Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church
Libby Phelps was born into the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, famed for its inflammatory rhetoric against homosexuals and protests against military funerals. At an early age, she was thrust into the church’s us-versus-them mentality:
In the beginning, Libby saw the picketing as a play date with her cousins. Every week the children carried signs with messages of damnation and trudged around in a circle in Gage Park until a pattern was worn into the grass.
Sometimes in the summer it got so hot that Libby’s mother would wrap a wet washcloth around her neck. In the winter, getting their snow gear on took longer than the picket.
“I didn’t even know what a homosexual was,” Libby said.
Over the years, Libby protested an AIDS quilt tour, the Academy Awards, Jenna Bush’s wedding, soldiers’ funerals, actor Bernie Mac’s funeral, President Obama’s 2008 inauguration and more.
It wasn’t until she was 25 that she managed to break free from the church, severing her family ties in the process. The church, which has just 70 members, is heavily comprised of descendants of Fred Phelps, who was Libby’s grandfather.
Read more on Libby’s life since defecting from the church in our latest Column One feature.
Photos: Megan Phelps-Roper, Michael S. Williamson / The Washington Post