The Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., founder of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, known for anti-gay protests and picketing military funerals, died Thursday at the age of 84.
Daughter Margie Phelps said her father died shortly after midnight. She didn't give the cause of death or the condition that recently put him in hospice care.
Church activities inspired a federal law on funeral picketing and laws in more than 40 states. But in a major free-speech ruling in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the church and its members couldn't be sued for damages.
Westboro, with most members part of Phelps' extended family, preached that deaths of U.S. military personnel were God's punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality. Church members have gone all over the country, including Omaha, to demonstrate.