Fred Phelps’ Granddaughters Would Like Gold Stickers For Leaving Westboro Baptist Church

It can’t be easy being the descendants of one of the most notorious bigots in American history.

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.

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  • wiccabasket

    They were subject to abuse. Prolonged, traumatic, psychological abuse. They have been brainwashed from birth, and breaking out of that is terrifying.

    They are trying (clumsily perhaps) to make it right, and they’ve lost everyone they love as a result. Give them a break.

  • adrade

    What a load of crap article and headline. We should be celebrating their departure and congratulating them for entering the world of compassion. Why would you ever approach others with the same hatred and rejection the WBC and others have used against you? Have you not learned one thing from what we all have experienced? You really mean to spread even further the poison of division and rejection?

    As gay and Jewish, I welcome them with wide open arms into learning about both of my identities, and especially, where they crossover into each other. It takes a lot of courage to do what they do, and I hope their departure sets an example for others in the church who may be considering something similar. To them, a profound, resounding Mazel-Tov!

  • flipper

    I agree with both wiccabasket and adrade.

    It’s excruciatingly difficult to leave a cult, particularly one run by your family.

    Props to them. Boo to queerty.

  • rebag

    Is there no editorial board or integrity on this site? What’s your source about the Jewish community paying for this?

    Even they are/were, what does it matter if their feelings are honest?

    Ridiculous… Boo to QUEERTY indeed!

  • dvlaries

    Yeah, until I could say I’ve walked in their shoes, and turned my back on everyone I trusted all my life, I’m willing to cut them a break.
    Doubtlessly too, women who leave such cults do so with even less self-sufficiency skills than a man would. They probably got out with little more than the clothes on their back and starting from zero to build new structure to their lives. Let’s not hit them below the belt and make them wonder if they jumped from the frying pan to the fire.

  • ronnie_m

    At least they left their cult. No need to make them feel bad. They were born into that nightmare, and now they’ve changed. That doesn’t mean they’re trying to get praise

  • David

    Man, suffice it to say that I know Megan and Grace pretty darn well. Your “facts” are all kinds of off. They are two of the kindest, most self effacing women I have ever met. They loathe the thought of profiting off of what they see as a tragic circumstance. I mean I appreciate snark as much as the next guy but why be mean, and even worst, why be mean based on completely inaccurate information? Megan and Grace drove 1800 miles to Montreal by the way. They are crashing at people’s houses and they are volunteering in the community, feeding homeless people, talking to holocaust survivors etc. Not quite all expenses paid… I think they are owed an apology.

  • Ogre Magi

    @wiccabasket: No mercy for people like that

  • Scribe38

    @David: @wiccabasket: @dvlaries: Thank you all for pointing out the facts of the case.

  • KeithNewbery

    You have either decided to avoid even the least bit of reporting here and/or have no qualms about making up information.

    “All expenses paid”? You need to print a correction or provide your source so both you and the source can apologize, as this is simply untrue.

    As far as wanting a gold star or to be patted on the back, the very few speaking engagements Megan and Grace have made (hardly a “speaking tour of North America”) have all been requested OF them. They have never asked to speak or present.

    In fact, they regularly turn down requests for interviews and speaking engagements and have avoided many opportunities for high profile media attention.

    Piecing together bits from an interview done by someone else(poorly with clear slanting), making up information, and arbitrarily prescribing motives to these young women is not what I hope Queerty expects from it’s contributers. Even in an opinion piece.

    And this doesn’t even address the lack of understanding of their situation and it’s impact practically and morally that has been addressed in other comments.

  • a308936

    ridiculous “article” and headline. borderline hate-filled.

    i applaud these girls for their courageous decision. you mean to tell me there aren’t any public figures on the other spectrum who received one or two gifts in the name of promoting gay rights? where are those articles?

  • Keith

    And I couldn’t be more proud of the two of them, the decisions they have made, and how they have handled everything since leaving.

  • AxelDC

    What is with the snark? It takes a lot of courage to leave your faith and family behind. They have been excommunicated from their own parents because of their principled stance.

    It is important that they share their message. How many gay people have been forced to leave behind friends and family because of homophobic religious backgrounds?

    Instead of mocking these young women, how about thanking them for seeing the light and defending our rights against the likes of their own family?

