FILE - In a March 19, 2006 file photo, Pastor Fred Phelps preaches at his Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. Albert Snyder of York, Pa., the father of a Marine killed in Iraq, is asking the Supreme Court to reinstate a $5 million verdict against members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., led by the Rev. Fred Phelps, who picketed his son's funeral with signs like "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "God Hates the USA." The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010 in the dispute between Snyder and members of the Westboro Baptist Church. The case pits Snyder's right to grieve privately against the church members' right to say what they want, no matter how offensive. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- The Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., who founded a Kansas church that's widely known for its protests at military funerals and anti-gay sentiments, is in a care facility, according to a church spokesman.
Phelps is being cared for in a Shawnee County facility, Westboro Baptist Church spokesman Steve Drain said Sunday. Drain wouldn't identify the facility.
"I can tell you that Fred Phelps is having some health problems," Drain said. "He's an old man and old people get health problems." He said Phelps is 84.
Members of the Westboro church, based in Topeka, frequently protest at funerals of soldiers with signs containing messages like "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "Thank God for 9/11," claiming the deaths are God's punishment for American immorality and tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.
Westboro Baptist, a small group made mostly of Phelps' extended family, inspired a federal law and laws in numerous states limiting picketing at funerals. But in a major free-speech ruling in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the church and its members couldn't be sued for monetary damages for inflicting pain on grieving families under the First Amendment.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil-rights nonprofit group, has called Westboro Baptist Church a hate group.
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