Westboro Baptist Church out of Kansas is one of the nation’s most recognized hate groups, best known for its anti-gay rhetoric and protests of military funerals. A woman who was raised with those beliefs now calls South Dakota home.
Westboro was founded by Megan Phelps-Roper’s grandfather, Fred Phelps, and most church members are her family. But seven years ago, Megan left Westboro and now befriends the very same people she once believes were damned.
Megan Phelps-Roper served as the social media mouthpiece of the notorious Westboro church.
“It took me a few years of being on Twitter, before it finally really occurred to me that we might be wrong,” Phelps-Roper said.
At 26, Phelps-Roper made the decision to leave Westboro and her entire family behind. She now calls Clark, South Dakota home.
“I have tried to use every opportunity, since I left Westboro, to make amends with these communities that we targeted when I was a member of the church,” Phelps-Roper said.
Phelps-Roper has worked with anti-bullying and civil rights groups, as well as law enforcement on hate crimes and counter terrorism.
She’s also building bridges in her own backyard. On this day, Phelps-Roper met the head of Watertown Loves, a new LGBTQ+ group that held its first Pride event in June.
“We had mutual friends and they told me I needed to meet her,” Amy Rambow said.
Amy Rambow helped start the group to support her transgender child.
“It gives you so much hope for people to know that yes, there is a lot of hate in this world, but love can overpower it at any time. And to see somebody who it was indoctrinated in them from birth, can truly change their heart is absolutely mind blowing, wonderful,” Amy Rambow of Watertown Loves said.
“I’m basically just taking the lessons that those people on Twitter, those kind strangers who were willing to see that I was a sincere human being and I was trying to do the right thing–to be willing to acknowledge that and to engage me on that basis; that completely transformed my life.
Coming up on Wednesday’s Eye on KELOLAND, Phelps-Roper explains how she ended up in South Dakota, as well as the reasoning behind Westboro’s infamous protests.
She is signing her book Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, Wednesday at 7 p.m. at DDR Books in Watertown.