Under normal circumstances most of us would not celebrate a death and the word 'celebrate' might not be the correct word to use here... But I don't think there will be a lot of mourning for Fred Phelps who is dead at the age of 84. Phelps is best known as the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church.

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Phelps founded the Kansas church in 1955 and most would argue that this 'church' was in reality, anything but. The congregation seemed more focused on offending and spreading hate, which is completely contrary to what most of us believe a 'church' to be. Most churches focus on love, faith, understanding, forgiveness, togetherness and tolerance.

The Westboro Baptist Church was largely known for it's incredibly offensive and hate-filled protests that blamed everything, including the deaths of AIDS victims and U.S. soldiers on  America's tolerance for and acceptance of gay people. Just writing that sentence reminded of how unbelievably ignorant these people were and still are even though Phelps is gone.

Members of the church have been here in the Tri-State area over the last few years to protest at the funerals of fallen Tri-State soldiers. Fortunately,  they were never able to get close to these funerals because of groups like the Patriot Guard and others that held these wackos at bay and a safe distance from the families who were grieving over their tremendous losses.

While I am not necessarily the most religious person, I was always troubled by these people referring to themselves as a 'church' instead of what they really are.....a hate group.

Some have made the point that the gay rights movement for example, is as strong as it is today in part because of the Westboro platform.

Death is never a happy occasion and there are those who will mourn Phelps' passing, especially those who loved him and members of his family, but I also believe the rest of the world might breathe a little sigh of relief.

Where the Westboro Baptist Church goes from here is anybody's guess, but hopefully something good can come out of Phelps' death in the form of a lesson for all of us about tolerance and maybe a greater understanding of where we are as a people and how incredibly far we still have to go and how much we still have to learn about our society and each other.