Five years ago, Lauren Drain was cast out of the fringe, anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, disowned by most of the only people she'd ever known and left to fend for herself in an unfamiliar world. Now 27, Drain is launching a campaign to encourage others to leave the group as well, by making it easier for former Westboro members to start new lives outside the "cult."
In a "Support WBC Escapees" GoFundMe campaign launched over the weekend, Drain tells of the hardship she faced at 22.
"When I was ostracized I was given a few hours to pack my life into a few suitcases, dropped off by my father at a motel and told to never return, never contact my siblings and that I was now disowned," she recalls. "Anyone that leaves or is kicked out is banished for life and all ties to your family, friends, community, life are severed and you are truly on your own."
Drain is hoping to raise $20,000 to establish a "safety net," which she says will both help recent escapees and "set a great example for those others who are thinking of walking away from the only family they've have, the only friends they know, the community they are forced to maintain and the only life they have ever had." She also notes that allowing everyone to contribute would send a message to skeptical Westboro members that the world outside is "willing to help them, accept them [and] forgive them."
Three of Drain's siblings remain members of Westboro. They, like all of the church's young members, were "BORN into the cult or otherwise indoctrinated as children by their parents and their new community," she says.
Drain has been a vocal critic of Westboro and their hateful message over the past year. In February, she posed for a NOH8 campaign ad, showing her support for gay rights and equality. In March, she released "BANISHED: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church," an account of growing up in the Kansas-based congregation.