Until last November, Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper, granddaughters of Fred Phelps, were members of the Westboro Baptist Church. They would regularly wave signs that read “God Hates Fags,” picket solider’s funerals as well as protest outside of synagogues and other Jewish institutions shouting slogans about Jews burning in Hell.
Today, the sisters say they have left the church and would now like to be patted on the back for their courageous decision.
“We were both terrified after leaving,” Megan, 27, said in an exclusive interview with The Globe and Mail. “I was afraid we were going to hell. Many times when we were driving, I thought God was going to kill us.”
Megan and Grace say they began to question the church’s teachings four years ago, and finally decided to leave in November 2012. Breaking with their family, they hit the road for a driving tour across North America. Earlier this month they arrived in Montreal for a month-long stay where they have spoken at universities and will be attending Jewish cultural festivals. The trip isn’t costing them a dime and is being funded by members of the Jewish community.
“At the church, so many aspects of your life are controlled,” Grace, 20, 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.”
The women say their decision to leave the church resulted in many members urging them to stay. In what Grace described as “the hardest day of our lives,” the two sisters told their parents and nine other siblings that they needed to leave the church. The family made it clear: If they chose to leave, it would be a clean break. All communication would be cut off.
“Hurting my mom was the worst thing of all,” Megan lamented. Now, she says, “we don’t have a set home.”
“We can be sure of nothing,” Grace added, wistfully. “I won’t get to hear my brothers playing piano again or see my parents’ hair go grey.”
The women claim they feel a responsibility to help out the Jewish and gay communities, given the pain they inflicted upon both groups, which is why they have embarked on this North American healing tour.
After the tour is over, they’re not sure what they want to do with their lives.
“I want to be an actress!” Grace chirped. Either that, she says, or “work on a blueberry farm.”
“I’m at a complete loss,” Megan confessed. But she insists she doesn’t want to profit off of her decades-long involvement with WBC. “We do not want to use our past as a way to make money,” she said. “We abhor the idea.”
Accepting all-expenses paid trips around the continent, however, is okay.
Photo credit: Jewish Journal.