(Photo: YouTube screengrab)
As many weigh in on the death of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, one of the controversial leader's children has stated that he will mourn for the loss.
Nate Phelps, one of Fred Phelps' 13 children, posted a public statement Thursday in response to the news of his father's death.
Since leaving the Westboro Baptist cult several years ago, Nate Phelps has been a strong proponent of atheism and an LGBT advocate.
In the statement, posted on the website Recovering From Religion, Nate Phelps said that he "will mourn his (father's) passing."
"I will mourn his passing, not for the man he was, but for the man he could have been," said Phelps, who remarked that his father "is now the past."
"I deeply mourn the grief and pain felt by my family members denied their right to visit him in his final days. They deserved the right to finally have closure to decades of rejection, and that was stolen from them."
Via the RFR post, Nate Phelps also equated the controversial rhetoric of his father with pastors who are opposed same-sex marriage and do not condone homosexuality.
"The lessons of my father were not unique to him, nor will this be the last we hear of his words, which are echoed from pulpits as close as other churches in Topeka, Kansas, where WBC headquarters remain, and as far away as Uganda," said Phelps.
On Thursday, 84-year-old Fred Phelps died while in hospice care in Kansas. He founded Westboro Baptist Church back in 1955. The congregation is unaffiliated with any Baptist denomination.
Through Westboro, Phelps protested events like military funerals, LGBT events, the Super Bowl, and constantly advanced a message blaming various ills in the United States on homosexual behavior.
Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center described Phelps as "a man who drew almost universal contempt from the far right to the far left."
"Even as the news of Phelps' reported death spread, various LGBT groups and their supporters shunned the idea of disrupting any funeral for the man who had done them such harm over the decades, often at funerals," wrote Potok.
"Despite the church's record, they seemed to agree that it was only right to allow Phelps' family to bury their longtime patriarch in peace."
Ed Stetzer, author, pastor and president of LifeWay Research, wrote a blog about how Christians should respond to the news.
Stetzer argued that three ways should be pursued in this matter, namely Christians should "grieve for the deceived," "take the moment to … share God's love," and finally, "don't hate the Phelps family."
"The Phelps family, and the Westboro clan they started, are full of people that need Jesus. Let's not get Pharisaical here, the Phelps family and the people they lead in worship of a false god are sinners, but so are we," wrote Stetzer.
"The people who spew the hateful words of Phelps's hateful god need the love of Jesus just like you and me. Pray for them to find peace in Jesus and love as he has loved."
"Today, Fred Phelps discovered that God is love. Sadly, he did not know that in his life, making his death that much more tragic," added Stetzer.