Fred Phelps | News | Shirley Phelps-Roper | Westboro Baptist Church

Fred Phelps Was a 'Brilliant' Civil Rights Lawyer Before He Started Hating Gays for a Living

CNN makes note of Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred Phelps past as a "brilliant" civil rights lawyer:

Phelps "By the time Phelps moved to Topeka in 1954, it had become the launching ground for the modern civil rights movement. That was the year the U.S. Supreme Court banned segregation in public schools with its historic Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education decision. Jack Alexander, a Topeka native and civil rights activist, says the Brown decision opened the door for discrimination suits. Phelps would take cases in the 1960s that other lawyers, black and white, wouldn't touch, he says. 'Back in that era, most black attorneys were busy trying to make a living,' says Alexander, who attended Topeka's high school when the Brown case was filed and went on to become the first black person elected to Topeka's water commission. 'They couldn't take those cases on the chance they wouldn't get paid. But Fred was taking those cases.' Phelps was so successful that he became the first lawyer blacks would call when they thought they were being discriminated against, says the NAACP's Scott. 'Most blacks -- that's who they went to,' Scott says. 'I don't know if he was cheaper or if he had that stick-to-it-ness, but Fred didn't lose many back then.' Douglas, the Topeka civil rights activist and former fire chief, says Phelps was such a 'brilliant attorney' that he made enemies. 'He made a fortune on all those cases,' Douglas says. 'All the businesses hated him because he was so successful. I think if they discriminated against Martians, he would have done those cases. He could make money."

Shirley Phelps-Roper explained to the network her belief that there's no contradiction between Phelps civil rights work and his anti-gay crusading, and it hinges on the church's belief that being gay is somehow a choice:

"That's because there's a distinct difference between gay people and black people, she says. 'You're born black. It's something you can't change even if you're Michael Jackson,' she says. 'God never said it was an abomination to be black.'"

Most Hated, Anti-Gay Preacher Once Fought for Civil Rights [cnn]

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Comments

  1. Frankly, I believe that there's no contradiction between Phelps' civil rights work and his anti-gay work because he's secretly pro-gay. His "church" demonstrates how bigoted and intolerant Christianity is - and that's exactly what we need. Even direct anti-theism wouldn't be so effective.

    Posted by: Eugene | May 6, 2010 11:30:58 AM


  2. OK, with the last few days of finding out the truth abou Rekers, I think we can say FOR CERTAIN that this Phelps Creeper is actually a CLOSET self-loathng gay himself, too.

    Can we dig more information about his "hook=ups"?

    Posted by: FunMe | May 6, 2010 11:32:43 AM


  3. OK, with the last few days of finding out the truth abou Rekers, I think we can say FOR CERTAIN that this Phelps Creeper is actually a CLOSET self-loathng gay himself, too.

    Can we dig more information about his "hook=ups"?

    Posted by: FunMe | May 6, 2010 11:32:43 AM


  4. He still is a smart lawyer
    Because he takes his challenges to his "free speech" to the courts
    and wins
    It is all about the money

    Posted by: megamike | May 6, 2010 11:41:51 AM


  5. I read that article yesterday, and frankly it was too close to being sympathetic to Phelps for my taste. I have no doubt that the only reason Phelps took on those cases was to bilk his oppressed black clients out of what little money they had. His son says so, and I believe it. Phelps is evil to the core and to try to associate him in a positive way with the civil rights movement of the 60's is offensive.

    Posted by: gaylib | May 6, 2010 11:43:09 AM


  6. Ms. Phelps-Roper should review the Curse of Canaan or Ham in Genesis 9:20-27.

    Posted by: Peter | May 6, 2010 11:45:47 AM


  7. Ditto what Peter said! There is no logic to the current set of Christian beliefs.

    Posted by: Kuhnsy | May 6, 2010 11:57:43 AM


  8. Obviously, Shirley is referring to Leviticus 20:13, "If man lies with another man..." I'd love to ask Shirley why they don't follow ALL of the other Leviticus passages? The next time her children talk back to her, I should expect her to stone them to death, right? She's not wearing mixed-fiber clothing, right? She doesn't eat shellfish, right? ...fucking religious hypocrites.

    Posted by: David in Houston | May 6, 2010 12:08:38 PM


  9. Well, Phelps and his clan are virulently anti-Semitic (maybe as virulent an anti-Semitic as he is anti-gay).

    Posted by: Chitown Kev | May 6, 2010 12:20:44 PM


  10. CNN seems to have forgotten about Phelps' extensive litigious history around abusing the poor and largely black people he spent time with inside his little cult-commune.

    He made quite a career out of renting baby strollers to impoverished families who couldn't afford to buy them, giving the carriages to them at very cheap rates but having them sign lengthy and confusing contracts that they could barely understand most of the time because they were wrapped in legal terminology or they simply couldn't read what they were signing. Upon execution of the contract, they "agreed" to Phelps that they would pay substantial late fees to him if they missed any payments-- which was usually the case, because he went to the poorest of the poor with this "grand gesture."

    When they inevitably defaulted he sued them for the little they possessed, ruining the lives of many poor families before his practice finally got curtailed.

    Predominantly these people were African American, and his testimony at these cases is riddled with racial pejorative towards the demographic. For CNN to position him in any way as some sort of civil rights crusader is abhorrent.

