The infamous Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) has accepted an invitation to protest at the upcoming atheist "Reason Rally," where one of the featured speakers will be WBC founder Fred Phelps' estranged son.
Nate Phelps, 52, a self-described atheist who left the Phelps household when he was 18, is an advocate for gay rights and support for people who have grown up in a very religious household but have left that life behind. The younger Phelps has shared of some of his experiences with the WBC, claiming that his father abused him in the name of God and uses his church as a vehicle for his rage, MSNBC reported.
Nate Phelps will be one the many prominent speakers at the upcoming Reason Rally, scheduled for Saturday, March 24 in Washington D.C. Other big-name speakers will include secular biologist Richard Dawkins, comedian Tim Minchin, Adam Savage of the Discovery Channel program "Mythbusters," and skeptic James Randi, creator of "The One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge."
"Nate Phelps brings a powerful voice and story to the rally," Reason Rally organizer David Silverman said in a press release. "He shows us all that if you can come out as an atheist in that family, it's possible anywhere."
Billed as the largest gathering of the secular movement in the nation's history, the Reason Rally is a free event on the National Mall with the intent to "unify, energize, and embolden" nonreligious Americans to gain legislative and social equality.
"The important thing to note about Westboro's protest is that they were deliberately invited to be there by the organizers of the Reason Rally," said Carson Weitnauer, director of Telos Ministries, in an interview with The Christian Post. "It is unclear to me why the organizers of the Reason Rally believe that having Westboro attend the Reason Rally will enhance the credibility of their event."
Telos is part of "True Reason," a coalition of many Christian groups like Reasons for God and the Christian Apologetics Alliance who will be holding a counter event at the rally – however, their approach will be very different from the fire and brimstone tactics WBC usually employs.
"We will not have obnoxious signs, attempt to disrupt the gathering, chant loudly, or otherwise protest. We don't think that protests are a good way to advance the cause of reason," Weitnauer explained. "Therefore, what we are doing is daring to take the atheists at their word and offer respectful, reasonable dialogue, on a person to person basis, with those who are interested."