The Most Hated Family in America is a 2007 BBC documentary film written and presented by Louis Theroux about the family at the core of the Westboro Baptist Church. The organisation is led by Fred Phelps and located in Topeka, Kansas. Westboro Baptist Church members believe that the United States government is immoral due to its tolerance of homosexuality; in addition, they protest at funerals of U.S. military killed in action with signs that display text such as "God Hates Fags" and "Thank God for Dead Soldiers". With a BBC film crew, Theroux traveled to Kansas to spend time with members of the church and interview its leadership. In the documentary, church members are shown protesting at funerals of U.S. soldiers.
The documentary focuses on the Westboro Baptist Church, headed by Fred Phelps and based in Topeka, Kansas. Born in 1929 in Meridian, Mississippi, Phelps conducts himself under the belief that he is a prophet chosen by God "to preach his message of hate". Phelps was ordained a Southern Baptist in 1947. The Westboro Baptist Church was started by Phelps in 1955. Members of the church meet in Phelps's residence; the majority of the group's adherents are his family. Phelps received an associate's degree from John Muir Junior College in 1951, a bachelor's degree in 1962 and a degree in law in 1964 from Washburn University. He formed a "crusade for righteousness", attempting to abolish Jim Crow laws in Topeka.
In 1991 when a local park started to serve as a meeting place for homosexual men, Phelps began to protest against homosexuality. Phelps subsequently enlarged the scope of his activities and formed protests in areas where civil rights were being debated for LGBT people. Phelps received criticism in 1998 when he repeatedly exclaimed "Matt is in hell" during the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a man murdered for being homosexual.
Westboro Baptist Church bases its work around the belief that "God Hates Fags", and expresses the opinion, based on its Biblical interpretation, that nearly every tragedy in the world is God's punishment for homosexuality – specifically society's increasing tolerance and acceptance of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. It maintains that God hates homosexuals above all other kinds of "sinners" and that homosexuality should be a capital crime. The church runs the website GodHatesFags.com, and GodHatesAmerica.com, and websites expressing condemnation of LGBT people, Roman Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Sweden, Ireland, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United States. The organisation is monitored by the Anti-Defamation League and is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group has achieved notoriety because of its picketing of funeral processions of U.S. soldiers killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Controversial acts of Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church resulted in litigation and the formation of groups which counter-protest against its efforts. President George W. Bush signed the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act into law in on Memorial Day in May 2006. An organisation, FreeRepublic.com, formed demonstrations against pickets by the church. Groups of American Legion members formed motorcycle honor guards with the intention of safeguarding funerals of U.S. military from the church protesters.