  • Mikey

    When did they say they wanted gold stickers or to be patted on the back? You should re-register for the Gawker School of Snark, because this totally missed the mark.

  • Freddie27

    I agree, Queerty has completely misjudged this. These are women who have emerged from a cult, have had to completely abandon their families and are now making up for the hurt they caused by supporting the Jewish and gay communities. Indeed, they explicitly seek no praise or reward for this.

    Shame on Queerty and good on these girls.

  • Bozen

    Mr. Gremore comes off like a total asshole here.

    They are a product of abuse from a bona fide cult.

  • LandStander

    Seriously Queerty? This article and headline are pretty messed up…I have no clue about whether the presented facts are true, so I will not comment on that, but just the attitude presented regarding these girls is sickening. You should definitely change the title and the attitude (and maybe this Gremore…)

  • Nick212

    I don’t appreciate your snarky attitude. I give them credit for their courage. They’ve had to adjust their thinking and give up their family for it and are speaking out. I applaud them.

  • balehead

    STILL DON’T TRUST THEM……They’re just jumping on a different money train….

  • Jennifer

    I find this ‘article’ poorly executed through and through. I think it comes off lazy and the title is bitchy. These girls have overcome a path that was beyond crazy evil sick and want to work at making amends to the gay and Jewish communities and that should always be applauded and supported anything opposite to that would only be lowering ourselves down towards the Westboro baptist church.

  • Bozen

    @balehead: They’re not JEWS, they’re from a CULT. Similar, but not synonymous!

  • joesilentio

    I have read Queerty for years, but this article is enough to make me quit reading. This approach is all kinds of wrong, hateful and insensitive. I am very disgusted by this. Without some kind of retraction I am done with Queerty.

  • seggerman

    Let’s cut them slack – and act more Christian that their biological families ever have.

  • Mike

    Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper were invited to visit Montreal by A Bit Off the Top (ABOTT), an initiative working to engage Jewish young adults in meaningful Jewish experiences. ABOTT is an initiative of Federation CJA in Montreal – a Jewish organization that aims to be the driving force in a vibrant and caring Montreal Jewish Community.

    Megan and Grace were invited to visit Montreal of their own accord and are not receiving any funding from Federation CJA for their visit or speaking engagements. They voluntarily drove more than 2000 kilometres to be part of this exchange. During their time in Montreal they have been living with different families around the city in the hopes of broadening their perspective on Jewish life. It is with kindness and generosity that they have come to learn with the people involved with ABOTT, and we are grateful for the opportunity.

    During their visit, Megan and Grace have been meeting people all over the city, from all walks of life, and exchanging their stories. In their efforts to learn from their previous wrongs as members of the WBC, including protesting Jewish communities, among other things, the women have spent time volunteering for the LE MOOD festival; volunteering at a local food support program for the vulnerable and needy; volunteering to meet members of the community at-large; and, speaking at different organizations, including university classes and student gatherings.

    Mike Savatovsky
    Director, A Bit Off the Top

  • Bozen

    @Mike: Ouch Queerty, I’m all the way in Louisiana and I feel the sting of that sophisticated burn.

    Good on you Mike for clearing up their misconceptions and assumptions.

  • Bumper

    They were brave to break free. They are brave for standing up and admitting they were wrong to the very people they were brainwashed to hate. It doesn’t bother me that they make spoils of a very difficult past and family. We need all the help we can get. They are welcome in my book. After all, they came from the most hated family in the U.S. I just can’t judge so harshly.

  • mcflyer54

    They may be among the first but it is doubtful they’ll be the last. They have shown courage that will provide the confidence that other members of the Phelps cult will use to free themselves of Fred and the older clan members. Good for them.

  • dbmyers

    If they really wanted gold stickers (stars?) I’d be happy to give them to them. They have earned them – not the derisive ridicule that Queerty has chosen to answer them with. Shame Queerty! Time to apologize!

  • hyhybt

    “In fact, they regularly turn down requests for interviews and speaking engagements and have avoided many opportunities for high profile media attention.”

    It may be that you’ve hit the nail on the head there: that the reason for the uncharacteristically negative tone is that they turned Queerty down for an interview or something.

