More than just a bunch of wackos. Fred Phelps was a friend of Al Gore. He even hosted a fund raiser for Gore during his 1988 run for the presidency. It's like Bill Ayers holding Obama's first fundraiser ever at his house.
Phelps, a long time Democrat and supporter of civil rights for blacks (presumably only straight blacks or perhaps just because he saw a gold mine and lots of $$ in that type of litigation at the time), did support Al Gore but that was back when TN Senator Gore had opposed a "gay bill of rights" and stated that homosexuality was not something that "society should affirm"), a position that he (Gore) had changed by 2000 when he had the support of homosexual advocacy groups for his presidential campaign. Phelps has stated that he supported Gore because of these earlier comments.
But the entire Westboro congregation picketed a 1997 inaugural ball denouncing Vice President Al Gore as a "famous fag pimp. In 1998, Westboro picketed the funeral of Gore's father, screaming vulgarities at Gore and telling him, "your dad's in Hell".
The Westboro cult first came into the national spotlight in 1998, when it was featured on CNN for picketing the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a young man from Laramie, Wyoming who was beaten to death by two men allegedly because of his homosexuality and protested performances of the Laramie Project play around the country. They later extended their protests to military funerals the Thank God for Dead Soldiers and protests of celebrity funerals, protests of the victims of natural disasters, tornados, etc., protests of the funerals of accident victims, protests of things like the Swedish embassy and protests in front of numerous Christian churches.
The Westboro clan is IMO a cult obsessed with only one issue and one issue alone and they are complete wackos and attention whores and hope to spear violence against them so they can file civil lawsuits in order to make money to further fund their activities.
While they used to actually show up in mass to protest at military funerals and other funerals or anything and everything that they could in their own twisted mind vaguely attribute to homosexuality even if it had nothing to do with homosexuality at all or any of their other peeves like Catholicism, Judaism, rock concerts, plays, churches, basically against anyone that they perceive as not prescribing to their cults beliefs, now days, probably because of the counter protests and local laws against picketing private funerals or their lack of funds for travel or people just plain ignoring them, they typically make a threat to protest but actually dont show up much now days. But they dont have to show up as now they can twitter their protests and threats, but they still get what they want attention, their name in the press and hits to their vile twisted and hateful website.
My nice and I attended this local funeral here in PA in order to shield this good Christian family who tragically lost six of their children in a fire from the Westboro cult who made threats to protest. But while the Westboro freaks didnt show up, we were glad we went.
But if anything good came and comes from this cults threats, it is that it often brings a community of good and right minded people of many POV together to stand up to these hateful twisted wackos and support grieving families.