It’s possible you’ve heard by now the news of Fred Phelps alleged late-in-life conversion to LGBT equality. Actually, that might be overstating things. Zacharias Phelps-Roper, grandson of Phelps and former member of the Westboro Baptist Church, published a statement via the Equality House Facebook page that stated that his grandfather had a change of heart just prior to his excommunication from the church.
I have conflicted feelings about this. (Assuming it’s true. All we really have at this point is the word of Zacharias Phelps-Roper.) One the one hand, I don’t want to be too chipper about this. Phelps spent his life building a hateful organization that has done a lot of emotional damage to LGBT people. Absolutely nothing should eclipse that.
On the other hand, I can’t help but look at this as something of a moral victory for LGBT rights activists. As someone who spent a lot of energy during her college, grad school, and post-school years on activism, I know how demoralizing it can be. It’s really easy to lose all your energy. In my experience, even at our most successful, my activist groups were only successful at the margins. Working so hard for such small gains is hard to take over the long term.
But if this is true – if Fred Phelps came around in the end – that’s one of those victories that all LGBT activists can take part in. No matter how small you think your activism is, it potentially contributed to changing the mind of the most notorious hater in the country. That kind of things gives me hope.
I realize that it’s possible for me to feel this way because I was never the target of Phelps’ hate. Please feel free to tell me how wrong I am.
What do you think? Is it possible to acknowledge a too late change of heart without whitewashing a legacy of hate? Do you even buy this Phelps family development? Does this change how you view Phelps and the WBC?
Featured image credit: John Lemieux via Flickr