Pastor Fred Waldron Phelps, Sr., the founder of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, is in poor health in a Kansas hospice and was excommunicated from his own church last year.
Phelps’ son, Nathan “Nate” Phelps, who left the church in 1980 and now works for an LGBT advocacy group, posted to Facebook Saturday night that his father is dying.
“I've learned that my father, Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the ‘God Hates Fags’ Westboro Baptist Church, was ex-communicated from the ‘church’ back in August of 2013,” Nate wrote. “He is now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas.”
“I'm not sure how I feel about this,” he added. “Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made. I feel sad for all the hurt he's caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I'm bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their good-byes.”
The pastor’s brother, Mark Phelps, who is also estranged from the WBC, confirmed the information Sunday.
"Just a quick note to assure you the information you wrote and published this morning is accurate," Mark Phelps emailed to the Topeka Capital-Journal.
A spokesman for the WBC, Steve Drain, confirmed Sunday that Pastor Fred Phelps is a patient at the Midland Care Hospice in Topeka, but said he hasn’t been there long and he’s not “near death.”
Drain would not say what Phelps is suffering from, only that, "He has a couple things going on.”
Phelps began the church in 1955 and worked as a civil rights attorney until he was disbarred by the Kansas Supreme Court in 1979. WBC is renowned for picketing the funerals of fallen U.S. soldiers and carrying placards reading “God Hates Fags.”
On Feb. 24, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed that country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law. The law, according to executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights Vincent Warren, instantly outlaws the ability of LGBTI people to advocate for their rights. Warren says in a column he wrote for the Huffington Post that “such a fundamental denial of rights to an entire class of people is illegal under international law as well as the Ugandan constitution.“
For that reason the CCR is continuing to pursue the anti-gay minister Scott Lively for the role he played in getting the legislation passed. According to their own website the CCR filed a federal lawsuit against Lively in the United States District Court of Massachusetts in March of 2012. The suit alleges that Lively’s action in anti-gay efforts in Uganda amounted to a conspiracy to strip away rights of LGBTI persons and constitutes persecution.
The suit was filed under the Alien Tort Statute that allows U.S. courts to hold individuals accountable for committing “gross human rights violations” according to a story on the website Pink News.
Lively is a resident of Springfield, Mass., and the founder of Abiding Truth Ministries. Late last year he announced his bid for governor of Massachusetts. He also co-authored a book titled “The Pink Swastika” which says in its introduction “homosexuals [are] the true inventors of Nazism and the guiding force behind many Nazi atrocities.” Lively has denied all allegations in the lawsuit, including that he encouraged government-backed acts of violence against gays as a result of his rhetoric.
He continues to contend that his actions are protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. He has dismissed the lawsuit as frivolous and says he doesn’t think it will hurt his chances as a gubernatorial candidate.
"If anything, I think it will help me when people learn how ridiculous the lawsuit is," he was quoted as saying in the Massachusetts paper The Republican.
Lively’s trial is still pending, though. In January, a federal judge set deadlines to file final motions and also denied Lively’s motion to dismiss the case. The next pretrial hearing is scheduled for May 6, 2015.
There is currently a bill sitting on Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk that has gained national attention because opponents say it allows business owners to unjustly discriminate against gay couples. Now a similar bill has been introduced in the Georgia House of Representatives, according to Mother Jones.
The bill, HB 1023, has been dubbed the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act. It is nearly identical to the legislation sitting on Brewer’s desk. If passed, it would allow any individual or for-profit company to ignore anti-discrimination laws already on the books in Georgia.
Georgia and Arizona are the largest states to have proposed such broad nullification laws. Similar bills in Kansas, Tennessee and South Dakota have been introduced and explicitly target same sex-couples. This new surge of such bills is thought to be a response to a New Mexico lawsuit in which a photographer was sued for refusing to work for a same-sex couple.
