Son of a bigot


His dad founded the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. Nate Phelps is dedicated to reversing that legacy of hate

As the pastor of the much-reviled Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps has become synonymous with hatred. The pastor and his family make it a point to carry signs at the funerals saying, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” They show up to media-friendly events with signs that read, “God Hates Fags.”

Nate Phelps is the sixth of Fred’s 13 children, and he has the scars to show for it. He describes his father as verbally and physically abusive. When he was 18, Nate ran away from home and from the fundamentalist Calvinist religion in which he was raised.

Now in his 50s, Nate finds himself publicly squaring off with his father and siblings to reverse their legacy of intolerance. He lives in Calgary, where he has become a public speaker who champions LGBT rights and raises awareness about the connection between extreme religion and child abuse. He is currently writing a book about his life and is the subject of an upcoming documentary.

What was your childhood like?

It was a very strict environment. We were isolated from the community, not so much physically, as ideologically. We heard from the time we were very young that we were to be separated from the world, and we were unique. We were God’s chosen ones. On one hand we had this sense that we were better than everybody else, and on the other hand we had this clear awareness that we were different from everyone else. That cut both ways. And then all of that ideology was supported and promoted with violence and psychological — I don’t know if you want to call it abuse, but you know those lessons we learned in that religious environment were such that we were constantly anxious and frightened for whether or not we were going to upset God.

Written By: Dick Gordon
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  1. What ever way you consider it, one thing is for certain, it cannot be an easy life for this man!

  2. Nate Phelps is a brave man with a remarkable tale to tell. I can understand why his brothers and sisters might not have the courage to escape as he did. What I can’t understand is how they can positively support their odious father as they do. I’m surprised that Nate’s testimony alone is not enough to put Fred Phelps behind bars for child abuse. Does he get away with it because he calls himself Reverend?

  3. These crazy right wingers like Fred Phelps can be useful to the gay lib cause. Back in the early 70s there was a Social Credit cabinet minister named Bert Price. He made two famous comments to me in public that helped make the right look ridiculous.  They were widely reported.
    “Someday we are going to castrate you all to keep you from reproducing your kind”.
    After being told to cool it by his handlers he said:
    “Homosexuality is ok so long as you keep it in the family.”

    Another cabinet minister, George Mussallem got up in the legislature to complain that I was leading homosexual orgies in the province’s high schools. The idea was so ridiculous he sounded as if he had lost his mind.

    Phelps helps make the case homophobia is really about hatred, not holiness. 

  4. Mission Impossible ?!  (“QUIET ON THE SET”. . “LIGHTS” . . “CAMERA” . . “ACTION”. .   
    “Good morning Mr.Phelps. Your mission Nate, should you decide to accept it, is to destroy – SCIENTOLOGY.”
    “As always, should you or any of your I.M. Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self-destruct in 5 seconds.” . . . “Good luck, Nate.” 😉 

  5. I have relatives brought up as Jehovah’s Witnesses who went through a lot of pain before they eventually managed to leave it behind. One of them has never managed it. The level of indoctrination that Nate Phelps had to endure is even worse. It’s amazing that he he had the mental fortitude to shake it off at that young age. I admire his strength of character and his support of good causes and true morality.

  6. No Richard he get’s away with it because his family is terrified of him. As for the “positive” support see above.

  7. One of these days I hope to run into Nate on the street to shake his hand and invite him for a coffee! He deserves all our support for standing up to his bigoted progenitor. jcw

  8. Having a father like his who is a figure of universal contempt and disgust was obviously difficult for him in his early life until he arrived at that obvious conclusion.
    Fred Phelps is almost at the extreme Islamic level of idiotic bigotry.

  9. It’s weird how most of Phelps’ children keep supporting him even though rational thought should make all of them leave. Well of course rational thought has been banned from their brains. But also the risk of losing everybody you love, which is what they are threatened with, keeps them hostage. The sad thing is that if they would all just dump their dictatorial father, they would all be able to stick together.

    Unfortunately everybody probably believes that everybody else believes that this is impossible, like Steven Pinker explained so clearly just a few weeks ago.


  10. I suspect that Phelps senior might be a closet gay, projecting his self loathing onto others; the cause of his hang ups being religious belief. 

    There’s got to be some reason for his hateful stupidity, and religion is as likely a candidate as any; and it wouldn’t be for the first either.

    Further, hypocrisy is not unheard of among religionists.

  11. Remember what Christopher Hitchens said about putting Reverend after your name. 

  12. Talk about the apple falling far from the tree. This one must have been made of flubber. I love this guy, and I’m starting to feel sympathy for his siblings who were unable to escape Phelps snr’s sadistic grip. Like Stafford, I used to think the old bastard was a closet case, but now I think he’s just a psychopath, and gays are a convenient outlet for his bottomless reserves of hatred. If he’d been born a few decades earlier, it would have been slaves who were the target of his rage.

    I hope we hear a lot more about, and hopefully from, Nate on this site.

  13. Fred Phelps Sr. is the old buzzard who leads all the protests. Fred Phelps Jr. is the guy who keeps running for Democratic office.  I don’t know anything else about him. Michael Phelps is the human frog.

  14. I suspect that Phelps senior might be a closet gay, projecting his self loathing onto others; the cause of his hang ups being religious belief.


    It was certainly true of myself in my teens. It was partly camouflage, partly my contempt for anyone who was failing to put up as big as fight as I was against these wicked urges.

    St. Paul held what is termed the “prairie fire” view of homosexuality, that it was so much more pleasurable than heterosexual activity, so that once anyone got a taste they would never go back, and homosexuality would spread like a prairie fire leaving women abandoned.  That is not the view of a heterosexual man even one who accepted a blow job from a fellow male in frustration.

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