With the recent announcement that Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps is in hospice care, some are wondering about the fate of the notorious hate group he created.
Estranged family members are among those who have weighed in on the future of the Topeka, Kan.-based church that is unaffiliated with any Baptist denomination.
Nathan Phelps recently told the Topeka Capital-Journal that he believes Westboro Baptist will survive the loss of its founder.
"It's impossible to know, but I don't think it's going to disappear," said Phelps to the Capital-Journal.
"Originally, my thought was he's the engine that powers it, it's his drive that keeps the message and the effort alive. So I said early on it can't continue to exist," he commented.
But after reflecting on previous "encounters" with his younger brother, Tim Phelps, 50, and Steve Drain, who joined the church as its spokesman, Phelps added, "The rhetoric and the intensity is there in several of them that matches my father or is close to it, I don't necessarily believe it will die off."
Last weekend Phelps posted remarks on Facebook in which he announced that his father "is now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas."
"I feel sad for all the hurt he's caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved," said Phelps in the post.
"And I'm bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their goodbyes."
Phelps also wrote on Facebook that he recently learned that his father had been excommunicated by Westboro Baptist last August.
"Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made," wrote Phelps, who had severed ties with Westboro Baptist years ago.
According to their website, Westboro Baptist Church has declared that the death of their founder will change "nothing" about their organization.
"The church of the Lord Jesus Christ does not rise or fall with any man. In fact, the Lord doesn't need ANY of us," stated Westboro.
"This is still a nation and world awash in sin. We will still warn you of this condition, out of our love and fear of the Lord, and out of our love for our neighbors."