The Georgia and Arizona bills do not specifically mention gays though. The language of those bills adopts a broader view of the rights of private businesses to exercise religious freedom. A recent article in The New Republic argues that under the broader rules, "a restaurateur could deny service to an out-of-wedlock mother, a cop could refuse to intervene in a domestic dispute if his religion allows for husbands beating their wives, and a hotel chain could refuse to rent rooms to Jews, Hindus, or Muslims.”
Opposition to the new bill is strong in Georgia. Local ABC affiliate WSB-TV reports that supporters of the gay and lesbian community packed the House in Atlanta on Monday during the first public discussion of HB 1023.
“If a waiter says that they [a couple] look gay to them, the waiter could refuse to serve them,” Georgia Equality’s Jeff Graham told WSB. “The business owner could refuse to have them into the establishment.”
Proponents of the bill see it differently, arguing that the bill is about religion, not discrimination.
State Sen. Josh McKoon, a Republican who sponsored a similar bill in the Senate, said, “The only folks that have spoken against this legislation are people that want the government to be a tool to promote militant atheism.”
The controversial bill is up for another hearing in the House Judiciary subcommittee on Wednesday.
Arizona State Sen. Steve Pierce voted for a bill that would allow businesses in Arizona to refuse services to gay people for religious reasons. He has now changed his tune and is urging Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the legislation that passed the state legislature last week, reports United Press International (UPI).
“I screwed up,I’m trying to make it right, Pierce is quoted as saying to Capitol Media Services in the story. “I would be on board to get it repealed.”
After its passage last week, SB 1062, has gained national attention. Fearing it paints an unfavorable picture of the state, many have called on Brewer to veto the bill. ABC News reports that both Republican U.S. Senators from Arizona, John McCain and Jeff Flake, have joined in calls for veto from their Twitter accounts.
Proponents of the bill say it has been unfairly characterized by the national media and that Brewer should ignore the national attention and sign the bill.
Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy, the architect of the bill, told UPI that opponents, “have hijacked this discussion through lies, personal attacks and irresponsible reporting.”
Pierce agreed that the purpose of the legislation was not to discriminate against gays.
"To say (the bill is) anti-gay is following the feeding frenzy," he said. "I have friends that are gay and I wouldn't do anything to hurt them. This is blown way out of proportion and it's too bad."
However, it doesn’t look like he will backing down from his new position.
"I don't like the negative picture of Arizona, and I'm on board asking the governor to veto the bill," he told the Prescott Daily Courier on Saturday.
Brewer has until Friday to make a decision on what to do with the bill. She has three choices: She can veto it, sign it and make it or law, or simply not sign it. If she does not sign the bill it still becomes law.
Brewer told CNN, "I have to look at what it says and what the law says and take that information and do the right thing.”
An Arizona pizzeria is reserving its right to refuse service to state lawmakers after the Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved a law that would allow Arizona businesses to refuse service to homosexuals.
Similar to bills that failed in Kansas and Idaho, supporters say the bill preserves religious freedom.
Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizza is taking a stand against Senate Bill 1062.
“As a longtime employer and feeder of the gay community, Rocco's reserves the right to eject any State Senators we see fit to kick out,” the restaurant tweeted on Thursday.
Funny how just being decent is starting to seem radical these says. pic.twitter.com/ygZcMDlgEX
— Rocco's Pizzeria (@tucsonpizza) February 21, 2014
"A customer posted the sign to my Facebook feed, so I printed it up and laminated it," owner Anthony Rocco DiGrazia wrote on Facebook Friday. "The response has been overwhelming and almost all positive from across the globe. I just want to serve dinner and own and work in a place I'm proud of. Opening the door to government-sanctioned discrimination, regardless of why, is a huge step in the wrong direction. Thanks for all the support."
The bill is now before Republican Gov. Jan Brewer for approval or veto.
Many Arizona business owners, still reeling from boycotts after a controversial anti-illegal-immigration law, are urging Brewer to veto the bill.
Brewery and winery owner Shannon Austin Zouzoulas told the Los Angeles Times that she was shocked the measure was passed. She says the bill is embarrassing.
