Westboro Baptist Church has become synonymous with hate and bullying; especially in regards to the gay community.
The church, led by Fred Phelps and his family, picket at the funerals of celebrities and military personnel, outside music venues and even utilize social media for attacks against “gay lovers.” We’ve covered stories of these hate campaigns as everyone from the cast of Glee
, to One Direction
and country crooners Vince Gill
and Blake Shelton
are targeted by the group.
Not everyone associated with WBC stays under the spell of the Phelps family and their hate demonstrations. A few brave souls have left the group in hopes of finding a more rewarding, happy life elsewhere.
Two such people are the granddaughters of Fred Phelps himself, Megan (27) and Grace Phelps-Roper (20). According to the Globe and Mail
, the girls started “questioning the tenets of the church” about four years ago and decided to leave together last November. “Over time, we started to see things that made us think, ‘Wait a second, there’s something wrong here. This doesn’t fit together.’ ”
“It was always very much all-or-nothing,” Megan explains. “The way the church presents it is, there’s the WBC and the rest of the world. And the rest of the world is evil. The WBC is the only place in the world in our generation that is telling the truth of God. Over time, those little things built up, and there were so many of them. Once you step out of it for a second, and you’re out of that vacuum, things change.”
Megan, who was in charge of the group’s social media campaigns, admitted she was “terrified” to break away from her family and the church. But now that they have, life has taking on a new meaning. “At the church, so many aspects of your life are controlled,” Grace said. “Having this new freedom, this ability to do things as we want to, when we want to, making all our own decisions –- we’ve learned so much this way.”
Making the decision to leave the church also meant sacrificing their relationship with their family, but it was a sacrifice they felt they had to make though they are now considered “betrayers.” A former member told the Kansas City Star
that "[i]f they continue with the position that they have, those two girls, yeah, they’re going to hell.”
The girls have been on a mission to “do good” since leaving the church. They’ve traveled the country and have been in Montreal this month with a host family, as well as taking classes at Concordia University. “This city is beautiful,” says Megan. “I’ve never been to a place like it before.” Grace chimes in: “It’s so diverse.”
As they reinvent their lives outside the walls of the WBC, the girls are aware of the pain their family and the church has caused over the years, “We know that we’ve done and said things that hurt people," they said. "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 girls released a statement that can be read in full here