I viewed K. Ryan Jones’ documentary, “Fall From Grace” (2007), a couple of years ago and had forgotten about it until I came upon it again last night. The 71 minute film is the product of Jones having spent an entire year with Reverend Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church family, well known for their hatred of homosexuals and their penchant for picketing at the funerals of fallen soldiers.
Listening to Fred Phelps quote the scriptures, one has to wonder where he received his religious training. His interpretations are frightening, at best. His cult-like followers (which appear to be members of the Phelps family) seem to take honest pleasure in carrying hateful signs with messages such as “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.”
It is scary to note that Fred Phelps was an attorney in the State of Kansas until he was disbarred for unethical conduct.
The filmmaker took great care to present a balanced view of the Westboro clan by including interviews with Phelps and his family, footage of their picketing moments and clips of Phelps preaching. It was counter-balanced by interviews with an opposing lawyer, a theologian, a pastor, and several other notable figures, including the wife of a fallen soldier whose funeral was picketed by the Phelps clan.
Most disturbing to me was the footage of the school-age Phelps clan. These little children clearly didn’t understand the meaning of the hateful signs they were carrying during the clan’s pickets and it appeared as if they had been brainwashed to parrot Phelps’ hateful rhetoric.
Four of Phelp’s 13 children fled the “cult” and two of them are interviewed via telephone for the film. They described Phelps as a “rageaholic” who twisted bible verses to justify his abuse.
Words simply cannot do justice to this documentary … you have to see it to experience its impact.
Updated 4/19/12: I urge you to watch the film in its entirety. The final segment is an interview with the filmmaker and shows the Phelps family as they watch the film for the first time. It’s a must see clip, so please don’t skip it.
You may purchase the DVD “Fall From Grace” here. [I do NOT receive financial compensation for your purchase].
Finally, here’s the link to a 2010 ABC News interview with the filmmaker:
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copyright 2011 Irene C. Olszewski