Fred Phelps, the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Topeka, Kansas, is infamous for the hateful slogans (especially the one he uses as his Internet domain name†) that he hurls at the LGBT community, American service members, Americans in general, Swedes, and, well, pretty much everybody except the members of his own church, who are mostly also members of his extended family. It would be easy to write off Phelps and his relatives (those who didn't flee the family compound at the earliest possible opportunity) as fundamentalist nut jobs. That's what I've always done, but now I've heard it suggested that Phelps merely finds hate to be a lucrative business.
In addition to the hundreds of pickets that the WBCers stage every year (at funerals, at churches, at schools, at businesses, at community events...any gathering is fair game, apparently), the group files lawsuits left and right. Phelps is a disbarred attorney (a former civil rights lawyer, if you can believe that), and most of his (grown) children are also attorneys, many of whom work for the family's own law firm. With his ability to antagonize just about anybody with a pulse, often pushing people over the edge, is Phelps just drumming up business for the family business?
Maybe it is just a money-making racket. They must need thousands of dollars a month for travel expenses alone. I can't imagine, though, what kind of salary would induce a parent to allow their preschool-aged child to join a picket line carrying a sign that reads "GOD HATES THE U.S.A." If I believed in any gods myself, I'd ask their mercy for those poor kids. But not for the parents.
H/T to PZ for the link to Cory Doctorow's post which provided the link to the blogger who quoted a comment on a 2006 Fark.com post about Fred Phelps. Whew!
† I'm usually diligent about providing links to web sites that I mention in blog posts. Not this time. If you want to visit Phelps' web site, look up the address yourself. Better yet, don't. WBC may be using their web site to harvest Internet addresses with the intent of suing anyone who tries to damage or impede access to the site.