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Mon Feb 11, 2013, 02:01 AM

Damsel, Arise: A Westboro Scion Leaves Her Church

Just after 11 last Sunday morning at Old First Reformed Church in Brooklyn, the Rev. Dr. Daniel Meeter is starting the Sunday service as he always does. He runs through the opening salutation and the collect for the day, and then he welcomes everyone to church as he always does, introducing Old First “as a community of Jesus in Park Slope where we welcome people of every race, ethnicity and orientation to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.”

The congregation—some eighty strong on this sunny but cold February morning—is the usual mix of Park Slope churchgoing types: a smattering of journalists, a few artists, a handful of old ladies, some rambunctious children. But in the back row of the tin-ceilinged, wood-floored hall, there’s a visitor. It is Megan Phelps-Roper’s first time not only at Old First but also at any church not called Westboro Baptist. Yes, that Westboro Baptist, the Topeka, Kansas, congregation that has become famous (or infamous, depending on your viewpoint) for its strident views on sin (and the abundance of it in modern America), salvation (and the prospective lack of it), and sexuality (we’re bad, in far more colorful terms).

For nearly all of her twenty-seven years, Megan believed it: believed what her grandfather Fred Phelps preached from the pulpit; believed what her dad Brent and her mom Shirley taught during the family’s daily Bible studies; believed (mostly) what it said on those signs that have made Westboro disproportionately influential in American life—“God hates fags”; “God hates your idols”; “God hates America.”

Megan was the one who pioneered the use of social media at Westboro, becoming the first in her family to go on Twitter. Effervescent and effusive, she gave hundreds of interviews, charming journalists from all over the world. Organized and proactive, she, for a time, even had responsibility for keeping track of the congregation’s protest schedule. She was such a Westboro fixture that the Kansas City Star touted her—improbably, as it turns out, because a woman could never have such a role at the church—as a future leader of the congregation.

Then, in November, she left.

the rest is at: https://medium.com/reporters-notebook/d63ecca43e35

10 replies, 1426 views

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Response to kas125 (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 02:16 AM

1. May she be the first of many to leave, to see where they were wrong...

Fascinating article.

K&R

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Response to CaliforniaPeggy (Reply #1)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 02:21 AM

2. Her sister, Grace, left with her, so that's two.

It has to be difficult for them to go against everything they've ever known, but these two prove that there is hope for the rest of them.

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Response to CaliforniaPeggy (Reply #1)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 04:53 AM

7. Far from the first two of Fred's sons left years ago.

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Response to SpartanDem (Reply #7)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 04:59 AM

8. Thanks for the link...very interesting reading.

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Response to kas125 (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 02:25 AM

3. "My doubts started with a conversation I had with David Abitbol,"

she says. Megan met David, an Israeli web developer who’s part of the team behind the blog Jewlicious, on Twitter. “I would ask him questions about Judaism, and he would ask me questions about church doctrine. One day, he asked a specific question about one of our signs—‘Death Penalty for Fags’—and I was arguing for the church’s position, that it was a Levitical punishment and as completely appropriate now as it was then. He said, ‘But Jesus said’—and I thought it was funny he was quoting Jesus—‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’ And then he connected it to another member of the church who had done something that, according to the Old Testament, was also punishable by death. I realized that if the death penalty was instituted for any sin, you completely cut off the opportunity to repent. And that’s what Jesus was talking about.”

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Response to elleng (Reply #3)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 04:43 AM

6. Wow, Megan, welcome back into the fold called humanity!

You are thoughtful and willing to look at your possible errors in judgement. You are rare among people, rarer yet among the Phelps.

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Response to kas125 (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 03:04 AM

4. Now that's an epiphany!

Good for them. Where there is no forgiveness from their old world, there is forgiveness on the side of freedom from bondage. One step toward reason. Welcome across the divide!

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Response to kas125 (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 04:36 AM

5. I hope those girls are getting lots of support.

It was very brave and scary to leave.

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Response to kas125 (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 05:08 AM

9. I love to read stories of awakening like this. It isn't until a person questions their lives

that they can begin to really understand the world and themselves, I believe. It happened to me, and it changed me forever.

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Response to kas125 (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 07:02 AM

10. Here's another Westboro member that reccntly left

Lauren Drain - She has joined the No H8 campaign, coming out against discrimination:

"My name is Lauren Drain, former member of the Westboro Baptist Church, and despite having denounced any and all beliefs and preachings of the WBC, I am still a Christian through and through. However, in my opinion, religion of any kind is a personal choice, full of personal values, definitions and views that should stay just that - personal. I don't think anyone should judge or persecute another human being or any group of individuals based off of those personal, chosen, beliefs. I am against any and all forms of violence, discrimination, bullying or bigotry directed at someone else due to their personal lifestyle."

Read more here: http://www.noh8campaign.com/article/former-wbc-member-speaks-out

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