There will be no grave for Fred Phelps that people can dance "YMCA" on or a funeral to picket with "Love Not Hate" signs. The Westboro Baptist Church does not believe in members having burials or memorials. That would be ancestor worship of the dead, according to the more puritan than thou religious hate mongers - made infamous by their "God Hates Fags" banners while picketing others funerals.
Some have called for restraint in responding to his death, to take the moral high ground. Maybe we are expected to commiserate with those that said "No Tears For Queers" on the lose of a family member. A father who had a barbers strap which he used to tear the flesh off his children. He then upgraded to a mattock (think pickaxe) handle; on using he would finally finish off the attack with his fists. With such an account you can understand why Nate (who suffered the majority of the abuse according to his brother Mark) watched the clock strike midnight so on his 18th birthday he could leap into his car and get away from the hell that was Fred Phelps.
Fred Phelps believed he would not die, just as he believed there was a special place in hell for homosexuals. Dawkins once asked Nate why his father was not in custody, locked up behind bars. Nate talking about Dawkins' reasoning:
"He wanted to know why my old man wasn't in jail," Nate says. "From his perspective, what I'd been through was unacceptable. As bright as he [Dawkins] is, I don't think he understood the power of religion here in America; that the law turns a blind eye to a lot of this really insane stuff. [Source]
You have to try and understand the indoctrination that children go through is seen as religious instruction by others. Who disallow intervention in family life, setting a higher bar for intervention than warped thoughts about salvation, extreme views and physical chastisement. Suggesting indoctrination is child abuse gets mistaken as advocating not raising a child in the faith/s of their parents. Religious indoctrination went hand in glove with the abuse netted out by Fred Phelps. A man not to spare the rode or the message that the Christian God had for gays.
In the USA 33% of people think society should not accept homosexuality [Pew]. With such a 2:1 divide in favour of doing so, there is a constituency for anti-gay laws masquerading as religious freedom. This was witnessed in Kansas and Arizona recently. Phelps was on the fringes of expressing anti-gay views, but the attempted legislation of anti-gay prejudice should worry us. Popular opinion is moving the right way but there is still far to go. In America there are the haters and then beyond them there is the Westboro Baptist Church.
The Church gained world wide infamy when they picketed their first funeral - that of Matthew Shepard. Bound to a fence, brutally pistol whipped and left to die, Matthew's body was found 18 hours later. Tension over the picketing and anti-gay feeling aroused by the case ran so high following the 21 year old's murder that his father wore a bullet proof vest at the service. Denied dignity when dying Matthew was then denied dignity in death by Phelps. All because Matthew was the victim of a gay hate crime.
Will anything change with Phelp's death? The church has an answer for that:
Nothing. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ does not rise or fall with any man - in fact, the Lord doesn't need ANY of us. This is still a nation and world awash in sin. We will still warn you of this condition, out of our love and fear of the Lord, and out of our love for our neighbors. Here is the message of Westboro Baptist Church: God still hates fags, God still hates fag enablers and any nation that embraces that sin as an 'innocent' lifestyle can expect to incur the wrath of God. Repent or Perish. "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." - Ps. 9:17 [Source]
I wish Fred Phelps a swift death, and that those family members that fled the congregation (and are barred from seeing him) can make sense of their own feelings without others trying to psychoanalyze them or tell them what to think.
One less abuser and hater in the world is not something I am sorry to hear. My sorrow in the life and death of Fred Phelps is reserved for the victims of his abuse who never got closure, never saw justice, and have to overcome religious indoctrination. Because those scares can last a lifetime.