Al Snyder, father of slain Marine Matt Snyder, sued Phelps and the church after members picketed his son's funeral. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 2011 that Phelps and his congregants had the right to picket and protest.
"I'm not jumping for joy but I'm certainly glad the world is rid of someone so evil," Snyder said. "He inflicted a lot of pain on a lot of people and he was a very sick man."
The church has suffered internal turmoil in recent years. Four of Phelps' 13 children were estranged from their father. One of them, Nathan Phelps, has gone on speaking tours denouncing the church's beliefs.
As Phelps aged and weakened, daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper became the church's spokeswoman, carrying on the anti-gay rhetoric, Potok said.
Kansas news media recently reported that a board of eight church elders excommunicated Phelps from his own church last year for allegedly advocating a "kinder approach" to church members.
Responding to his father's death, Nathan Phelps told the Daily Mail in Great Britain in an interview posted Thursday that when the elders excommunicated his father, they moved him to another home where he stopped eating and drinking. Nathan Phelps, who now advocates gay and lesbian rights, said he believed the church will unravel following his father's death. Three members have left in recent weeks and more desertions are on the way, he told the British tabloid.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
I hope it means an end to the hate, or at least the organised hate
Death of controversial pastor could mean end of Westboro church