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Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, has died

The controversial church leader died at the age of 84.

Fred Phelps
Fred Phelps
Image: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

FRED PHELPS, THE founder of the controversial American church group which became notorious for protesting at military funerals and high-profile events, has died at the age of 84.

Phelps was the head of the Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas church made up mainly of his large extended family. He had been ill for some time before his death on Wednesday night, his son told Kansas First News.

The Westboro Baptist Church had been described as “arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America,” by the Southern Poverty Law Centre in the United States which tracks hate groups.

He and the church had become known for holding signs saying “God Hates Fags” and “You’re Going To Hell” at the funerals of US soldiers, saying that he was protesting the military’s tolerance of homosexuality.

The church had a strongly conservative message of anti-homosexuality and had picketed many high profile events across the US in recent years.

The church won a legal victory three years ago when the US Supreme Court ruled that it could not be sued for inflicting pain on grieving families. The church had argued that it was expressing its right to free speech.

(Video: BBC Explore/YouTube)

Video: Russell Brand takes on the Westboro Baptist Church >

Read: Westboro Baptist protest destroyed… by Ke$ha’s backing dancers >

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