Grandaughters of Westboro Baptist Church founder quit church, apologize for “hurt”

For all of her adult life and much of her childhood, Megan Phelps-Roper picketed funerals, condemned gays, and said she … Continued

For all of her adult life and much of her childhood, Megan Phelps-Roper picketed funerals, condemned gays, and said she earnestly believed that most Americans were destined for hell.

But on Wednesday, the 27-year-old granddaughter of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps publicly said goodbye to all that.

“We know that we’ve done and said things that hurt people,” Megan and her sister Grace wrote in a statement announcing their split from the church. “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.”

The Westboro Baptist Church may be the most controversial religious group in the country. By some accounts, it’s not a religious group at all — the Southern Poverty Law Center has called it “the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America,” and a White House petition urging the government to label it as such earned more than 330,000 signatures in January.

For several years, Phelps-Roper was one of the WBC’s loudest and most believable defenders. By age 25, she led social media efforts for the church, gave hundreds of media interviews and tweeted regular Bible verses and inspirational quotes to an audience of more than 10,000. She briefly coordinated WBC protests at funerals and disaster sites, the church’s most reviled activity.

But something changed, Phelps-Roper told journalist Jeff Chu, when a Jewish friend she met online challenged the WBC’s teaching on homosexuality. Didn’t Jesus say to “let he who is without sin cast the first stone?,” he asked.

And so Phelps-Roper — who once told the Kansas City Star the church was the only place she’d seen “people who serve God in truth” — finally began to doubt.

First she stopped carrying signs that said “Death Penalty for Fags.” Then she began researching Biblical theory at a Kansas library. Eventually convinced that her grandfather might have missed something, Megan and her sister Grace left in November, the Star reports, moving in with a cousin who also walked away from the church. They did not make the defection public until this week.

Phelps-Roper has not publicly announced what she plans to do next, besides saying she’d like to help people. That has charmed many of her critics, who called her “brave” and “wonderful” in Twitter messages responding to her statement. One man, an LGBT activist who previously sparred with Phelps-Roper on Twitter, said “I’d love to open up a dialogue w/u … U have our support in this tough time!”

The WBC, for its part, has not been so forgiving.

“If they continue with the position that they have, those two girls, yeah, they’re going to hell,” church spokesman Steve Drain told the Star.

On Facebook, Drain is listed as Phelps-Roper’s brother.

  • bethindc1

    Such a hate. And she suddenly changes her mind? In all of her 25 years picketing my church and screaming foul things at cars who drove past them outside Gage Park she never once heard the “cast the first stone” phrase?

    I call BS. I don’t know why she really left but it’s not because she had a change of heart.

  • ThomasBaum

    Sounds to me that she and her sister have had a change of heart and that it wasn’t “suddenly” but came about thru both heart and mind.

    Sometimes the trip from the mind to the heart can be both the shortest and longest trip one will ever take and also may very well be both the easiest and hardest trip one may ever take.

    Christianity isn’t about the other’s heart and/or whether or not one changes other’s heart/s but one’s own heart.

    As far as “casting the first stone”, if a “stone” is cast at someone, sometimes it becomes that someone’s choice whether they embrace the stone and all that was put into the stone or they can drop the stone.

  • Openletter2004

    Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect.
    James Madison

    Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.
    Thomas Jefferson

    All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
    Thomas Paine

  • wadejg

    I don’t care why or how they left that cult but I’m glad they finally broke free.

  • Slowhand

    Who are we to judge whether these young women have had a change of heart? We should applaud them because of the snake pit that is Westboro Baptist Church. Even if they haven’t had a change of heart, by leaving they’ve shown that they’re open to one.

  • gonefishn

    And haven’t you heard the “judge not lest ye be judged” phrase?

  • gonefishn

    It’s obvious that the whole family has been brain-washed by the family patriarch. This man has some serious issues that has put him in this state of mind. And please don’t blame religion for his sick interpertations of the bible which he uses to justify his attacks. If anyone needs our prayers more, it is he.

  • reformthesystem

    Thomas Paine was the only one of the above three that did not profit from owning other humans as slaves.

  • prouddem

    I know the FRC is a hate group, and I’ve never visited the SPLC web site. WaPo covered the shooter’s story last summer. Therefore, you have no point.

  • Meritorious-MasoMenos

    “I know the FRC is a hate group,” prouder? Who does the FRC say they hate?

    A quick look at their website, which I’ve never visited before: “As our Mission Statement declares, ‘Family Research Council champions marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society.’ Properly understood, ‘families’ are formed only by ties of blood, marriage, or adoption, and ‘marriage’ is a union of one man and one woman.”

    That’s sorta been the standard for 100,000 years. You certainly have the right to belief a sudden bolt of insight made you see that as wrong. Where is their hate?

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