Dear Mr. Phelps,
I first met you as a twelve-year old, sitting in a restaurant nearby, where you were picketing in your hometown of Topeka, KS. I never understood why your followers and yourself had so much hatred for people, when I was always taught that God loves us all. An awkward moment happened that day when I asked my Dad, “What does it mean to be gay?” Before my Dad could answer, I saw another of your signs and it depicted the act with stick figures. Now it was “your right”, but for some reason I did not understand why someone who hated gay people so much would make stick figures giving instructions for the young.
Over the years, we crossed paths a few times. Another time, my father, a friend, and I were entering a chorale concert that my stepmother was performing in. I think some of the people in the chorus were gay, so your people stood outside and yelled at us as we entered. A strange way to greet people, but nonetheless I kept my cool. My dad on the other hand, lost his. At the time, I was headed off to bible college in a few weeks with my friend Todd, but your followers saw three men walking into together and called us “practicing homosexuals.” My dad, who had seen you around Topeka for years took the lit cigarette in his mouth and flicked it into the air towards your followers. That day, I knew for sure my Dad was fed up, like most of Topeka.
So your followers have became more well known as our society has became ever more connected, this is one of the sad things about technology, it spreads whatever is presented.
I guess today, I am writing this, not because you can read this, but because I needed to get this off my chest. I don’t understand why you did all those hateful things, but I do know one thing, you ended up bringing out the best in people. I am glad to see people who are coming out to say “I am sorry for your loss,” to your followers. It is really beautiful to see the opposite of hate coming out as you have passed on. I believe that we all have one chance to make our life count and in many ways you wasted your opportunity, but in your striving to hate, ultimately love will win. Some day all of your followers will be faced with the decisions they have made, just like I will. May those decisions be exactly what they feel that a loving God would be proud of.
A Former Neighbor in Topeka