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May 5th, 2010
12:58 PM ET

'Most-hated,' anti-gay preacher once fought for civil rights

He is the leader of "America's most hated family," a gaunt, craggy-faced preacher who displays "God Hates Fags" signs at the funerals of American troops, gay men and AIDS victims.

For at least 12 years, the Rev. Fred Phelps has led his Topeka, Kansas, church on a cross-country crusade against gays and lesbians. That crusade ignited a legal battle that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

But there is another Phelps that few know. He was a "brilliant" civil rights attorney in the 1960s who would take on racial discrimination cases that no other lawyers would touch, say longtime African-American civic leaders in Topeka.

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- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Culture & Science • Culture wars • Gay marriage • Politics

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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.

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