What Happens to Youth When The Anti-Gay Westboro Baptist Church Does The Raising
Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper, formerly outspoken members of the Westboro Baptist Church and granddaughters of its founder Fred Phelps, recently released a public statement saying they regret the hurt they've caused others through their church's activities.
The Phelps-Roper sisters aren't the only ones who have denounced the church. Lauren Drain, a member of the church from 2001 to 2008 who was banished after questioning the church's views, recently posed for the equality-promoting NO H8 campaign. She said:
The main reason I posed for the NOH8 campaign was in direct response to the judgments of the WBC. I wanted to show people that despite having grown up within the cult and having spent a good portion of my life on the picket line, holding signs condemning our deceased soldiers, reveling in any and all forms of tragedy and simply striving to be hurtful in the name of God; that the WBC is wrong and what I did at the time was wrong! I now try and lead by example, with love, compassion and an open mind.
The WBC is famous for picketing funerals and other public events. Many organizations have counter-protested to block the WBC from view during funerals, while others believe that they should be ignored because they only want attention. University of Kansas alumnus Quinn Brabender, who organized a counter-protest against the WBC when they protested on KU's campus, told Campus Progress:
There were a few students (friends of mine, even) who were upset by my choice to do the counter-protest. They held firmly to the idea that everyone should just ignore the Phelps family. On one end, I get that. I understand that by paying them any attention, you sort of end of fueling them. But the Phelpses are a special kind of group. They would protest a funeral that no one showed up to … no matter how little attention you give them, they still show up and preach hate. That's why I didn't agree with the idea that they should be ignored. The Phelpses should not be ignored, they should be constantly under surveillance … The media doesn't need to demonize them: they do that for themselves.
Libby Phelps Alvarez, another granddaughter of pastor Fred Phelps, Sr., left the church in 2009, and recently appeared on the Today show and Anderson Live discussing life as a member of the WBC and her decision to leave. Nate Phelps, estranged son of Pastor Phelps, condemned his family's plans to picket outside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn.
Such an exodus of young people from such a virulently anti-gay church shouldn't be too surprising, given that Millennials are the most progressive generation in America's history.
The statement from Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper reads, in part:
We know that we’ve done and said things that hurt people. Inflicting pain on others wasn’t the goal, but it was one of the outcomes. We wish it weren’t so, and regret that hurt.
We know that we dearly love our family. They now consider us betrayers, and we are cut off from their lives, but we know they are well-intentioned. We will never not love them.
We know that we can’t undo our whole lives. We can’t even say we’d want to if we could; we are who we are because of all the experiences that brought us to this point. What we can do is try to find a better way to live from here on. That’s our focus.
Steve Drain, a spokesman for the church and father of former member Lauren Drain, said the sisters had rejected the Lord: "If they continue with the position that they have, those two girls, yeah, they’re going to hell.”
Megan Phelps-Roger has said that one of the tactics the WBC uses to keep its members is intimidation: "they have some ridiculous hypocrisies inside that they don't want anyone else to know about. Their tactics of keeping membership involve threats that God will kill them if they leave."
Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper now live with their cousin Libby Phelps Alvarez, and Lauren Drain has said that she has reconnected with them and is very happy for them.
Dahlia Grossman-Heinze is a reporter-blogger for Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @salvadordahlia.