He's showing my family—who have cut me out of their lives, but who will surely watch this documentary—my candid reaction to this news", "Megan Phelps-Roper returns to Topeka to launch book 'Unfollow, "Megan Phelps-Roper: If You're Raised To Hate, Can You Reverse It? She is the daughter of Brent Roper and Shirley Phelps Roper. Specifically, the film will cover Megan Phelps-Roper, the now-31-year-old former WBC member who left the church in November 2012, and David Abitbol, the Jewish blogger … [24], Phelps-Roper and her family created parodies of pop-culture songs to spread Westboro Baptist Church's theology. McMurdock: You talk about how great it is to have freedom now, even cherishing walking down the street alone. Phelps-Roper felt both events violated the church's interpretation of scripture and went against the group's concept of leadership. [31] She is a member of Twitter's Trust and Safety Council and advocates overcoming disagreements between political and religious groups. [1] Phelps-Roper preached the church's doctrine to celebrities and prominent users of the platform. [1][8] During her youth, Phelps-Roper felt happy being close to her extended family members, both in her relationships and her physical proximity to them. Her beliefs in the preachings of hatred towards uncommon cultural development were quite strong. As a child, teenager and early 20-something, she participated in the picketing almost daily and spearheaded the use of social media in the church. Granddaughters of founder Fred Phelps—Megan Phelps-Roper, 27, and her 19-year-old sister, Grace—explained their decision in a joint statementreleased on Wednesday. She sent the essay to a friend who encouraged her to write the book. [13], She is married to Chad Fjelland, an attorney whom she met through Twitter while advocating for the Westboro Baptist Church. During the taping, Theroux told Phelps-Roper that two of her siblings were engaged to be married which caused her to be upset. and the chorus's lyrics caused her to question the church's preaching tactics. She is now committed to reaching out to people that she affected during her time with the group, including Jewish communities, homosexuals and the families of soldiers. Phelps-Roper: I would encourage my 16-year-old self to consider how she knows what she thinks she knows. 15.2k Followers, 614 Following, 215 Posts - See Instagram photos and videos from Megan Phelps-Roper (@meganmarie) McMurdock: What did Louis Theroux think when you contacted him to say you’d left Westboro? She complied, reasoning that removing her focus from earthly matters would increase her spirituality. [1] At her baptism, Phelps-Roper began doubting Westboro Baptist Church's theology. Megan Phelps-Roper was born into a culture of hate as a member of her grandfather’s Westboro Baptist Church. [1], She contemplated staying in the church and pretending to follow their beliefs, but quickly rejected this idea. [25] The parody, sung by Phelps-Roper, changed the lyrics to claim that God will not listen to Lady Gaga's prayers and that she will be sent to hell. I recognized pretty soon after I left the church that those ideas wouldn’t just take care of themselves. Phelps-Roper: I wish there were, and there might be, but it will certainly take some convincing on my mother’s part. For more than 20 years, she couldn’t conceive of a life outside of the church, until she got a Twitter account. She was raised in Westboro Church by her mother, with her siblings, Rebekah Phelps-Roper, Joshua Phelps-Roper, Isaiah Phelps-Roper, and Samuel Phelps-Rop. [1][4] Church elders encouraged the children to memorize Bible passages that the church used to justify the group's protests and provide counter-arguments to people who disagreed with them. McMurdock: You are only 33 now. If you’re interested in talking to other influencers’ representatives, along with members of the Megan Phelps-roper management team, The Handbook contains over 127,000 verified influencer contacts for planning events, interviews and promotions. [6][7] Despite describing herself as an obedient child who worked hard to win the approval of her parents, she was regularly spanked during her childhood and teenage years. Roper’s sister was the bridesmaid at the wedding. She travels around the world to speak about her experience in the church and advocates dialogue between groups with conflicting views. One of their most popular parodies was Ever Burn based on the Lady Gaga song Telephone. Samantha McMurdock: When you first joined Twitter, you were trolled in the most heinous ways (death threats, threats of sexual attacks, etc.). Phelps-Roper: I love being a mom to my baby girl Sølvi, and I think Chad and I would love to add to our family. [9] She spoke at the Jewlicious Festival in Long Beach, California at the invitation of David Abitbol[1] and accepted a one-month engagement with the Jewish community in Montreal in 2013[27] where she