College on the last day of a run of The Laramie Project, a play by Moises Kaufman depicting the town of Laramie, Wyoming, in the wake of the brutal 1998 slaying there of gay college student Matthew Shepard.

The 2009 Bull Connor Award, presented to Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Houston by activist Liliana Castrillón.
Liana Lopez
The 2009 Bull Connor Award, presented to Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Houston by activist Liliana Castrillón.
Sara Phelps, granddaughter of Westboro Baptist Church pastor Fred Phelps, protests "the Jews" outside Tempe's Temple Emanuel on September 4.
Stephen Lemons
Sara Phelps, granddaughter of Westboro Baptist Church pastor Fred Phelps, protests "the Jews" outside Tempe's Temple Emanuel on September 4.

(Interestingly, the Phelpses actually picketed Shepard's funeral, with signs proclaiming "Matt Shepard Rots in Hell." And since Shepard's death, Phelps and his family have railed against the gay icon every chance they've had.)

But about 1,000 counter-demonstrators, led by local activist Annie Lloyd, showed up to confront the WBC, and the group punked out. The church members never even got out of the car.

Recently, the WBC was in town to hit two locations: the Mesa funeral of Captain Cory Jenkins, who was felled by an IED in Afghanistan, and Tempe's Temple Emanuel synagogue. The demonstration at the Jenkins funeral was, of course, disgusting. But it was in keeping with the WBC's wacky modus operandi, which holds that America's soldiers are dying in foreign lands because homosexuality is countenanced at home.

But a synagogue? That seems a new leaf for the WBC. According to a recent report on the group by the Anti-Defamation League, the WBC has been spewing bile at Jewish institutions since April.

"Since then, WBC has targeted dozens of Jewish institutions around the country," states the report, "from Israeli consulates to synagogues to Jewish community centers, distributing anti-Semitic fliers to announce planned protests at these sites. WBC has also been sending volumes . . . of faxes and e-mails with anti-Semitic and anti-gay messages to various Jewish institutions and individuals."

The WBC announces demonstrations in advance on its Web site, www.godhatesfags.com (what else?). Emanuel's temple-goers had been alerted that the WBC would be picketing during Friday-night services. And when I arrived, some worshipers were milling outside, on the lookout for the WBC. It was obvious the group was a source of consternation; several Tempe black-and-whites were parked on nearby side streets, keeping a watchful eye.

About 6 p.m., three WBC members appeared, each bearing multiple signs with weird slogans like, "God Hates Jews," "You Will Eat Your Babies," "Jews Stole the Land," "Some Jews Will Repent," "America Is Doomed," and the capper, "God Hates You."

There were no counter-demonstrators and, oddly, despite the vileness of their signs, the WBC-ers were polite, even somewhat personable, in the case of 28-year-old Sara Phelps, one of Fred Phelps' granddaughters and an unofficial spokeswoman of the event. After noting that her first name is a traditional Jewish name from the Old Testament, I asked her the big question: Why the Jews, Sara?

She admitted that, though the WBC has picketed synagogues in Kansas before, Jew-bashing's a relatively new thing for the group.

"We are equal-opportunity preachers," she told me. "But what the Lord does is, he shows us things. And he opens doors for us that we could never imagine would be open for us, so this fell on the landscape."

She went on to give me some Revelations-type jazz about how we're in the last days, and 144,000 Jews will be saved — but only if they "mourn for that most grievous sin, killing Jesus Christ."

And all this time I thought it was the Romans who nailed the Man from Galilee to a cross. And wait a sec, wasn't Jesus a Jew? Sara reluctantly admitted that he was, but apparently that doesn't count because he was — you guessed it — the Messiah.

Essentially, Sara says, the WBC's witnessing to Jews with those crazy signs of theirs. She insisted that she wasn't interested in converting anyone, but that the WBC's purpose was to represent for the Lord.

"We've seen how angry these Jews are," she told me, referring to reaction the WBC's gotten to its new anti-Semitic crusade, "and how they whine about these afflictions they go through, which they deserve to go through, because everybody deserves to be punished for their sins."

So, what about the Holocaust? Did the Jews deserve that one, too?

