The 84-year-old founder of a Kansas church known for its anti-LGBT protests at public events died of natural causes Wednesday, March 19, CNN reports. Fred Phelps founded the Topeka–based Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in 1955. The small congregation consists mainly of people related to Phelps through blood or marriage.

Westboro preaches that the acceptance of homosexuality by the United States has brought God’s punishment. They claim that punishment has manifest itself in natural disasters and incidents such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. They claim LGBT people and allies are all subject to that punishment.

As a result, WBC has picketed more than 53,000 events, according to Westboro. Members hold signs that read “God Hates Fags” and “AIDS Cures Fags” among other similar signs. Recent events include Lady Gaga concerts and military funerals. In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Westboro’s right to picket military funerals.

Although Westboro already was known for its picketing of AIDS funerals, WBC gained widespread national notoriety for its picketing of Matthew Shepard’s funeral in 1998. Since then, Westboro has served as a flashpoint for media attention and community discussion about the role hate plays in homophobia, transphobia and AIDSphobia.

To read the CNN article, click here.

To read a 1994 POZ feature story on Westboro, click here.

To read reactions by equality groups, click here.

To read a WBC statement, click here.