This is hardly shocking, but it’s still interesting.
VANCOUVER — Soft-spoken taxi driver Nate Phelps of Cranbrook, B.C., is coming forward on Easter Sunday to speak out in a televised interview against one of America’s most outspoken anti-gay crusaders — his own father.
Phelps, who has been quietly living in B.C. with his wife and four children, is the estranged son of Pastor Fred Phelps, head of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan.
Members of the church gained notoriety in Canada in 2008 after announcing plans to picket the funeral of Tim McLean, who was beheaded on a Greyhound bus near Winnipeg by a man who is now in a psychiatric hospital.
Pastor Phelps claimed the grisly murder was divine revenge for Canada’s liberal policies on abortion, gay rights and divorce.
Nate Phelps, who broke away from his father and his beliefs in 1980, first revealed his identity to a customer in his cab in Cranbrook. The fare happened to be University of B.C. journalism student Trevor Melanson.
Melanson went on to write an award-winning feature about Nate Phelps that was published in the Ubyssey, the newspaper at the University of British Columbia, and on thetyee.ca website in 2009.
In his first in-depth television interview, he tells journalist Peter W. Klein about a childhood dominated by a fear of going to hell, and says the Westboro Baptist Church shares some of the same traits as a cult.
Phelps says his father regularly beat his mother and 11 siblings, used racial epithets and blamed the world’s problems on homosexuality.
In recent years the Kansas congregation has outraged many for conducting verbally abusive protests at the funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. Phelps claims that America’s losses are God’s punishment for increasing social acceptance of homosexuality.
On his “church” website, (godhatesfags.com) Phelps publishes a list of planned protests that he dubs “the love crusades.”
In the interview, Phelps says that his father was once a brilliant and well-respected lawyer who led several anti-segregation cases and was honoured by the NAACP as a civil rights hero.
Nate Phelps now considers himself an atheist. The interview airs on Joy TV on Sunday, April 4, at 8 p.m.