Fred Phelps was a civil rights activist?!

I was watching “Fall from Grace”, one of the documentaries on Fred Phelps and his band of crazies, and went to Wikipedia to check how old he is. There I found out that at one point in his life, Mr. Phelps was actually a civil rights activist.

According to Wiki:

Essentially, he fought on behalf of black people and women who felt they were being discriminated against, and even sued the president to ensure the separation of church and state. I know Fred Phelps’ actions are not those of a rational man, but I don’t understand how he could fight for civil liberties of certain groups, then turn around and harass the hell out of another group. Does this make sense to anyone else?

As I understand it:

  1. There was good money in it.
  2. This was before he went full-bore crazy.

And from my understanding (expanding on Maggie’s point), from an interview I heard with one of the sons who escaped (Nate?) - Fred did it because few to no other lawyers would defend them. He was racist, but saw this was an amazing opportunity.

And most of his lawsuits were frivolous ones, from what I remember.

They were straight blacks?

He didn’t give a shit about black people. He just saw an opportunity to make money and took it.
The whole thing is explained in “Addicted To Hate”:

Basically, everything the guy does is centered around abusing and terrorizing his family. Even the anti–gay stuff is really just meant to be a way of alienating his abused children from the rest of society by making normal people hate them more than it is about trying to accomplish any sort of social agenda. His family is basically a family being held captive by an unbelievably nasty abuser.

Already been covered, but I’ll cover it again. Phelps was not an activist, he was a civil rights lawyer, and rumor has it that not all of his clients were represented in good faith, and possibly not with their consent.

For that matter he managed to get a few thousand votes in a primary. That’s what really scares me.

I just spent some hours reading the whole thing. Very interesting, not so much about Phelps, but about severely abused children and their perceptions and behavior.

As always the answer can be found in the words of Rustlers’ Rhapsody:

Rex O’Herlihan: You’re not a good guy at all!
Bob Barber: I’m a lawyer, you idiot!

I see this everyday with religious people. They aren’t working on logic, they are driven by what they think their god wants.

It’s too bad that when they were growing up society didn’t pay attention to wife beating and child abuse as much as we do now. If his wife had been able to find another place to stay the time that she tried to run away with all the kids, we wouldn’t see the whole family involved in this craziness.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned out to be a closet atheist. The whole family is filled with lawyers. The whole anti-gay thing is a trolling move to enrage people to attack members of their group and violate their Civil Rights. The quickly file suit and win big money from it. The Phelps family is anything but dumb. It is a weird combination of a weird psychological experiment and a money-making stunt.

I’ll take Infamous Civil Rights Activists for 1000, Alex.

It’s because people don’t divide neatly into good and bad. People who have some abhorrent ideas can still do good things. People can change over time, for better or for worse. George Wallace renounced his segregationist ideas later in life. There’s no reason people can’t renounce good ideas, too.

It would sure make life easier if people did divide neatly into good and bad people, but there’s no evidence that they do, and plenty that they don’t.

Part of what Phelps is doing has nothing to do with religion. The group’s goal is to incite people to take action against them, and maybe even attack them. They then go down to the nearest courthouse and file suit.

Some people I know were protesting Phelps by offering them cookies (to show that they didn’t bother them). One tapped one of Phelps person on the shoulder and she whirled around, shouting she was being attacked (though she didn’t pursue it when she saw that it wasn’t an attack).

The reason why they can do things like that is because the don’t really believe a word their saying; they’re only protesting to incite a reaction that they can sue someone for.

That was in 1992, before he was as well known as a hate-monger. Many of his votes came from the western part of the state. He was running as a Democratic candidate in the primary before the general US Senate race. He got about 2% of the vote. The winning candidate was Gloria O’Dell. She lost out in the general election to Bob Dole, but did get about 31% of the vote to his 62%. That was Dole’s last run for the Senate, in 1996 he had a go at the Presidency and, thank God above, did not win.

When I read this part I wondered if there really wasn’t any place to go at the time for a woman fleeing a violent abuser with her kids. Does someone know?

ETA : “at the time” would be around 1970, IIRC.

I opened this thread hoping for a eulogy comment. Oh well.

No such luck. When the time comes I’m hoping to be the first to post about it, since Phred and I live in the same city. I could hear about it and be first to trumpet the news, before it gets to the wire services.