Pastor Fred Phelps Sr. passed away this week at the age of 84. Details are still very sketchy at this point, but we do know the death occurred last night at 11:15 PM and happened from natural causes.

Phelps rose to prominence as the leader of the famed Westboro Baptist Church, or more informally as the anti-gay hate group that pickets funerals and blames pretty much every negative event on a perceived decline in America’s collective morality. Under his leadership, the religious organization preached hate outside more than 53,000 funerals and in doing so, infuriated untold millions of sensible, decent people.

Phelps first took over the Westboro Baptist Church all the way back in 1955, but the group didn’t strike a chord with the general public until the early 1990s when its teachings became more radical and more public. At first, the group concentrated on protesting alleged outdoor homosexual activity in Topeka, Kansas, but within a few years, Phelps and company began picketing football games, pop concerts, military funerals and more. There was a backlash, of course, but Pastor Phelps reportedly became convinced that negativity was further proof that the Church’s stance was, in fact, correct.

Over the years, many have argued the Westboro Baptist Church shouldn’t be allowed to protest. It should be pretty clear to most that the loss of our collective rights that would come from such a blow to the First Amendment would ultimately be more detrimental; however, it should be noted that as Phelps and company chastised the world, they often brought people together, unifying them in love, understand and acceptance. As a population, we might not agree on everything, but almost all of us can agree hate is not nor will it ever be the answer.

The world is, without question, a friendlier and far more logical place without Phelps Sr. in it. Pop Blend’s thoughts go out to everyone with an alternate lifestyle who the Westboro Baptist Church ever tried to make feel ashamed. Keep being you.

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