    Posted by: Joshua Meadows | May 6, 2010 12:22:15 PM


  11. I hope he isn't gay. I understand the hypocrisy and self hate his ilk must feel but boo-freaking-hoo and yes it would ruin him with his cult.

    But why the rush to claim them as gay and with such glee? It will not stop any of his people from hating on us and will just reinforce their stereotypes of us.

    Posted by: ousslander | May 6, 2010 12:31:36 PM


  12. You could call Phed a pig fucker and I wouldn't argue, but can't call him stupid. He can smell out money as well as he can smell publicity.

    The phenom that has amazed me in the last couple of years is that when he protests, or whatever you want to call it, the counter protests are in the hundreds. So I hope Phed lives a couple more days.

    Posted by: kansastock | May 6, 2010 12:48:29 PM


  13. You're born black.'God never said it was an abomination to be black.'"

    Try telling a Mormon that!

    Posted by: New Jersey Girl | May 6, 2010 12:51:48 PM


  14. I just watched a documentary by the BBC where a reporter hung out with the Phelps clan for an extended amount of time and while Freddie may have been 'brilliant' back in the day...the guys mental state has really deteriorated. Based on his brief on camera diatribes in this film, he has some sort of dementia. I guess that's the scary consequence of building your life on hate.

    Posted by: Geoff M | May 6, 2010 12:59:08 PM


  15. Oh. I see. Well, um, thanks, Shirley, for clearing THAT up.

    Posted by: jamal49 | May 6, 2010 1:20:29 PM


  16. One wonders what resides in Phelps' closet - there are parallels to Larry Craig and George Rekers and Roy Ashburn and Ted Haggard and Mark Foley.

    Posted by: Steve | May 6, 2010 1:59:16 PM


  17. I agree with Eugene. This guy has been super effective at turning opinion in our favor.

    Posted by: JusticeontheRocks | May 6, 2010 2:02:21 PM


  18. That's a complete lie, and whether you believe his son who said he did it for the money or the fact that he was disbarred for filing frivolous lawsuits in KS there's very little proof that would validate a statement like that. Fred Phelps does things because he's a selfish abuser who is looking for an easy buck.

    Posted by: Tim | May 6, 2010 2:22:57 PM


  19. A brain lesion can do that to you.

    Posted by: Bill Perdue | May 6, 2010 2:44:43 PM


  20. this family is a perfect example of why the law forbids close relatives from marring. his own son says he was an abusive father. can't wait for his god to take him home.

    Posted by: walter | May 6, 2010 4:55:53 PM


  21. When is someone going to step up to the plate and take these bastards out?

    Posted by: Harry | May 6, 2010 10:47:07 PM


  22. I'm sure someone noted this earlier, but phelps is also a racist. He believes that black people are inferior to white people, though not legally. Further, phelps isn't secretly "progay". When he was an undergrad, he tried to have the university ban public hand holding, as it was an affront to his god.

    Posted by: TANK | May 6, 2010 10:56:41 PM


  23. "That's because there's a distinct difference between gay people and black people, she says. 'You're born black. It's something you can't change even if you're Michael Jackson,' she says. 'God never said it was an abomination to be black.'"

    A co worker made that same argument to me two days ago when we were discussing marriage rights. I thought it was just as stupid when she said it.

    Posted by: Karen | May 7, 2010 2:59:35 AM


  24. Am going to agree with Eugene above - have wondered for many, many years if Phelps and his Krazy church was like some of my more radically extremist friends in college who for their work on the left, and in the longer-term interest of diversity/equality, created scary-conservative baiting documents... the theory being that it would initiate certain conversations, etc.
    Team Phelps has often felt similar. And when they started demonstrating outside of funerals for soldiers in the same manner that they protested at funerals for people who died of AIDS complications - it just seemed to convert their subversiveness. If the former funeral-protests incidentally incited more homophobia, then attacking soldier heroes would make the Topeka brand of homophobia seem esp. crazy. And now this.

    Posted by: matt | May 10, 2010 3:16:45 AM


  25. There's an extensive history of the Phelps "church" on the Internet, with interviews of family members who left and girls who dated Phelps' sons at one time. The consistent thread running through ALL of Fred Phelps' actions over the years was absolute control of his family and being the center of attention, a pain-in-the-@ss who was always ranting about *something* and generating lawsuits. Anything positive he *might* have done over the years to advance civil rights for African-Americans was purely a byproduct of that. The article says it all: he made lots of money from court costs and that's still the modus operandi of his "church" and family. They LIVE to have their 1st Amendment Rights abused so they can sue.

    What's ironic is that, though it's not their intent, the Phelps may be the most effective gay rights campaigners of the last 20 years because almost no one wants to be associated with their brand of nutball hatred. You could send Ellen Degeneres and Neil Patrick Harris to a high school to speak and not end up with a mass protest against homophobia, yet several times high school students have protested in support of gays when Phelps and his Westboro crazies show up. They've become a moderating influence on even hard-core homophobes because everyone wants to distance themselves from Phelps rhetoric and tactics.

    I don't believe that was their intent, but it's what has happened. It also doesn't mean I wouldn't enjoy the sight of the whole Westboro group being set upon by a pack of rabid wolves.

    Posted by: greenmanTN | Jun 11, 2010 1:26:44 PM


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