A federal judge has ordered that the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) building and the Phelps-Chartered Law office be taken away from the owners in order to pay a $5 million (£2.54m) fine.
The church, based in Topeka, Kansas, runs numerous websites such as GodHatesFags.com, GodHatesAmerica.com and others expressing condemnation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, Roman Catholics, Muslims and Jews.
The religious organisation was ordered to pay the damages after members of its congregation picketed the funeral of two American servicemen.
Westboro Baptist members regularly picket funerals of members of the US Armed Forces killed in action, contending the deaths are God’s punishment for the country’s support of homosexuals.
The group, led by Rev Fred Phelps, is well known for picketing the funerals of homosexual victims of murder. They first came to prominence a decade ago when they protested a the funeral of murdered gay man Matthew Shepard.
“In 1991, WBC took her ministry to the streets, conducting over 34,000 peaceful demonstrations (to date) opposing the fag lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth,” the church claims on its website.
“America crossed the line on June 26, 2003, when the Supreme Court (the conscience of the nation) ruled that we must respect sodomy. WBC believes her gospel message to be this world’s last hope.”
Some states, including Kansas, have passed laws prohibiting picketing at funerals.
If the court’s decision is upheld then the Phleps family will be made bankrupt and will loose both the church and the building housing the family law firm.
However, the family may be able to keep hold of the buildings through a legal loophole.
By law a persons home cannot be seized to pay legal costs, the family are maintaining that both the church and office buildings are part of the family home.
The family has been ordered to provide financial information about their interests.