For years, the Reverend Fred Phelps has been at the front of a very specific, very personal and highly public crusade. Phelps leads the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, and he and his followers believe sincerely that the United States of America is a nation doomed and dammed -- cursed to fall for its tolerance of homosexuals. Phelps and his flock -- bearing signs that read "God Hates Fags" and similar blunt pronouncements -- picket funerals of AIDS victims, other church services, and recently at the funerals of fallen United States Armed Forces members. K. Ryan Jones was working on a short film for his Kansas University film studies program; he wound up with enough footage -- and, more importantly, enough to think about -- to make a 71-minute documentary.
Fall from Grace mixes sit-down interviews with footage shot at Phelps's picketing events and media coverage; we meet Phelps and his children, and we hear from several people set against Phelps and his ways. Unlike two of last year's best religion-centered documentaries -- Jesus Camp and Deliver us from Evil -- it's hard to imagine anyone leveling a charge of anti-Christian bias against Jones and Fall from Grace, if only because Phelps's message is so extreme -- and, as we learn later in the film, so poisonously narcissistic -- that it's hard to imagine any reasonable person of faith objecting as Phelps spins out theories and opinions into enough rope to dangle from.