Two granddaughters of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps have left the hate-mongering cult congregation, leaving behind their family members who have become synonymous with homophobia, and hatred of most everybody. Megan Phelps-Roper, 27, was one of the most vocal members of the Topeka, Kan., church on television and social media until she and her younger sister, Grace Phelps-Roper, left in November.
They released a joint statement explaining their decision on Wednesday.
“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,” they wrote. “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.”
A spokesman for the church, Steve Drain, told The Kansas City Star the young women would regret leaving the group.
“We can’t control whether or not somebody decides, when they grow up, that they don’t want to be here,” Drain said. “Those two girls were kind of straddling the idea that they wanted to be of the world but that they would also miss their family, the only thing they ever knew. If they continue with the position that they have, those two girls, yeah, they’re going to hell.”
The defectors are among the 11 children of Brent and Shirley Phelps-Roper, who is a daughter of leader Fred Phelps. Since defecting they’ve moved in with their cousin Libby Phelps Alvarez, another apostate.
Shirley Phelps-Roper responded to her daughters the day after the news went public, saying, “the New Testament is full of people that start right, but then fell away.” She also released her own statement, one that was full of references to the Bible.
The vitriol that’s directed at the Westboro Baptist Church for their “God Hates Fags” signs and funeral protests lifted for the sisters when they announced their exit from the cult. They were met with an outpouring of support on social media and from columnists on sites like Salon and Mother Jones.
“We’ve really appreciated the supportive words people have shared with us today,” Megan Phelps-Roper told The Star. "The environment we grew up in was very ‘us vs. them’; it’s been nice to see that the ‘them’ have been overwhelmingly kind — as we’d kind of hoped and suspected.”