Tag Archives: Rev. Fred Phelps

Opening Hearts And Minds, To Leave Hatred Behind

For the past 2 days, hundreds of Westporters have been inspired by Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper.

In appearances sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, the young women — granddaughters of Rev. Fred Phelps — have described in raw, harrowing detail how the Westboro Baptist Church known for picketing the funerals of AIDS victims, American soldiers killed in Iraq, and Steve Jobs controlled their minds until they were adults.

And what’s happened since they gathered the courage to leave.

Last night, a packed Westport Country Playhouse audience heard the women talk about the wrath they long believed God held for anyone who did not follow his every commandment. They told of the agony of leaving siblings, parents and grandparents — whom they deeply love — behind forever. And they spoke with wonder of being welcomed into the home of a rabbi who, just a couple of years earlier, they had called a “whore.”

“It’s so comfortable not to have to think for yourself,” Megan said. “But it’s so important when you do.”

Megan Phelps-Roper, after last night's talk at the Westport Country Playhouse. Her sister Grace is behind her.

Megan Phelps-Roper, after last night’s talk at the Westport Country Playhouse. Her sister Grace is behind her.

This morning, hundreds more Staples High School students gathered in the auditorium. They sat in stunned silence as the women talked — then followed up with respectful questions.

One student wanted to know what the Westboro Church thought of the pope. “They don’t really like him either!” Grace said.

As the women were leaving for their next engagement, someone mentioned “The Laramie Project.” Last year, Staples Players performed the deeply moving play — about a Wyoming town’s reaction to the murder of gay student Matthew Shepard.

A defining moment comes when church members picket his funeral. They scream their signature “God hates fags” refrains, and worse. Laramie residents, in turn, raise angel wings to block the protesters from view.

Megan and Grace said they’ve never seen “The Laramie Project.”

Players director David Roth gave them a DVD of the show.

When these 2 courageous young women watch it, they’ll no doubt take a few more steps on their remarkable journey.

Westporters should feel honored — and inspired — they’ve shared it with us.

(Staples Players present “The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later” on May 19, 20 and 21, in the Black Box theater.)

"Reverend" Fred Phelps, and some of his signs. His granddaughters, Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper, described what it's like to grow up in that environment -- and how conflicted they feel because they still love their family.

“Reverend” Fred Phelps, and some of his signs. His granddaughters, Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper, described what it’s like to grow up in that environment — and how conflicted they feel because they still love their family.

Does God Hate Fags? Find Out March 28.

I am not Mexican. I can only imagine how Mexicans felt when Donald Trump called them “killers and rapists.”

I am not Muslim. So I can only imagine how members of that religion felt when Trump said “they’re not coming to this country if I’m president.”

I am not disabled. I can only imagine, then, how anyone with a disability felt when the Republican front-runner mocked a journalist born with deformed hands.

But I am gay. So I do not have to imagine what it is like for someone to call me a “fag,” spit in my face, and say that God sent 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and many other disasters to America because of me.

"Reverend" Fred Phelps, and some of his signs.

“Reverend” Fred Phelps, and some of his signs.

Even though “Reverend” Phelps was batshit crazy — and is probably right now burning in the same hell he roared I’m headed for — it’s pretty scary to know that someone, somewhere, despised a group of people so much he spent his life spewing vile garbage about them.

About me.

He was not alone. He had an entire “church” — well, mostly relatives he’d brainwashed — behind him.

But some of those church members began to think for themselves.

“Rev.” Fred Phelps’ granddaughters Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper questioned the Westboro Baptist “Church”‘s vitriolic protests against gays (and Jews, members of the military, and so many other groups). Eventually, they fled.

And on Monday, March 28 (7 p.m.) they’ll be at the Westport Country Playhouse, giving an inspiring talk about their journey from hatred to love.

Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper

Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper

The event is sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League. The moderator is ADL national director of civil rights Deborah Lauter.

She was a frequent target of Megan — and the rest of the “church” — on social media. The sisters will discuss what it was like to love their family, but be raised in such a hate-filled environment.

Yet it was social media — specifically, Megan’s engagement with an unlikely source on Twitter — that opened their eyes to broader perspectives. Today, they’re active allies in the war on hate.

“God Hates Fags” has special meaning for me.

ADL logoBut so does “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” “Your Pastor is a Whore.” And any other sign that Fred Phelps and his clan — including, not long ago, his granddaughters — hoisted.

Those signs should have special meaning for all of us. Singling one group out demeans everyone.

That’s why I am sure every seat will be filled on March 28, at the Westport Country Playhouse.

Our town — and our country — are better than the hateful rhetoric we hear too much these days.

We are one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Under — or without — any god you like.

(For tickets to the March 28 event, click here. For a fascinating, in-depth New Yorker story on Megan Phelps-Roper, click here.)