visited religious studies classes at Concordia University and spoke at a Jewish cultural festival. In this book, she covers the history of the Westboro Baptist Church. Phelps-Roper: Cults have a lot to recommend them: an intense sense of community, of purpose and sanctity and identity, a promise of reward, a comforting sense of certainty in a chaotic world. [8][11], When Abitbol discovered they left the church he invited Phelps-Roper and her sister to visit Los Angeles. Her beliefs in the preachings of hatred towards uncommon cultural development were quite strong. [5], Phelps-Roper considered leaving the church in April 2012 when the song "Just One" by Blind Pilot played on her stereo. In January 2017 she presented a TED talk discussing her experiences growing up within the church and her journey towards her decision to leave. Westboro was an insular community, as the family/congregation lived together on the same block, and Megan Phelps-Roper had no real friends outside of the church growing up. — and that was hugely important to changing how I thought and felt about people in those communities. She left the Westboro Baptist Church in November 2012 and is now an educator on topics related to extremism and communication across ideological lines. Central Library is a beautifully re-modelled building with Wi-Fi access throughout the building, 150 computers and iPads, and a game area with free to use Xbox 360. in Nebraska", "How One Woman Left the Hate Group She Grew Up In", "Lady Gaga Is 'Devil Spawn' in Westboro Baptist Church 'Telephone' Parody", "Granddaughters of an infamous homophobic U.S. pastor find grace in Montreal", "Granddaughters of Westboro Baptist's founder recall fleeing the church", "I Love You, America is chock full of empathy and naked people", "Long Time Leaving: PW Talks with Megan Phelps-Roper", Unfollow: A Journey from Hatred to Hope, leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Megan_Phelps-Roper&oldid=1000014383, Former members of the Westboro Baptist Church, CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown, Wikipedia articles with BIBSYS identifiers, Wikipedia articles with WORLDCATID identifiers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 13 January 2021, at 02:37. Only church members were acceptable friends. Megan Phelps-Roper. She does not believe the platform is toxic but that some users bring toxicity into Twitter conversations. Megan Phelps-Roper shared a post on Instagram: “Sølvi finding love in Liverpool... #booktourbaby” • Follow their account to see 210 posts. In 2011 a council of nine male church elders met separately from other members and decided to make church decisions by themselves. For FREE you can … The author's mother, Shirley Phelps-Roper, was the church's administrative leader and a zealous believer in its dogma, and she raised her 11 children to be believers as well. Details on Megan Phelps-Roper's book tour for UNFOLLOW: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church – the fire-and-brimstone religious sect at once aggressively homophobic and anti-Semitic, rejoiceful for AIDS and natural disasters, and notorious for its picketing the funerals of American soldiers. In her book, she recalls her life inside the cult and how joining Twitter helped her escape. They cater to a lot of our most basic needs as human beings, and the costs of joining aren’t always obvious up front. We weren’t just supposed to follow those rules, but to love them, to welcome the oversight. [14][5] She kept her maiden name to, as she describes, “reform the legacy of the name.”[13] Her daughter, Sølvi Lynne, was born in 2018. Anything less than that was a sign that we were headed down a bad path. Did this stand in the way of making friends at school and college, and how did you navigate teenage life without a network of girl pals? It took place in the compound's swimming pool. Megan Phelps Roper and her husband Chad Fjelland enjoying their holiday. [9] Phelps-Roper stopped carrying signs which called for the death penalty for sins but stopped communicating with Abitbol so he could not further challenge her beliefs. Phelps-Roper: It wasn’t so much that I was given a curfew as that my mother directed everything about my life. [3], In middle school, Phelps-Roper made friends that were not part of the WBC group and participated in extracurricular activities including running track,[1] volleyball and musical theatre. At this point, the former beliefs that surface most often have to do with parenting. During this discussion, Phelps-Roper encouraged her sister to leave the church with her, and they announced their intention to their parents. Megan Phelps-Roper was just a child when she first joined the pickets against homosexuality and other apparent vices with her fellow Westboro Baptist Church members. McMurdock: What advice would you give 16-year-old Megan — and do you think she would take it? [1] She protested major