"Of course they did," she replied. "Of course they deserved the Holocaust."

Jeez, women and children, too?

"Do you think God does not know what he's doing in those situations?" she asked, rhetorically. "God controls everything."

And the Nazis?

"They were a tool," she explained patiently, as if I were a child. "Just like Osama bin Laden was a tool, by the hand of God to destroy the Twin Towers, those Nazis were a tool."

Actually, I think I know who the real tool is — Fred Phelps, who's obviously brainwashed Sara. Later, Sara told me that she performs sonograms for a living and that she's unmarried and doesn't let herself even think of getting married. Why? Because Jesus is coming back real soon, so why bother?

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help



Isn't it ironic that Fred Phelps was a Gore delegate at the 1988 DEMOCRATIC Convention. Phelps also ran for US Senate in Kansas as a DEMOCRAT and received 30% of the vote from those voting in the DEMOCRATIC Primary.

To the Radical Left: He's all yours...


God forbid you ever talk about the 90% of Christians who are out there doing charity work, feeding the homeless or taking care of orphans. We're not all like Fred Phelps, the abortion clinic bombers, or whatever other sensational fringe element of "Christians" that you choose to focus on in your column. How 'bout a little equal coverage, eh? You know, a little journalistic integrity? Or did you miss that day in college?


J DUB from Scottsdale... it is YOU that's full of hate. Relax.


You are an ugly, nasty person. As a journalist you should not be using derogatory slang terminology. I don't know what you race is, but you sound very much like the racist in this article. May Bill O'Reilly smite you.

Kenneth Jaeger
Kenneth Jaeger

As an ex-Topekan, I am proud to have received free tickets to the showing of "The Laramie Project" at Washburn University for being one of the counter protesters who got their early enough to take up all the corners within view of the universitiy's performing arts center and relegating Fred & Co to being out of sight and out of mind.

Besides being a "pastor" Fred was an attorney by trade (later disbarred). When then Senator Al Gore first ran for President in 1988, his Kansas campaign headquarters was the offices of Phelps Chartered. It is amazing how today Gore is thought of as a liberal icon because of one issue (environment) when on social issues he has been just another reactionary dixiecrat (anyone remember when he tried to censor rock n roll???).

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

The Bird wrote:

"And all this time I thought it was the Romans who nailed the Man from Galilee to a cross. And wait a sec, wasn't Jesus a Jew? Sara reluctantly admitted that he was, but apparently that doesn't count because he was � you guessed it � the Messiah."

Weren't most of the apostles also Jews?


Jesus Bird, I get so fucking sick of your same ol' ranting. Can't you come up with ANYTHING new, you tired old fuck?! Active vocalization of border security does not a racist/hater make, you belligerent lump. You know who's the racist? You know who's the hater? YOU DUDE! You're the one with the unending venomous prose. You must hate your mirror - having to look at that pasty white body everyday. Knowing that we (Caucasians) ruined literally every other race in the world, that we've polluted every ethnic people ever to wander planet earth - and to be part of THEM! It really must eat you up having to apologize all the time. You're the bitter one, man. You're the one pouring countless time and energy into slamming people who've had a gutfull of watching their country exploited by drug trades, resulting murder, kidnapping, torture, rape (read: La Familia, Azteca, etc) from across the border. Fins something new to hate on cuz you've got nothing original left on this dead horse. Oh yeah, almost forgot - fuck you.

Hank Hill
Hank Hill

I don't know what sickens me more, a racist and mornonic sheriff or Christians who endorse hate.

Regarding the gay and Jewish protests... dudes, don't you have anything else to do? Here's a tip, if you don't like those folks then don't hang out with them. I was raised in a strict Protestant home and hate was NEVER endorsed. In fact, we were taught to pray for and love our enemy.

Here's a question, if Hitler and the Nazis were tools of God, and murder is a sin, does that make God a sinner? Just wondering because I don't remember the 10 Commandments qualifying sin according to who the victim is.

One more question, why all the hate? Hate is tired.


All I can say about these kind of people is..

Be afraid, be very afraid

Phoenix Concert Tickets

Around The Web