Fundamentalist Preacher… Anti-Gay Bigot… Civil Rights Lawyer?

Proof the racism in this country – will even drive white folks crazy…

‘Most-hated,’ anti-gay preacher once fought for civil rights

He is the leader of “America’s most hated family,” a gaunt, craggy-faced preacher who displays “God Hates Fags” signs at the funerals of American troops, gay men and AIDS victims.

For at least 12 years, the Rev. Fred Phelps has led his Topeka, Kansas, church on a cross-country crusade against gays and lesbians. That crusade ignited a legal battle that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

But there is another Phelps that few know. He was a “brilliant” civil rights attorney in the 1960s who would take on racial discrimination cases that no other lawyers would touch, say longtime African-American civic leaders in Topeka.

He fought for the rights of blacks, they say, with the same passion he now reserves for the condemnation of gays.

“I don’t know him anymore,” says Joe Douglas Jr., an African-American activist in Topeka who became the city’s first minority fire department chief.

“I see him out there, and I hear the venom that comes out of his mouth. If you had asked me in the ’60s if he would do this, I would have said never.”

The Rev. Ben Scott, president of the NAACP’s Topeka branch, says he never heard Phelps talk about homosexuals during his work as a civil rights attorney.

“I didn’t even know he was a preacher,” Scott says.

Phelps declined to talk with CNN about his civil rights work or his ministry. But his daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, says there is no contradiction between her father’s civil rights work and his ministry. That’s because there’s a distinct difference between gay people and black people, she says.

“You’re born black. It’s something you can’t change even if you’re Michael Jackson,” she says. “God never said it was an abomination to be black.”…

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