“It’s crazy and insane and it’s bad,” Zouzoulas, owner of Arizona Hops and Vines, said Friday. “Last night I was just at home and said, ‘You know what, I’m just going to make a stand.’”
She posted the image below on the company's Facebook page with the caption "Arizona Hops and Vines loves ALL our customers!"
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) recently said that New York is no place for “extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay” Republicans.
Gov. Cuomo made the statements during the “The Capitol Pressroom” radio show on the New York Public Broadcasting network, notes RawStory.com (audio below).
“The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act [gun control law], it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate," stated Gov. Cuomo, reports TimesUnion.com.
"Their problem is not me and the Democrats, their problem is themselves," added Gov. Cuomo. "Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and if they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are."
Not surprisingly, Gov. Cuomo's statements have set off a firestorm in conservative circles.
Dennis Poust, spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference, wrote on Twitter, “My governor thinks there’s no place in NY for people like me. Can I get a state grant to relocate?”
The right wing TownHall.com, added: "We should be attacking his comments, which alienated a large bloc of voters, just as much as the left jumped all over Romney’s ‘47 percent’ gaffe."
Gov. Cuomo has since released a statement on his website: "In the same response, the Governor went on to say "it is fine" to be anti-gun control, and anti-choice” – as he respects both positions."
Here is the part of his response that Gov. Cuomo refers to:
Well if you are right to life, that is your opinion and that’s your religious belief, that is fine but that is not the opinion of this state, which 70% are pro-choice in this state. “Well we are anti-gun control," that is fine.
70% of this state wants intelligent gun control. “We don’t agree with gay marriage, we are anti-gay”, that is fine but 70% of this state about, is now pro-gay marriage so figure out who you are and figure out if you are of a extreme conservative philosophy and if you can survive in this state. And the answer is no.
A lesbian couple filed a federal suit against the New York Police Department for ruining their nuptials, when they pulled the couple over and allegedly made anti-gay remarks.
Sacoya Tolbert, 27, and Krista McCrea, 35, say they were returning to Brooklyn from Connecticut, where they obtained a marriage license, in June 2011.
Cops pulled the couple over in Flatbush, the Daily News reported.
The driver of the car, a friend of couple’s, didn’t have documents for the vehicle. NYPD then arrested the driver, McCrea, and Tolbert.
During the arrest, a cop allegedly told Tolbert to dump her wife and find a “good-looking man” to marry.
They allegedly said McCrea only cared about “cash, clothes and hoes.”
In June, three gay men claimed they suffered homophobic remarks from NYPD in front of the 79th Precinct in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Josh Williams, 26, and his roommates Ben Collins and Tony Maenza, both 24, were caught urinating in public. Williams says he was pepper-sprayed and cops proceeded to call them “faggots” as they were arrested.
Williams was charged with resisting arrest and his roommates were charged with obstruction.
Despite repeated internet petitions to curb the passing of the law, Uganada has been quietly working on “anti-gay” legislation that would make life imprisonment the maximum penalty for people engaging in acts of homosexuality throughout the past few years. The bill was finally approved by Ugandan legislators on Friday.
Homosexuality has long been illegal in Uganda, but this new bill represents a stricter approach to criminally punishing the sexual preference. Initially, the bill included a provision that would punish homosexuality by death but, due to criticisms for the harshness of that penalty, it was taken out from the recent revision that made its way through the country’s legislative body.
According to The Independent, the passing of the bill strikes a blow to Ugandan homosexuals, who believed they had been making strides to improve the rampant homophobia throughout the country. Uganda had its first gay rights parade in 2012, and prominent Ugandan gay activists such as Pepe Julian Onziema are outspoken against the penalties imposed on their lifestyles.
Still, however, homophobia is widespread throughout the country. According to a 2007 poll, 96 percent of Ugandan residents viewed homophobia as unacceptable. That statistic dropped to 89 percent in a 2010 poll, but that is still a strikingly high number compared to the rest of the world.
