Westboro Founder's Son to Speak—as Westboro Protests
Other Phelps kin will protest at 'Reason Rally'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2012 12:03 AM CDT
'God Hates Nate' signs may appear on the National Mall next Saturday.   (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

(Newser) – The Westboro Baptist Church consists mainly of founder Fred Phelps' extended family, and they will be facing off against one of their own at an atheist rally in Washington, DC, next weekend. Fred's estranged son, Nate Phelps, a gay rights advocate and anti-child abuse activist, will be joining speakers including Richard Dawkins at the Reason Rally on the National Mall next weekend, MSNBC reports. Nate "brings a powerful voice and story to the rally," says rally organizer David Silverman, president of American Atheists. "He shows us all that if you can come out as an atheist in that family, it's possible anywhere."

Nate, 54, says he left his father's home on his 18th birthday after years of abuse, and describes the church as an organization for Fred to "vent his rage." Westboro spokeswoman Margie Phelps—Nate's sister and one of the nine of Phelps' 13 children who are still church members—says the church will picket the "parade of fools." Other churches are planning a low-key counter-protest to the atheist rally. A spokesman for the opposing "True Reason" demonstration accuses the atheist organizers of trying to caricature all believers as being like the Westboro extremists.