Fred Phelps, the founder of the highly controversial anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, has been excommunicated from the group and is close to death, his son has said.
Nathan Phelps, who left the church almost 40 years ago and as such lost contact with the core of his family, wrote a message on Facebook saying he had received the news and that he was "bitterly angry" that family-members were being blocked from saying goodbye.
He wrote: "I've learned that my father, Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the 'God Hates Fags' Westboro Baptist Church, was ex-communicated from the 'church' back in August of 2013. He is now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas.
"I'm not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made.
"I feel sad for all the hurt he's caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I'm bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their good-byes."
The Westboro Baptist Church rose to national recognition when it staged protests at a string of high-profile funerals declaring their "God Hates Fags" slogan, and was the subject of a Louis Theroux documentary entitled The Most Hated Family in America.
Based in Topeka, Kansas, it has also been criticised for broadcasting antisemitic and xenophobic views, and has picketed Ground Zero in the past.
Last year the church vowed to protest at a One Direction gig on the grounds that they were "crotch-grabbing little perverts", and in 2009 Phelps, who is now 84, and his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper were banned from entering the UK to picket a school play.
Speaking to the religious information website Patheos.com, Nathan Phelps confirmed that he had heard the news from a number of fellow "ex-communicated" members of the family.
He is the sixth of Fred Phelps' 13 children, and there are reports that around 20 members of the extended family have fled or been "exiled" since 2004.
- UK Independent