Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of the Westboro Baptist Church founder, has responded to news that her daughters have defected from the hate-mongering, quasi-religious organization. She said on Thursday that "the New Testament is full of people that started right, but then fell away."
Jeremy Hooper from Good As You, a gay rights blog, reached out to Phelps-Roper for a comment about her daughters Megan and Grace defecting from the Westboro Baptist Church this week. Megan and Grace announced their decision Wednesday in an online statement, in which they expressed regret for hurting so many people.
Phelps-Roper responded to the defection in a scripture-riddled statement on Thursday.
Her statement to Good as You read, in part:
We have no say on who is appointed to mercy and no say on who is appointed to wrath. All I have is a lively hope, and an urgency every day to seek tokens that my own calling in election is sure. You see my young, rebellious friend, I am no different than any other human in that I am full of sin and without a single merit of my own. BUT, if God would have mercy upon me, I have everything. It is all I care about, and all that I live for. There is nothing in this life worth having or doing except to serve my King, and to pray that his will be done and to ask that I be MADE and FOUND worthy to escape the affliction that is coming on the whole earth and that I be made and found worthy to stand before my Lord.
Megan and Grace are not the only two Phelps children to leave Westboro. Most notable, Shirley's son Josh left in 2003, and Libby Phelps Alvarez, another grandchild of founder Fred Phelps, left in 2009. Fred Phelphs' son Nate, now in his 50s, departed the organization when he was 18 years old. Still, dozens of family members maintain ties with the WBC.
The group spawns hate and controversy by protesting funerals of military officials, shooting victims and entertainers. The group permeated the mainstream media in 1998, when members picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming man who was murdered because he was gay, notes NPR.
"Our job is laid out," Phelps-Roper told NPR last year. "We are supposed to blind their eyes, stop up their ears and harden their hearts so that they cannot see, hear or understand, and be converted and receive salvation."
Fred Phelps, now 83, is a former civil rights lawyer (he was disbarred in 1979, according to newspaper Tulsa World) and has dedicated himself to Westboro Baptist Church, which is congregated by members of his extensive family -- 13 children, 56 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. They all live together on or near a compound in Topeka.
Fred explained the WBC's mission to Tulsa World, saying, "The homosexuals have taken over this country, lock, stock and barrel, and I'm preaching about it because of Leviticus 18:22: 'Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind. It is abomination.'... Twelve little words that would fix this miserable, doomed country." Adding, "And that's my job, to preach it. The preachers in this country used to all preach it just like I preach it... I'm getting very lonely now, because they've disappeared."
Most cannot understand the motives behind such vitriolic messages. A petition on the White House's open online petition forum, We The People, currently has over 334,000 signatures demanding the government classify Westboro as a hate group.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the Tulsa World as a Kansas newspaper. A correction has been made.