It’s not often that a blog post about church affiliation makes news, but on February 6, 2013, that is exactly what happened. In a post titled ‘Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise,’ Megan Phelps-Roper announced that she and her sister, Grace, have severed their ties with the infamous Westboro Baptist Church.
Headquartered in Topeka, Kansas, Westboro Baptist Church (or WBC) was founded by former attorney Fred Phelps and consists of only a few dozen members, mostly members of Phelps’ own family. Phelps first gained local attention for such behavior as flooding the fax machines of local elected officials with complaints as well as threats to ‘expose’ what he considered to be their failings.
In the 1990s, the group began what seems to be their primary occupation – picketing, mostly at the funerals of people they claim had died of AIDS related complications, but branching out to almost any service that could be tied, even tangentially, with homosexuality. It was one of these pickets at the 1998 funeral of gay-bashing victim Matthew Shepard that brought them to national attention when they were featured on CNN.
Phelps-Roper is the granddaughter of founder Fred Phelps, and many would have thought her one of the least likely to break with the group. She has long been one of its most outspoken and enthusiastic members. She took WBC to Twitter and gave frequent interviews on Kansas City radio shows. Shirley Phelps-Roper (her mother), who has been the group’s figurehead and handled most operations in recent years, had referred to Megan as ‘kind of my right-hand man.’ Megan Phelps-Roper has been so prominent that just over a year ago the Kansas City Star considered whether she would eventually take over the church.
Now, Megan and Grace have left the church and effectively cut themselves off from their family, apologizing for the pain that their actions caused to others. In a related post, Megan told author Jeff Chu, “I definitely regret hurting people. That was never our intention. We thought we were doing good. We thought it was the only way to do good. And that’s what I’ve always wanted.”
There is no mention of the departure on the WBC website.