  • mikejoseph

    Queerty, I’ve read this blog since it was started back in 2005, and this article really makes me want to never read the blog again. The tone of the blog has become really snarky, and I consider Towleroad my “legit gay blog” and Queerty my “trashy gay blog” now, but with this sort of nasty, thoughtless writing I really am considering never returning. These women seem to have done nothing to deserve the trashing they got, and as other commenters have pointed out, got themselves out of a terrible world they never chose to enter. Their quotes aren’t negative or self-promoting, so where do you get off painting them that way? I can appreciate a good snark every once in a while, but I really feel disgusted here.

  • Ruhlmann

    They’re tainted. I don’t trust them. Cue the lions.

  • Keith

    @hyhybt:They never asked Grace or Megan for anything.

    And, of course, that would be no justification for the misinformation. Expenses aren’t being paid. The “tour” has included two cities. In a year. No money. The facts are wrong, let alone the tone and mischaracterization.

    I honestly don’t understand why Queerty has allowed this. Regardless of anyone’s view of Megan and Grace personally.

    (And I understand you didn’t intend your comment as a “defense” of the author.)

  • archiecat

    Many of us who belonged to hyper conservative fundamentalist organizations experienced a “coming out” as meaningful, stressful, exciting and scary as our “coming out” as LGBT folk. Some of us were fortunate to do both. Grace and Megan are courageous to begin this journey and they deserve our support. To deride and ridicule their experience shows a obvious lack of empathy and common sense. Our similarities are greater than our differences.

  • BlogZilla

    Actually I feel sorry for them, because they are victims of severe mental child abuse.

    I’m glad they finally were brave and saw the real light and had the courage to say, “Bye Bye koo-koo clocks..

    And all these idiots out there that think we are supposed to love our parents no matter what, they’re full of shit.

  • queerty1958

    I’m so fucking happy for them for being how they should have been in the first place!

    Sorry NO gold stars! They shouldn’t be asking for gold stars. They should be asking for forgiveness from all the people they hurt from their ignorance.

  • David

    That’s kinda what they’re doing @queerty1958. Duh.

  • colourblind

    It seems that more and more of Queerty articles are bitter snippy and in some cases down right mean. Its like you perpetuating the mean queen with all the snide comments that would put anyone off. You need to do a better job at representing whats beautiful within the gay community instead of a constant bombardment of negativity.

  • hyhybt

    @colourblind: The odd thing is how different this is to the attitude the site has shown regarding other ex-WBC people.

  • Red_Dragon_888

    I like the article and the classic zinger boom at the end.

  • Red_Dragon_888

    You Go Girls!!!

  • declanto

    I check in on Queerty on occasion if something pops up on FB or Huffpo etc. that excites my interest. So often it seems to remind me just how lame it has become with the “new” management. Lowbrow catty shit that wouldn’t even pass muster for Foxnoose Journalism, as in this case. Even the snark has taken a mortal hit. You’re all so fucking PC. Where are Plays well with others, Ewe, John in London, etc. ad infinitum? Like me, they find it increasingly more remote and futile to drag up the old password and log in, For what? Meh

  • the other Greg

    Leave it to Queerty to TRY to turn a potentially great “ally” story into something sordid!

    Worse, judging from recent months’ articles: if these had been two reasonably good-looking young men instead of young women, Queerty’s coverage would not only have been favorable, but drooling.

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  • the other Greg

    What’s so annoying about the “gold stickers” remark is that Queerty gives out gold stickers all the time:

    – to any handsome, straight male actor who can parrot that week’s boilerplate about marriage equality. (I’m told that in the acting business, the technical term for this is “remembering your lines.”)

    – to any cute, straight male singer who isn’t gratuitously mean to his gay fans, and who’s willing occasionally to take his shirt off for photographers.

    Come on, Queerty, it’s not like there’s a shortage of gold stickers!

  • Sauja32

    This is one of the most hateful, ignorant, and wrong-headed articles I’ve come across of late. The writer of it should be ashamed.

    Bravo to Megan and Grace for the strength and courage to leave their whole worlds behind in order to embrace a kinder, more accepting world (outside of this shameful piece).

  • DarkZephyr

    @queerty1958: Nowhere in the article did the author actually quote them as saying “We are asking for gold stars” so I am amazed you fell for his snarky baloney.

