"You're whacking away at that First Amendment," said Shirley. "You don't get to put people on trial in doomed America for their sincerely held religious beliefs."
Shirley feels confident in her knowledge of the law, as she is a practicing attorney. In fact, 10 of her siblings are lawyers. But this week they lost.
A Baltimore jury said the Westboro Baptist Church was too vulgar and offensive to be covered by the First Amendment. The church must pay nearly $11 million to Albert Snyder, who brought a suit after the Phelps clan picketed the funeral of his 20-year-old son Matthew, who died while serving in Iraq.
"I hope this is enough to deter them from doing this to other families," said Snyder. "All I kept thinking about was my son Matt and all the other parents who went through it -- this will set a precedence."
The Phelps don't have $11 million, and they say they will appeal the decision.
"They do all these radical things, pass laws, arrest us, sue, and all it does is create a new platform," said Tim.
The extra publicity is the main reason why Shirley didn't mind when she was arrested after her son trampled a flag at a serviceman's funeral in Nebraska. The Phelpses routinely bring their children to protests.
"They just want to kill us pretty much," said 8-year-old Noah Phelps-Roper, one of Shirley's 11 children. "Because we're preaching the message. … Because they don't like our message."
Aren't they a little young for all this preaching? "No, they're not young," said Shirley. "They're never too young to hear words."
Ten-year-old Jonah Phelps-Roper says his favorite flag is one that says "Fags Doom Nations." "I like that sign," he said.
When asked what the word "fag" means, Jonah replied "A fag is someone … who … I can't really explain."
"A fag is someone who does not obey the word of God," said Noah.
The Phelpses are proud that their children have learned their lessons well, and that they all, regardless of lawsuits, will keep the message alive.
"We'll keep preaching," said Tim. "We don't give a rat's backside of what anyone does in this nation. We'll keep preaching."
"We have to preach to the whole world -- that's our job," said Shirley.
And, they say, their children will continue to do the preaching for them.