Former Westboro Baptist Church member who fled hate-organization tells how she was ‘brainwashed’ by controversial group
- Lauren Drain, 27, left the church in 2008 and has written a book about the ‘manipulative’ Kansas group
- Founded by Fred Phelps in 1955, members of Westboro Baptist Church picket funerals of U.S. personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan
- In February, his granddaughters, Megan Phelps-Roper, 27, and her sister Grace, 19, left the church
By Alex Ward and James Nye
The anti-gay and anti-Semitic Westboro Baptist Church is ‘manipulative’ and ‘brainwashes’ its members into following its message according to one former member who has written a book about her experience.
Lauren Drain, 27, spent her teens as a member of the small, independent, Kansas-based church which pickets the funerals of fallen American soldiers because they died protecting a nation which defends homosexuality.
‘Absolutely, yes, they did, they did brainwash me,’ said Drain to CNN‘s Piers Morgan on Monday. ‘It’s very controlling,’ she added. ‘They control what you believe, what you say, what you do, what friends you have. They say everyone on the outside’s evil. And they don’t allow any outside influence at all.’
Drain has written ‘Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church’ which recounts how her father began a documentary investigation to expose the church and ultimately ended up joining the hate-group along with his whole family in 2001.
‘They manipulated the children into believing that is the right thing to do for God. They are being good Christians,’ said Drain about the methods of the church which is headed by Fred Phelps and founded in 1955, in Topeka.
‘They claim to speak for God. And it’s unfortunate and it’s an atrocity the things that they do and say, horrible things they do and say, but they claim they are speaking for God.’
Now cut off from the rest of her family and disowned by her father, Drain spoke of her hurt at the time and how she fears for her siblings still in the church.
‘It was very traumatic, when it first happened. I wasn’t ready for it or expected it,’ said Drain.
‘Mostly because of my siblings who are still stuck there.’
‘When I left they were three, five, 16 and now its five years later – so they are growing older, they have no opportunity to see any type of outside influence or any type of other perspective on God, any other type of knowledge of good life or good people, they have no idea that there is a happiness on the outside.’
Previously, Drain has discussed how the church brainwashes its members with constant sermons of hate, daily emails and countless studies of their interpretation of the Bible.
Drain revealed that the Bible group leaders skip over the verses that discuss God’s love, forgiveness and hope.
In fact, the infamous picketing that the Westboro Church is notorious for is paid for by the members themselves and not the church – including its younger members.
As a teenager, she got job. ‘All of my paycheck went to paying for picket trips,’ she told MyNorthWest.Com.
Speaking on CNN, Drain said that she began to question what the church was saying, believing it to be hypocritical and plain wrong.
Since leaving the WBC, Drain has worked to distance herself from the group’s stigma. She’s appeared in a NOH8 campaign ad and participated in candid Reddit Ask Me Anything.
And in February, two grandchildren of Fred Phelps left the church apologizing for the ‘hurt’ they caused after leaving the family church to start a new life.
Megan Phelps-Roper, 27, and her sister Grace, 19, left the controversial Westboro Baptist Church founded by their grandfather, which saw them holding placards with the words ‘God Hates Fags,’ ‘Fags Doom Nations’ and ‘Thank God for Dead Soldiers’, at the funerals of U.S. personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and publicly celebrating when a stranger contracts cancer.
Miss Phelps-Roper, who was once called as the ‘future leader’ of the church, confirmed that after 27 years she has made the decision to leave, effectively being cut off from her family.
‘We know that we’ve done and said things that hurt people. Inflicting pain on others wasn’t the goal, but it was one of the outcomes. We wish it weren’t so, and regret that hurt.
‘We know that we dearly love our family. They now consider us betrayers, and we are cut off from their lives, but we know they are well-intentioned. We will never not love them.’
Miss Phelps-Roper ran the church’s social media presence, posting on Twitter up to 150 times a day from her phone, and her mother, Shirley, had called her her ‘right-hand man’.
She said: ‘Until very recently, this is what I lived, breathed, studied, believed, preached – loudly, daily, and for nearly 27 years.
‘I never thought it would change. I never wanted it to. Then suddenly: it did. And I left.’
Church member Margie Phelps took to Twitter today as news broke of Ms Phelps-Roper’s departure from the church.
She posted: ‘Some day @washingtonpost will get it-standard of God doesn’t change for anyone, including #NotOfUs @meganphelps.’
Westboro Baptist Church has made international news many times for its strong views against homosexuality.
Made up mostly by the Kansas-based Phelps family, the religious group blames most tragedies – from the death of American soldiers to the recent massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School – on what they call a ‘pro-gay’ agenda in America.
Recently, Margie Phelps said in a video-taped interview that God sent the 20-year-old Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, to kill 20 people in Connecticut in December last year because the state legalized same-sex marriage.
‘Connecticut was one of the first states to come out with same-sex marriage,’ Phelps said as she sat beside a blood-red-stained sign that read: ‘God sent the shooter.’
Former member Libby Phelps Alvarez, 29, recently spoke about her departure from the church and finding peace in her new life which did not restrict her from having a haircut, traveling and being confined to the borders of the U.S.
She decided to leave after church members confronted her about a bikini she had worn during a family vacation that she decided to follow her brother’s lead, who had left two years earlier.
Estranged from her family, Mrs Phelps Alvarez now lives in Lawrence not far from the University of Kansas campus with her newlywed husband, Logan.
Documentary maker Louis Theroux has made two documentaries, in 2007 and 2011, about the Phelps family, interviewing founder Reverend Fred Phelps, Ms Phelps-Roper’s mother and Megan herself. He made the second documentary, with the title ‘America’s Most Hated Family in Crisis’ after two other young members of the church decided to leave.
He said at the time: ‘I’ve always been fascinated by this organisation. They operate as a cult, but are pretty unique in that they have allowed the media, and me, in. Yet after our first programme, two of the children of the family left the church, and contacted me.
‘I’m not claiming they left because of the programme, but it was obviously a factor. I was curious to go back, to see why.’
Fonte: Daily mail