    This article annoys me beyond belief. We need all the allies we can get and it sounds like these girls are doing their best to be allies, even though they are currently a bit frightened and at a loss as to what they will do with their lives. Why kick them when they are down? Jeeze Queerty! What has happened to you? You should be wondering where you went wrong if balehead is one of the whopping three or four a**holes out of dozens of comment posters agreeing with you so far!

  • balehead

    They’re looking for a book deal…..

  • Topher Cusumano

    This article is childish, poorly written, and unenlightened
    Cattiness isn’t a replacement for wit. These two women, who were victims of horrific abuse, are trying to understand and comprehend the results of their family’s hatred—and that’s amazing. It’s amazing they were able to escape at all after the years of brainwashing. They should be applauded.

    A think a full retraction is in order…if only for the lack of proper citations. I’m sure the author, Mr. Gremore, had the opportunity for an education that included the standard practices of MLA formatting. Do you know who most likely lacked a proper education? The women Mr. Gremore so desperately wants to infantilize and shame, that’s who.

    Shame on you, Queerty editors.

  • carl_mark_smith

    Wow, imagine what growing up was like for these two and then rethink your getting snotty about what they are trying to do here. They’re not worldly socialites, they’re escapees from a raving, bat-shit crazy and restrictive family of loons. If no one else wants to, I’ll give them that gold sticker and a good hot meal too.

  • Jeromie

    As a member of the LGBT community Mr. Gremore, you either know someone, or experienced for yourself what it’s like to have to give up your friends, your family, and even your whole world sometimes to be true to yourself and make a new life. You also know from your own experience or through someone else’s that you hold near and dear that in making that huge choice there has been and will be those who will come to us asking for forgiveness for the way they treated us or made us feel.

    Forgiveness is a huge part of what it means to be queer, and it makes us better and stronger people in the end. Why are you so afraid or unable to give these two girls a second chance? What’s in it for you to hold such a pubic grudge against them?

    Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper are at the beginning of a very scary and uncertain crossroads in their life, and are doing something that most of us will never have the opportunity or strength to do in our lives by asking the very same people who they minimized and derided for years to open their hearts, listen to their story and learn from their experience.

    After so many years of signing petitions, speaking out, and demanding that these people change their ways, we would be absolute hypocrites to pull our hands away now at the very moment they are answering that call and reaching out to us. We have a chance to show the world what a beautiful and gracious community we have built, and your narrow-minded rhetoric Mr. Gremore, is exactly what the world doesn’t need right now.

    Megan and Grace, on behalf of the vast majority of the LGBT community who appreciates and applauds you for what you are doing, let me be the first in what I hope and know will be long line of gay people to not only say congratulations, but realize that there is enough forgiveness in our hearts to give you the opportunity to make things right and teach the world about how we can all make it a better place.

    You truly do deserve a gold sticker each.

    Read my entire open to letter to Mr. Gremore here: http://jeromiewilliams.com/2013/10/31/open-letter-yes-queerty-the-phelps-sisters-do-deserve-gold-stickers/

  • Kernos


    Hear! Hear!

  • bittyboots

    I’m not really sure they deserve a gold sticker. It was a brave move to leave, but these are two adults. Most of us leave our families and communities if they’re stuck in a backwater and if we have an ounce of sense. Yes, living in a cult-like church community is extreme, but there are tons of examples of other adults doing the same.

    I’m really weary of the either/or thinking, the rush to instantaneously exalt or cast blame that’s dominating the interwebs today. Mr. Gremore has a point, and yes the girls were also brave to leave their community. Both opinions can exist, I believe. But holding this small degree of complexity would require discrimination and nuance. I thought this crowd was a cut above, but maybe those readers just aren’t bothering to write in. And maybe I’m deluded for expecting more from a comments board.

  • Niceman

    Nice job perpetuating the stereotype of gays being bitchy. I don’t agree with this at all. It’s quite possible that these girls may never see their family again. To be under the control of someone and to be convinced that leaving that control will result in eternal punishment really takes its toll on the mind. You don’t understand that they really believed that they would go to hell for leaving their family. They also knew that their family would never talk to them again. They are not asking for anything they are just spreading kindness for the first time in their lives because they have always been kind people, just brainwashed.

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