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Westboro Baptist Church Founder Fred Phelps Near Death, Son Predicts Westboro's Downfall

( [email protected] ) Mar 17, 2014 11:15 AM EDT

Update March 20, 2014: The Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., whose tiny Westboro Baptist Church has protested outside the funerals of fallen soldiers and celebrities to spread its views about homosexuality and abortion, has died, according to news reports. He was 84.

Fred Phelps Sr.
(Photo : Facebook)

Westboro Baptist Church leader and founder Fred Phelps Sr. has been admitted to a hospice facility and is "on the edge of death," his estranged son said In a statement on his Facebook page.

The 84-year-old preacher and the church he founded in 1955 gained notoriety for picketing funerals, public events and businesses with hateful signs attacking gay people, Jews, Soldiers, and others. His church's actions led to several state and federal laws restricting protests during funerals.

Nathan Phelps also predicted on facebook that his father's death would lead to the overall downfall of the church and reported that his father had been excommunicated by the church he founded.

"I'm not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made," Nathan Phelps, who has been estranged from the church for over 30 years wrote.

"I feel sad for all the hurt he's caused so many," he continued. "I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I'm bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their good-byes."

Steve Drain, a Westboro spokesman, confirmed Sunday that Phelps is in ill health and being cared for at a hospice facility in Topeka.

The church first garnered national attention when they rallied near the 1998 funeral of Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming student tortured, dragged and killed in a terrible homophobic attack.

Groups like The Southern Poverty Law Center, a watchdog agency, have labeled Westboro Baptist as a hate group, and many reacted with happiness after reading Phelps' Facebook post.

Last Wednesday, a federal judge upheld a Missouri law requiring protesters to stay at least 300 feet away from funeral sites, because of actions by the church.

In 2011, Westboro Baptist Church reported that it had 40 members, according to wikipedia.