Theroux is the one in the jeans

The Most Hated Family in America

They call themselves the most hated family in the US and they picket funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq. So what did [British documentarian] Louis Theroux make of the Phelpses after three weeks?

In any country, let alone one as patriotic as the US, few actions are as provocative as protesting at a soldier’s funeral.

The Phelps family pickets mourners across the country, to mark what it describes as God’s revenge on the US for tolerating homosexuality.

Their actions are in the name of the Westboro Baptist Church, which numbers 71 and is headed by “Gramps”, preacher Fred Phelps. The church, which is based in Topeka, Kansas, mostly comprises his extended family.

I first saw the family through reading about them and on their website but now, having met them, the most incongruous thing about them is how they look. What I mean is, for example, many of the women are these nice-looking young ladies whose beliefs are so old-fashioned in some ways so you’d think they’re kind of like the Amish or something and wear head dresses and long skirts and dirndls. Instead, they’re all wearing shorts and T-shirts. They’re all-American girls with long hair and good teeth and looking tanned and relaxed, playing volleyball and laughing and joking around and that is, for me, a totally new kind of experience. Dealing with these people with, like, Palaeolithic beliefs but hearing them coming from fresh-faced teenagers and women who you think you’d run into at the mall.

[In his documentary he’s] exploring what is cruelty, trying to explain how something that really does very often just amount to cruelty could be perpetuated and passed down in a family. Why would nice people do such horrible things?

As if the Brits and the rest of the world need to see more about the US that makes us look bad.

  1. Professor Johnnycakes says:

    These folks have figured out what has worked for terrorists… get the media’s attention, put on a show, rinse, repeat. Does this really warrant our attention? And in what capacity? I’ll now surrender the floor to Ms. Reno…

  2. TJGeezer says:

    What the hell does Janet Reno have to do with this mess ‘o Baptists?

  3. Bruce IV says:

    Please – these are not Baptists – the official Baptist church does not recognize their church. Their actions are as hateful to the majority of Christians as they are to the rest of you. Fred Phelps is not a representative sample of Christianity.

  4. David says:

    It SHOULD go without saying these folks are crazy. But in a country of 300 million, you will have extreme folks at the edges of society. This tiny church/family just represent the near extreme end of the spectrum of religious zealots. 90% of our population are normal and happy go lucky. It’s these fringe lunatics that make the news though.

    I really honestly do feel sorry for Phelps, and especially his children. I can’t imagine going through life with such anger and constant hatred at an entire random ‘group’, similar to how the KKK feel about blacks or jewish people. I don’t know what happened to him, why he’s in so much pain, but passing this on to his children is the real tragedy. They shouldn’t have to suffer the insanity of their father.

    Still, this guy and his family don’t bother me as much as some of the ‘mega’ churches that are constantly creeping into politics. That’s a more dangerous trend than these few (fascinating) nuts.

  5. Slappy says:

    Let this be a lesson about inbreeding.

  6. John Paradox says:

    First, I remember Louis Theroux when he was on Michael Moore’s TV NATION as a correspondent… he had some of the most interesting ‘reports’ (please, no RWBT..Right Wing Bomb Throwing.. about Moore, I know…I know).

    Also, Phelps has been doing this for years, maybe decades. I recall he hit the news when he protested the Matthew Shepherd funeral (the gay who was dragged to death by some rednecks). Next, it was when he protested military deaths because – remember Robertson and Falwell about 9/11? – the USA was ‘destroying itself’ by ‘accepting’ gays.

    Yes, in every Bell Curve, there must be someone at each end.


  7. hhopper says:

    They may be a “bunch of good-looking young women,” but when they open their mouths, they are bitches from hell.

  8. Greg Allen says:

    >>They may be a “bunch of good-looking young women,” but when they open their mouths, they are bitches from hell.

    Good looking? I heard one of the daughters talking on Fox and her soulnessess creeped me out so much it never occurred to me that she was physically attractive.

    BTW, why is it that the only place I ever see these guys is on Fox.

    I wonder if the Phelps have noticed that Jesus said absolutely nothing about homosexuality but he did command us Christians to do to other as we’d have them do to us.

  9. Odyssey67 says:

    @ Greg Allen: Good post.

    If Jesus is who anyone calling themselves “Christian” thinks he is, I have no doubt there’s a nice warm place in Hell waiting for the Phelps family.

  10. Unspeakable says:

    Why can’t we just lock these crazies and move on? It’s people like this that remind me why religion in general should be outlawed.

  11. John S says:

    Everyone seems to think the Phelps are unusual. To me they are unusual in that they say out loud what they think. By the actions of many in the U.S. it is obvious that they believe things that are not popular to talk about, but perfectly acceptable to believe. I think the world may be better if all the people with these beliefs stated it out loud so that you could see how many Phelps type people there were and how far people have to go to improve society.

    John S

  12. Greg Allen says:

    The other thing not being said is the possible — even likely — homosexuality of the Phelps family.

    I have lived my whole life immersed in the Christian church culture, (most of it conservative.)

    I can witness that the people most obsessed with some particular sexual sin are far far more likely to possess those exact same demons.

    Even if your religion says a certain sexual issue is sin, people don’t tend to obsess on it unless its a issue personal to them.

    I now it is a cliche and often used by gays to have some fun taunting the homophobes but it really is true: gay bashers are very often gay, in my observation of church life.

  13. Jason says:

    [Editor: deleted for violation of guidelines]

  14. Greg Allen says:


    It’s not a hard rule, of course, but I have just seen it too many times: people are often guilty of the very thing they vehemently denounce.

    It’s not the denunciation… it’s the vehemence behind it that is the clue.

