The Westboro Baptist Church originated as a branch of the East Side Baptist Church in Topeka, established in 1931.

In 1954, East Side hired Phelps as an associate pastor, and then promoted him to be the pastor of their new church, Westboro Baptist, which opened in 1955.

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Jael Phelps explained to Louis Theroux in her America’s Most Hated Family in Crisis interview that she and the other members of the WBC picketed at the funeral of a Muslim man’s wife simply because the man had witnessed and scolded them for intentionally burning a copy of the Quran in public a week earlier.

On October 5, 2011, Fred Phelps’ daughter, Margie, announced via her Twitter account that the church would be picketing Apple Inc. CBS News and The Washington Post noted the irony in the fact that Margie used an i Phone to create the tweet.

On January 25, 2004, Phelps picketed five churches (three Catholic and two Episcopalian) and the Federal Courthouse for what he said was their part in legitimizing same-sex marriages in Iowa.

A community response was to hold counter-protests and a multifaith service in the municipal auditorium.

The arrest resulted from her allowing her eight-year-old son to step on the American flag during the demonstration, which is illegal under Nebraska law.

The defense contends that the child’s actions were protected speech, and that the state law is unconstitutional.

Soon after Westboro was established, Phelps broke all ties with East Side Baptist.

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Phelps explained in 1994 that he considered the negative reaction to the picketing to be proof of his righteousness. The group carries out daily picketing in Topeka and travels nationally to picket the funerals of gay victims of murder, gay-bashing or people who have died from complications relating to AIDS; other events related or peripherally related to homosexuality; Kansas City Chiefs football games; and live pop concerts.