Civil Liberties

What Ever Happened to Atticus Finch?


The secret origins of Fred Phelps:

He is the leader of "America's most hated family," a gaunt, craggy-faced preacher who displays "God Hates Fags" signs at the funerals of American troops, gay men and AIDS victims.

For at least 12 years, the Rev. Fred Phelps has led his Topeka, Kansas, church on a cross-country crusade against gays and lesbians. That crusade ignited a legal battle that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

But there is another Phelps that few know. He was a "brilliant" civil rights attorney in the 1960s who would take on racial discrimination cases that no other lawyers would touch, say longtime African-American civic leaders in Topeka.

He fought for the rights of blacks, they say, with the same passion he now reserves for the condemnation of gays.

I suppose you have to do something before you devote your life to harassing funeralgoers. And it's not as though the '60s civil rights movement was overflowing with sympathy for gay lib, which wasn't exactly a popular cause in those days. It's still a remarkable career change.