TOPEKA, Kan., May 23 (UPI) -- Zacharias Phelps-Roper said in a Facebook post that his grandfather, Fred Phelps, was excommunicated from the Westboro Baptist Church before he died because he allegedly expressed his support for a group promoting LGBT equality.
The post was written on the Equality House Facebook page and the administrator of the page confirmed it was legitimate. Equality House is a non-profit organization supporting equality for the LGBT community, anti-suicide, and anti-bullying programs. They are located in a rainbow painted building right across the street from the church in Topeka, Kansas.
"Fred W. Phelps, my grandfather, came out in support of the Equality House before he was voted out of WBC.
Specifically, on the day that he was excommunicated, he stood outside of the front door of the church (but not within anyone's earshot but a few members of WBC who happened to be in the immediate vicinity)... I say, he spoke words to this effect to the Equality House: 'You are good people.'
I feel like he had a change of heart after my grandmother nearly passed away, and he felt the pangs of loss ... he waited for news of her every day and night while she was in intensive care. I think this triggered a chain reaction whereby he developed great empathy for others... which would explain why he would support Planting Peace's anti-suicide and anti-bullying platforms, and their charities across the world... I love my grandfather! And I believe people DO change, if they are inspired enough!"
Phelps-Roper left the church in February and said his grandfather never said anything to him directly, but that he did believe that he had a change of heart while in hospice.
"I think that he got over that [homophobia]," he told HuffPost Live. "I don't think he hated homosexuals by that point. Planting Peace, you know, the fact that it's a rainbow house kind of implies that maybe there is a homosexual connection there. So, yeah, I figured that he was supporting them, too. The day that he was excommunicated my family took great notice of that and they called it rank blasphemy that he was coming out in support of the homosexuals."
Phelps-Roper's father, Nathan Phelps, who left the church in 1980, said in a comment on the post that he had not heard of this incident but hopes it to be true.
"I have heard some remarkable testimony from my niece about his kindness to her near the end," wrote Nathan, "It's hard to know what to believe. Let's hope it's true and the man eventually saw the error of his ways and that the rest of his rapidly decreasing number of followers will soon follow his lead."
Many of the comments on the Facebook post are ones of doubt, with people saying they do not believe that the infamous church leader changed. Some said, even if it is true, it is not enough to forgive his past.
Fred Phelps died at the age of 84 in March.