WBC Member Leaves Church, Talks Appreciation for LGBT Community
One of the grandsons of the late Fred Phelps has left the vehemently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, which Phelps founded, and is speaking out about the organization and how his views on the LGBT community have dramatically changed, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports.
Zach Phelps-Roper, 23, is the fourth Phelps-Roper sibling and one of at least 20 family members to leave the WBC, which is known for its protests, funeral picketing and message "God Hates Fags." In a new interview with the Capital-Journal, he explains his why he now rejects the church’s teachings and discusses reconnecting with the other excommunicated family members.
"I believe that empathy and unconditional love are what is absolutely necessary for us to free ourselves and each other from mind traps and from the many problems that are plaguing our society," Phelps-Roper told the newspaper.
Phelps-Roper moved out of the WBC compound, headquartered in Topeka, Kans., on Feb. 20, with the help of his cousins.
He tells the newspaper that since he’s left the church, he’s received love and support from the LGBT community and that he no longer shares the same views as the WBC. He added that gay people have offered to buy him meals, drinks and empathize with his struggles.
"After I left the church I met some homosexual men who were very kind to me, and I was taken aback," he told the newspaper, according to Gay Star News. "I met this guy at Olive Garden one night with my sister and he offered to pay for my entire dinner and I was so taken aback... I was like, ’I don’t know what to say,’ so I said, ’No, no, let me do that, I’ll just pay for that, I’ve got it.’"
"It was so funny because the very next day I saw him... I went out for a very moderate drinking [session] with my friends and family and ... he just came up to me and just kindly got me one of these fruity kind of drinks that I like and he just said ’Here you go man,’ and just walked off - he didn’t even expect a thank you," he is quoted saying.
Phelps-Roger said he remembers being part of the church since he was a young child but started to question the WBC’s teachings when he was 18. He said that the members of the WBC are stuck in a "mind trap" and doesn’t blame them for their hate-fueled pickets and protests.
The young man left the WBC just a month before his grandfather and the organization’s founder, Fred Phelps, died at the age of 84. Phelps-Roger said other members of the church convinced him that his grandfather had become "manipulated and abusive" and prohibited him from visiting him while he was at a nearby hospice.
"I was very ambivalent, I wasn’t sure what to think of my grandpa after he passed," he reportedly told the Capital-Journal.