Fred Phelps, the anti-gay founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, has died at the age of 84, according to two of his children.
His son, Timothy Phelps, confirmed to Kansas’ WIBW that Fred Phelps died “before midnight” on Wednesday. His daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, also confirmed news of the death to the Topeka Capital-Journal.
However, at least one family member seemed to dispute the reports of his siblings, as attorney Jonathan Phelps told WIBW: “Pastor Phelps is doing just fine.” The network notes this could be a spiritual reference.
A spokesperson for the Westboro Baptist Church was not immediately available for comment.
Nate Phelps, one of Fred Phelps’ estranged children, wrote a Facebook post on Saturday, March 15, revealing his father was “on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas.”
He also revealed Fred Phelps had been excommunicated from the church in August 2013. The Topeka Capital-Journal later reported the excommunication occurred after he called for kinder treatment of fellow church members.
The Westboro Baptist Church was established in 1955 by Phelps. Over the years, the Topeka-based group has become infamous for their vehement anti-gay rhetoric and picketing of funerals. In 2011, NPR reported the church only had about 100 members, almost all of whom were from Phelps’ family.
“Westboro Baptist Church is an organization that essentially has no friends whatsoever on the far right, the far left or anyplace in between,” Mark Potok at the Southern Poverty Law Center told NPR of the group’s extreme message.