    Lots of people denounce things — it’s the ones who get all lathered up about it or make it their personal crusade.

    I, myself, was raised as a fundamentalist Christian and to believe that homosexuality was a sin.

    But, even at my most fundamentalist, I never got very worked up about gays. It was all abstract to me.

    Back then, I’m not sure I could have named even one gay person although I learned later that I did know some closeted ones.

    So, when I see someone get all crazy about gays (the Phelps are an extreme example) , I have to seriously wonder what freaky stuff they are into.

  15. George says:

    these people are a disgrace to God. I am a Christian and these people do nothing but make everything worse. I KNOW it is wrong to be gay but u dont go about things like this, things like this just turn people away. Why would you want that? Why do they protest the funerals of those who protect the freedom that God has blessed us with? Why can’t they respect God and just listen to Him instead of raving on like a bunch of idiots? Acutally why cant they show any respect at all to anyone? To the Phelps family please stop this before you disgrace myself, my nation, and MY GOD any further!

  16. matt says:

    wat kind of sick, sad, low life retarded religion is this!!!
    it’s not bad enough that you’re blastimas but it’s worse as you get children to join in on the campaign, and they don’t even know what it means!! this religion is sick, it controdicts itself in everyway possible, they prob think this is hell-earth that is, if that’s the case y don’t they KILL themselves cz there just attention seeking low lives!!

  17. ryder says:

    I seen the phelps family on the tyra banks show raving on about gay people and everyone not in gods grace, well we are all born in sin. People who hate and strive on finding the wrong things in life are really promoting everything that is wrong in the world. Our father has told us to look past this hate and look at everything that is good in the world.Hate only leads to everything else ie. greed , jeliousy ,the world as they said is comming to its end, so why be apart of this evil that sourrounds us everywhere, rejoice because our father already made his plan and everything is set in motion, look at the beauty in the world and all the good that sourrounds us. In the end it doesnt matter what matters is what you choose to say and do we are all equal in the eyes of our father for evil is more then being gay and dammed to hell. The rich get richer poor get poorer, understand that all things that are evil will always strive to be on top, while the good will look past all of these evil and be true to themselves and in the eyes of our father

  18. Michelle says:

    I am a transsexual who opposes homosexuality and transgenderism (crossdressers and any man who pretends he is a woman but does not want surgery), and I support Fred Phelps.

  19. ryder says:

    Michelleno offense but why , and how could you support such people, certainly you have no idea of what these peoples beliefs are.People like this are not and will never be in the grace of god there ideas are all wrong yes everything that is happening in our world is strange these days bout really to say god hates america and canada. Him , his family a ever upholds these idealisms have no idea of our fathers true message, and its not to hate but love all those who do hate. love this evil in the world and rejoice our father has seen this soo long ago since the begining infact, he knows whats going to happen and has his plan for the future of the ones who let him in there harts, people like the phelps family are morrealy wrong to say god hates. Our father does not hate and just because a person takes his messages and considers him a faithfull man or woman does not put them in the grace of god , but looks at how big our harts are to even those who do not like you for the devil wants us to look his way and stray away from god, he loves that but yet hates all good, these hatebreeders are mearly nothin more then devil worshippers who do not realize this, love our father for its all he asks, is to love him and love thyself, and seeing as we are all equals , love others as would yourself..

  20. Mel says:

    They just play off people’s fears, just like the government. They think people fear going to hell, so they threaten it so you will listen to their message. This is an extreme cult, brainwashed poor souls who don’t know any better. It’s very unfortunate that they live their lives that way. On that note, no one is going to get through to them. But I believe that they really know the truth, and it’s all a big production. It’s insane the things that come out of their mouth, off the wall, ridiculous, and very ignorant. The bible can be interrpreted in many ways, these demented guys happen to be way out there… way way out there!

  21. Rikki says:

    I unfortunately only had the chance to see part of the Tyra Banks episode when the Phelps family were on it. But the few minutes I was able to see, they were talking about when God punishes people, whether it be mass amounts of people at the same time (Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, etc) or whether it is one child who is sexually assaulted and murdered, that they feel absolutely no sympathy towards them because there is a reason they were killed. And according to them, that reason is that they were raised to be evil and are subjected to Hell in the first place.
    Then they went on to say that they have been threatened and nearly killed themselves. Anybody else see the irony here?
    Now, im not one to ever preach ANYTHING to ANYBODY, but if they think what they’re doing is so right by God and that they are justified in this endless judgement of others, then according to what THEY’RE preaching, God shouldn’t be “sending” people to kill them off if this is what He wants them to do.
    Like come on. If this family is SO completely disgusted and dissatisfied with how The U.S. and Canada (and I’m assuming most of the rest of the world) are justifying their lifestyles, then why not leave and go somewhere you at least have a chance of living in peace instead of detesting everything that is your country? Why make your life a living hell by putting yourself into a world that will never change to the way you see fit?
    My assumption would be that they like to be miserable. That they like to be a constant target by making themselves a threat. Probably not the safest idea a mere group of 70 people have had. Because guaranteed there are way worse people surrounding them, and when they torment someone past the point of self control, all they are doing are putting themselves in danger.

  22. stefan says:

    my god how sickening so much hate!!!! the poor kids are so brainwashed,, gramps is in need of medical care i´ve seen some sick people in my time but he outdo them all,,most of all i feel so sorry for the small children in that sick sick family ,,

  23. stefan says:

    my god how sickening so much hate!!!! the poor kids are so brainwashed,, gramps is in need of medical care i´ve seen some sick people in my time but he outdo them all,,most of all i feel so sorry for the small children in that sick sick family ,, sweden


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