Fred Phelps did not care what you thought of his Westboro Baptist Church, nor did he care if you heard its message that society’s tolerance for gay people is the root of all earthly evil.
By the time you saw one of his outrageous and hate-filled signs — “You’re Going to Hell” was among the more benign — you were already doomed.
Tall, thin and increasingly spectral as he aged, the Rev. Fred Phelps Sr. and the Westboro Baptist Church, a small congregation made up almost entirely of his extended family, tested the boundaries of the free speech guarantees by violating accepted societal standards for decency in their unapologetic assault on gays and lesbians. In the process, some believe he even helped the cause of gay rights by serving as such a provocative symbol of intolerance.
All of that was irrelevant to Phelps, who died late Wednesday. He was 84.