historical events like the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the AIDS pandemic. However, she believes that being allowed to leave the group and her parents' help to pack her belongings are examples of non-cultlike actions of the group. Church elders stated Shirley repented for her sins and was forgiven by God, but Abitbol pointed out that she could not repent for her sins if she was punished with death. [6] Previously, the church employed a consensus decision-making model and women had influential roles in this process. Megan Phelps-Roper was just a child when she joined her family in Westboro Baptist Church’s picket lines. Is there any way the two of you could lay your differences aside to just be mother and daughter? [1], Church members Photoshopped images and falsely claimed that they protested the Royal Wedding in the United Kingdom and Whitney Houston’s funeral. Her mother is Shirley Phelps-Roper and her grandfather is the church's founder Fred Phelps. We could be friendly and joke around, but I didn’t trust them at all. The activist and TED speaker Megan Phelps-Roper reveals her life growing up in the most hated family in America At the age of five, Megan Phelps-Roper began protesting homosexuality and other alleged vices alongside fellow members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. The church protests against LGBTQ+ people, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Atheists, Soliders and their allies. She left the Westboro Baptist Church in November 2012 and is now an educator on topics related to extremism and communication across ideological lines. Phelps-Roper: There was a verse my mom would quote: Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Megan Phelps-Roper was just a child when she joined her family in Westboro Baptist Church’s picket lines. McMurdock: You were taught to be suspicious of the kindness of strangers. [21] She justified this change in tone with the proverb, “By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.”[1], In the late 2000s, Phelps-Roper sent messages to prominent Jewish Twitter users, calling for them to repent and stop their Jewish rituals before they were sent to hell. [22] Her strategy on Twitter was to counter angry responses with Bible verses, pop culture references and emojis. People were incredibly angry about our signs and often attempted violence, but my family kept us safe — which just reinforced the narrative I was learning at Westboro Church: that we were the good guys, and outsiders were hateful and evil. A former member of Westboro Baptist Church, Megan Phelps-Roper is now an author & educator on topics related to extremism, bullying, & empathy in dialogue. [1], As an adult, Phelps-Roper continued doubting the church's doctrine and discovered contradictions within the church's beliefs. This is considered a sin in the Westboro Baptist Church and they believed the appropriate punishment is the death penalty. Phelps-Roper: Louis had a lot of questions about what exactly had happened. David Abitbol responded by asking questions about her beliefs and engaging in theological discussions. The church’s picket lines and demonstrations were so vitriolic that it was recognized as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and by the Southern Poverty Law Center. After watching the documentary, her father insisted that she block the Dutch filmmakers on Twitter and limit her time on the platform. Megan and Louis are now … In 2009 she became an active member on Twitter to preach the church's doctrine. He was incredibly kind and empathetic. (Photo courtesy of Megan Phelps-Roper ), Megan Phelps-Roper explains how her family micromanaged church members and how Twitter eventually led her to understanding, “Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church.”, making a one-time or recurring gift today, I never looked back: Terry Gilliam was always drawn to Britain, Opinion | The real impact of universal preschool and a tax on the 5%, Athletics Director Valerie Cleary stands out at Portland State, Bill Bailey and the first American revolt against the Nazi flag | Book Review, He was dying, but he was free: Special report tells the tragic and brutal story of Billy Baggett. This is part one of a two-part episode. [1] She publicly announced that she had left the church after discovering the church's planned protest of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. [5][15], In 2019, Phelps-Roper appeared in Louis Theroux's third documentary about the Westboro Baptist Church Surviving America's Most Hated Family. They stayed at the home of a Hasidic rabbi and his family and discussed theology with them. Instead, she thinks it is a document of people trying to understand how to be good and that other philosophies were developed with the same goals. That definitely stopped me from making true friends of my classmates. McMurdock: You still send your mother greeting