The Ugandan bill was first penned in 2009, and it has received criticisms from several world leaders, including President Obama, since its inception.
11LA Gov. Bobby Jindal Wants To Know Why Miley Cyrus Gets A Laugh, But Phil Robertson Gets Suspended
Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) has come forward to support Phil Robertson, the Duck Dynasty star who was suspended indefinitely from the Louisiana-based reality show after making anti-gay comments in a magazine interview.
Jindal said the West Monroe family “are great citizens of the State of Louisiana.”
“The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with,” Jindal said in a statement.
“I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV,” he said. “In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment.”
“It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended,” he added.
Jindal is presumably referring to a comment the 21-year-old made in October about how she wants full control over the direction of her career: “It can’t be like this 70-year-old Jewish man that doesn’t leave his desk all day, telling me what the clubs want to hear.”
The pop singer has not made anti-gay remarks. In fact, she was photographed wearing an anti-homophobia pin in June.
Jindal’s statement echoed the same sentiment heard from Fox News host Gerald Rivera Wednesday morning.
Rivera called the suspension “ridiculous” and the results of “political correctness that’s gotten malignant.”
Fans of Phil Robertson have taken to Twitter under the hashtag “IStandWithPhil” to show their support.
“Freedom of speech is not just for liberals,” one woman wrote. “Let me rephrase...freedom of speech isn’t suppose [sic] to be just for liberals.”
“Why are minorities opinions and feelings the only ones protected...? #IStandWithPhil” wrote another.
One A&E advertiser said they pulled their commercials from the network.
“We just cancelled all our ads on A&E until they apologize to Phil Robertson! #IStandWithPhil” tweeted Gilbert’s Collision of Cleveland, Tenn.
Others riffed on the hashtag posting Phil Collins album covers and stills of Phil Connors, Bill Murray’s character from “Groundhog Day.”
11Geraldo Rivera On 'Duck Dynasty' Suspension: ‘Political Correctness That’s Gotten Malignant’ (Video)
Fox News host Geraldo Rivera told “Fox & Friends” on Thursday that the suspension of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson over his anti-gay remarks is “ridiculous” because his view was embraced by the “majority of people” until recently.
Rivera accused A&E of “victimizing” the 67-year-old.
“I want to say it’s ridiculous to suspend him over his remarks,” Rivera said. “He’s the ‘Duck Dynasty’ guy. It’s not like he’s teaching a public school in New York. Now, Honey Booboo, is she gonna get thrown off for talking about fat people?”
“I mean, it’s ridiculous,” he continued. “It’s political correctness that’s gotten malignant. It’s preposterous.”
“The reason people like that show, is that the family’s inseparable,” said “Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade. “They truly love each other. The bond. How are they gonna allow the father to get suspended and continue with the show? Are they gonna pray with an empty chair at the head of the table?”
Robertson is the patriarch of the family, which owns and operates a business called “Duck Commander” in West Monroe, La.
“Putting aside the virtue of the family, the man has his opinion … it’s not my point of view, but it’s held by a lot of people and until recent decades it was held by a majority of people in the land,” Rivera said. “I think that it is ridiculous to hold him to the same standard as someone in a different line [of work].”
He said the fact that “they are country folk and bible folk … let them be.”
“That why they brought them there,” said co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck.
“That’s exactly why they’re on TV, for goodness sakes,” Rivera agreed.
In a GQ interview, Robertson called homosexual sex a sin and said it’s “not logical.” A&E suspended Robertson from the show indefinitely, stating that his remarks were “disappointing” and do not reflect the opinion of A&E Networks.
“I would have said something on the order of, ‘His views are vile, according to many people. We don’t agree. We don’t endorse his views, but he has the right to have his point of view,” Rivera said A&E should have said. “My fear is, by victimizing or targeting people like Robertson, what you do is you dilute the main message — the message of tolerance.”
"Cut the guy some slack," he concluded.