Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps has died, according to the church.
His son Tim Phelps said that his father died Wednesday night just before midnight, according to WIBW-TV.
Phelps, 84, was known for his anti-gay sentiment and for his church’s frequent protests at U.S. soldiers’ funerals.
Westboro also acknowledged the death on its Twitter account Thursday, writing, “The death of Fred Phelps, a man who preached faithfully to a dark world, is nothing but a hypocritical hope for you!”
The church also put put a statement on its blog, decrying the media response to news surrounding the fiery preacher.
“The world-wide media has been has been in a frenzy during the last few days, gleefully anticipating the death of Fred Waldron Phelps Sr.,” the release read. “It has been an unprecedented, hypocritical, vitriolic explosion of words.”
Reports have been circulating over the past week that the fiery preacher has been in hospice care after purportedly being excommunicated from Westboro last August following a dispute with church elders.
Phelps, who founded Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., in 1955, has long led church activities and rallies, so it was surprising when his estranged son, Nathan Phelps, posted on his Facebook page last weekend that his father was on his death bed and no longer a part of the church.
Representatives for Westboro refused to definitively answer whether Phelps — once a civil rights lawyer — was no longer a member, though leaders did say earlier this week that he was “a person of advanced age” who was in hospice care.
Contrary to reports surrounding the death, Jonathan Phelps, another one of his sons, told a local outlet Thursday morning that his father “is doing just fine,” though it is unclear if this was a reference to Phelps’ spiritual and not physical condition, WIBW-TV reported.
Here’s a brief recap of Phelps’ life story:
Megan Phelps-Roper, Phelps’ granddaughter who left Westboro last year, posted a series of tweets about Phelps’ demise:
This is a breaking news story. Stay tuned for updates.
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