Of recently deceased Westboro Baptist founder Fred Phelps’ 13 children, four have have walked away from the “church.” His deeply estranged son Nathan, 55, is now an atheist and an outspoken gay rights activist. Nevertheless, the statement he has released about his father is notable for its measured grace. While noting that “Fred’s ideas have not died with him, but live on,” he also says that he mourns his late father “not for the man he was, but for the man he could have been.”

I ask this of everyone: Let his death mean something. Let every mention of his name and of his church be a constant reminder of the tremendous good we are all capable of doing in our communities …My father was a man of action and I implore us all to embrace that small portion of his faulty legacy by doing the same.

For their part, Westboro itself has responded to press inquiries with their characteristic charm: “God forbid if every little soul at the Westboro Baptist Church were to die at this instant, or to turn from serving the true and living God, it would not change one thing about the judgments of God that await this deeply corrupted nation and world” …

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