cards. Following her departure, Phelps-Roper became a prominent critic of the group's philosophy and practices. [19] Early pickets took place in Gage Park, Topeka as part of her grandfather’s campaign to stop homosexuals from allegedly engaging in sexual intercourse at the park. The friendships she made at her local public school caused her to believe that her fellow students were not evil, as the church claimed. [5][32], Phelps-Roper believes the Bible is not written by people under God's inspiration. [1], While attending public school Phelps-Roper was exposed to pop culture and ideas which contradicted her beliefs. [1], Every Sunday, Phelps-Roper's family attended her grandfather's service and listened to him preach what he claimed was a strict interpretation of Calvinist doctrine. That if I had any hope of lasting change, I would need to be very deliberate about putting myself in situations to challenge those beliefs and to create new memories and associations. [18], Phelps-Roper participated in the church's protests against homosexuality when she was 5 years old before she could read the signs she carried. [26], Since leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, Phelps-Roper has reconnected with Abitbol who convinced her to atone for, and fix, her mistakes in a Jewish concept called tikkun olam. She was reminded of her conversations with C.G. She also appeared as a regular guest on a Kansas City morning show, "Afentra's Big Fat Morning Buzz". would discuss these events with Phelps-Roper online and asked her to consider a deceased family's response to her church's joy. Phelps-Roper came to believe that the more the outside world condemned their views and actions, the more righteous they were. She was taught the Westboro Baptist Church doctrine and at the age of 13, she was baptized as a member of the church. Megan Phelps Roper was born in 1986 on 31 January and is now 30 years old. Megan Phelps-Roper. [5] She stated that she is a “believer in humanity” and in that way still classifies herself as a believer. Reading Time: 3 minutes Megan Phelps-Roper (@meganphelps) grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church, an organization widely monitored as a hate group for its anti-gay, anti-Jewish, anti-American protests.She left WBC in 2012 and has since written about her experiences in Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church. (The British documentarian made three films based on the inner machinations of the Westboro Baptist Church.). [6] Phelps-Roper also leaves cards and notes for her family at their home when she is in Topeka. Phelps-Roper did not want to post these images on her Twitter feed but was pressured to do so by church elders. Here's why I left | TED Talk", "Losing my religion: life after extreme belief", "Mutilating the American Flag: Now O.K. Louis Theroux with Megan's mum, Shirley Phelps-Roper, who became a spokesperson of sorts for the church Credit: BBC. All rights reserved. She reaches out to relatives through Twitter but does not receive responses. How did you tear down that instinctive barrier? [13] She wants people to choose who they receive messages from and what posts appear on their feeds. [1] She used a softer tone on the platform than she did during interviews because she wanted to avoid ending conversations after insulting the other user or having the conversation side-tracked by angry responses. A former member of Westboro Baptist Church, Megan Phelps-Roper is now an author & educator on topics related to extremism, bullying, & empathy in dialogue. Megan Phelps-Roper was five when her parents first put a picket sign in her hands. They were keeping us from veering off the path, and any attempt on our part to push back against that was seen as rebellion — an indicator that our hearts weren’t in the right place. But since I never witnessed an alternative, I’m constantly searching for examples of good, humanistic parenting practices. The ceremony included a profession of faith and concluded with Phelps-Roper becoming a full member of the church. What I regret is the pain that we inflicted on so many people. Megan Phelps-Roper To anyone who feels moved to help or share the gofundme set up by Maria’s family, thank you so very much. Megan Phelps-Roper is a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church, an extremist American religious cult based in Topeka, Kansas. Would discuss these events with Phelps-Roper becoming a full member of the Baptist! About my life of unnerved at first, but to love them, to welcome the oversight her,. 8 ] [ 2 ] her grandfather between political and religious groups drought! Mother is Shirley Phelps-Roper and her husband Chad Fjelland enjoying their holiday I. To write the book and daughter hopes for the church. ) end to the world are cultish beliefs was... Bother you because you ’ d left Westboro not married to her Grace! 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