TOPEKA — In a stunning about face, the Westboro Baptist Church announced today that their decades long campaign against gays, soldiers, Jews, Catholics, American flags, joy, and Lady Gaga was all an elaborate prank. “We were just fooling!,” said Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of Fred Phelps and frequent spokesperson for the group. Phelps-Roper added “Psych!” and did a little dance.

The about face came as a surprise to gay activists and anti-gay leaders alike.

Linda Harvey, of the anti-gay MissionAmerica, reached for comment on Thursday, said “Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on! I’ve been marketing a watered down version of…a prank?” Evan Hurst of gay rights organization Truth Wins Out was more measured in his reaction. “Really? That’s sort of LOL, now that I think about it,” said Hurst, dryly.

For the Phelps clan this coming out party is a blessing on many fronts. The patriarch of the clan, Reverend Fred Phelps, heaved a sigh of relief and said that coming clean will offer him an opportunity to make the last fifth of his life count. “I’ve always wanted to join the Peace Corps, or maybe mentor at-risk children. Maybe I can do that now.” Clarifying his true opinions on fags, he added, “That’s kind of a mean name, don’t you think? I mean, I don’t actually know any fags, but that Ricky Martin seems like a nice enough boy.”

For her part, Shirley Phelps-Roper dreams of being a judge on American Idol. “I just want to encourage all those fag singers to…I mean, no, sorry…old habits die hard! Anyway, that Simon Cowell is a dick, right?”

Activists on both sides of the debate over homosexuality remain confused as to the purpose of the Phelps clan’s decades-long ruse, but all agree that their decision to pursue other opportunities is a net positive for the country.

A statement from a cadre of right-wing leaders released in response to the developments with the Phelps family reads, in part:

We have always condemned the Phelps family for saying all of the things we actually believe in such a clear manner, without obfuscation. We look forward to continuing our work defending the traditional family with all of our euphemisms intact, so that we may hurt gay people and their families under the guise of Christian love.

A press release from the National Organization for Marriage simply reads: “Whew!”

Evan Hurst had a slightly different take on the organization’s changes:

Well, at least the Religious Right won’t have such an easy time artificially separating themselves from the hatred they espouse. No longer will anti-gay hatemongers be able to say “No, we’re not haters, we don’t do all that mean God Hates Fags stuff!” They may have to start actually owning the untold pain and suffering they cause millions of families.

Analysts predict that it will likely take at least a thousand years and untold millions of dollars to make restitution to the myriad numbers of people affected by the Phelps’ prank.

So, do the Phelps clan actually believe that God indeed loves fags?

In response to this question, Rev. Phelps became flustered, scratched his chin and said, “God? Never heard of him.”