It’s highly unlikely that any LGBT identified person will be mourning the passing of the virulently anti-gay Rev. Fred Phelps, who spent decades spewing anti-gay hate. Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist Church, was best known for picketing funerals and taunting the mourners. Church members participated in these actions.
Many LGBT people have posted comments around the web celebrating Phelp’s passing, with some hoping he “burns in hell.” But a smaller group of people are calling for a different reaction.
SFGN spoke to David Robinson of Keshet, an outreach, support and networking organization for LGBT Jews and friends. “The Jewish religion wrestles with the question of whether or not you should rejoice at the death of your enemy,” Robinson said.
“It’s not an easy question. Many Jews cite a passage from the Talmud about the Jews’ exodus from Egypt, after the parting of the Red Sea. ‘When the Egyptians were drowning in the Red Sea, the angels wanted to sing. God said to them, the work of my hands is drowning in the sea, and you want to sing?’
With that teaching in mind, I’m not rejoicing at Phelps’ death but I’m not mourning it either. He spread such intense hatred of LGBT people. As far as I can see, the world is a better place without him.”
Wallace McBride runs The Collinsport Historical Society, a website dedicated to the classic TV series Dark Shadows, which has a huge LGBT fan base. McBride is urging his site members to commemorate Phelps’ death by donating to your local LGBT community center, wherever you might be.
“I don’t see any payoff in celebrating someone’s death,” McBride told SFGN. “Especially a man who lived almost a century trapped in the throes of ignorance and bigotry. Yes, he was a jerk who caused more suffering than any good society should have allowed. But he wasted his own life celebrating hatred. I don’t plan on following him into that downward spiral.”
Downward spiral indeed. Many news outlets are reporting that Phelps died in a hospice, excommunicated from the church which he founded. His own son, now an advocate for LGBT equality, had not spoken to the Reverend in decades.