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Founder of anti-gay church in care facility

Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. - The Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., who founded a Kansas church widely known for its protests at military funerals and anti-gay sentiments, is in a care facility, according to a church spokesman.

Phelps, 84, is being cared for in a Shawnee County facility, Westboro Baptist Church spokesman Steve Drain said Sunday. Drain wouldn't identify the facility.

"I can tell you that Fred Phelps is having some health problems," Drain said. "He's an old man, and old people get health problems."

Members of the Westboro church, based in Topeka, frequently protest at funerals of soldiers with signs containing messages such as "Thank God for dead soldiers," and "Thank God for 9/11," claiming the deaths are God's punishment for American immorality and tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil-rights nonprofit group, has called Westboro Baptist Church a hate group.

Nate Phelps, an estranged son of Fred Phelps, also said in an email to The Topeka Capital-Journal that members of Westboro have voted Fred Phelps out of the church.

Drain declined comment Sunday on whether Fred Phelps had been voted out of the church. Drain said Westboro Baptist Church doesn't have a designated leader.

"We don't discuss our internal church dealings with anybody," Drain said.

A Kansas gay rights group on Sunday urged the gay community to respect the privacy of the "notoriously anti-LGBT" pastor if his health is declining.

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