The original version of this post was a link to an article called “The Scam of the Decade.” The author argues that the real goal of the Westboro Baptist Church — the infamous “God Hates Fags” people — is to get people to attack them so they can file frivelous lawsuits. It made sense. Fred Phelps and nine of his children are lawyers. And how else could they afford the $250,000 a year they told the The Guardian they spend on traveling to funerals across the country? And how could they possibly take themselves seriously? I mean, just look at this video:
But the scam theory doesn’t hold up. In an article for Stanford Review blog, Jordan Carr looks at their history, and found that between the cost of filing those frivelous suits, and the costs of getting sued and/or arrested, they probably aren’t making very much. (Thanks to Patrick for pointing this out in the comments.)
So where do they get their money? It appears that they’re working straight jobs. Three of Phelps work for the state of Kansas as of 2006, according to the Religion News Blog. Fred Phelps Jr. is a staff lawyer for the Kansas Department of Corrections, Margie Phelps is the is director of re-entry for the Kansas Department of Corrections and Abigail Phelps is a counsilor for the Juvenile Justice Authority.
According to Kansas Open Gov, Fred’s salary in 2012 was $62,060.44, Margie’s was $67,398.40 and Abiggail’s was $38,560.58. Not quite enough to cover $250,000, but there’s still several other family members out there.
Because I kept seeing people link to this post as evidence that the church is a scam, even after I updated the post and even changed the headline, I decided to completely re-write it. It is possible that it’s a scam. Carr admits there could be a number of small, local suits that the Church is winning across the country. But it seems unlikely.