Westboro Baptist Church

A controversial religious group known for its extreme views and inflammatory public demonstrations.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Baptist
Founder: Fred Phelps
Founded: 1955
Location: Topeka, Kansas, United States
Size: Small congregation, estimated to be less than 100 members (mostly family members of Phelps)
Other Names: WBC, Westboro Church, Westboro Ministries
Website: godhatesfags.com

The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), based in Topeka, Kansas, is a highly controversial group known for its extreme ideologies, particularly against homosexuality and various other societal issues. Founded in 1955 by Fred Waldron Phelps, the church has gained notoriety through its public demonstrations and the inflammatory content of its messages, often seen as hate speech by many organizations and individuals. Despite its name, the WBC is independent and unaffiliated with any Baptist denominations or broader Christian church communities, identifying itself with Primitive Baptist traditions and a strict Calvinist interpretation of Christianity.

Central to the church’s doctrine is the belief in predestination, which posits that God has predetermined the salvation of certain individuals, while the rest are doomed to eternal damnation, with no actions or beliefs potentially altering this divine decree. This theological stance underpins the church’s public messaging and the rationale behind its picketing activities, which began in 1991 in Topeka’s Gage Park and later expanded nationwide. These protests have targeted a wide array of events, from military funerals to public commemorations, drawing significant media attention and public backlash. The messages displayed at these protests, including slogans such as “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” reflect the church’s belief that contemporary societal tragedies are divine punishments for moral decay, especially tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality.

The church’s leadership was tightly controlled by Fred Phelps until his death in 2014, after which a council of elders took over. Despite the contentious nature of its activities, the WBC claims not to be interested in converting individuals but rather in conveying their interpretation of God’s judgments. The group’s financial resources are primarily derived from its members, notably the Phelps family, and through legal actions, leveraging the United States’ robust free speech protections to win or settle lawsuits related to their protests.

In recent years, there has been a slight shift in the church’s public engagement, with a noted decrease in its visibility and a somewhat broadened membership base extending beyond the Phelps family. This period has also seen changes in the tone and content of the WBC’s messages, incorporating more diverse biblical references and somewhat softer language, although the core messages remain unchanged. The church continues to utilize social media effectively, engaging with current events and societal trends to propagate its views.

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