Nate Phelps is the son of Pastor Fred Phelps -- the founder of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church. Known for picketing military funerals and spewing hate against gays and other religious groups, the church has been widely criticized as a hate group.

By age 16, Nate found himself at odds with his father's views and tired of the extreme physical punishment he endured. On his 18th birthday, he escaped his family, driving off in a used Rambler Classic in the middle of the night. He slept in a gas station bathroom for three straight nights, filled with a mixture of fear and hope.

Nate eventually began a new life, moving first to California and then to Canada. Today, he joined HuffPost Live from Calgary, Alberta, to share his amazing life story.

Also joining the conversation were James Schwartz, who grew up gay and Amish in Michigan, leaving his community so he could live openly. We also heard from Libby Anne, a woman raised within the Christian ministry Vision Forum -- which advocates Quiverfull's patriarchal principles. As a college student, she too, left her religion behind.

The Executive Director of MeadowHaven, a long term treatment facility for escapees of high-control organizations, also lent his perspective to the conversation, explaining his approach to healing.

Watch the full conversation below.



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  • Matthew Shepard

    The Westboro Baptist Church first gained national notice at the <a href="http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming/article_fa10936e-cb5b-5170-afd8-e7eaa0a43aa8.html" target="_hplink">funeral of Matthew Shepard</a> who had been robbed, brutally beaten and left to die in Laramie, Wyoming.

  • Steve Jobs

    The Westboro Baptist Church threatened to picket <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/06/westboro-baptist-church-steve-jobs-funeral_n_998032.html" target="_hplink">Steve Jobs' funeral</a> but called it off when the memorial service was held privately.

  • Elizabeth Edwards

    The Westboro Baptist Church picketed Elizabeth Edwards' funeral after she <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/09/elizabeth-edwards-funeral-westboro-baptist-church_n_794333.html" target="_hplink">died of cancer</a>.

  • Matthew Snyder

    The Westboro Baptist Church protested Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder after he had died serving his country in Iraq. The protest of the hate group went all the way to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/29/father-of-dead-marine-ord_n_517614.html" target="_hplink">the Supreme Court</a>.

  • Norway Shootings

    While it is not clear that the hate group ever got there they declared their intent in this charming YouTube Video staring the head hater himself who tells the people of Norway -- <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PC3K9ZoU7So" target="_hplink">God Sent the Shooter</a>. Read more about it <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/04/westboro-baptists-church-norway_n_917388.html" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Illinois Holocaust Museum

    The Westboro Baptist Church protested the Illinois Holocaust Museum <a href="http://skokie.patch.com/articles/update-westboro-baptist-church-protest-at-holocaust-museum" target="_hplink">on the eve of Rosh Hashanah</a>

  • Tucson Shootings

    The Westboro Baptist Church picketed the funerals of victims of Tucson shootings. They agreed not to picket the 9 year old Christina Taylor Green i<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/12/westboro-baptist-church-arizona-funerals_n_808088.html" target="_hplink">n exchange for air time</a> on a local radio show.

  • Michael Jackson

    Westboro Baptist Church picketed the funeral of recording artist Michael Jackson. Members of Westboro have also recorded a song titled "<a href="http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2422138213120376038" target="_hplink">God Hates the World</a>," an adaptation of Jackson's charity single, "We Are the World."

  • President Obama Joplin, Missouri after the Tornado

    The Westboro Baptist Church protested in tornado devastated Joplin, Missouri <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2011/may/29/nation/la-na-obama-joplin-missouri-20110530" target="_hplink">when President Obama visited</a>.

  • Foo Fighters Fight Back

    Read more about it <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/18/foo-fighters-westboro-baptist-church_n_968395.html" target="_hplink">The Foo Fighters vs. Westboro</a>.