A former member of the Westboro Baptist Church who recently published a book about leaving the hate-mongering group has also revealed that founder Fred Phelps’s anti-gay ideology may have spawned from a gay experience.
Lauren Drain, 27, was a member of the Topeka, Kan., congregation until she challenged the group’s beliefs and had to leave. She sat down this week with the Advocate to discuss her book and her journey from follower to free.
Drain suggested to the Advocate that founder Fred Phelps might have formed the Westboro Baptist Church and begun his anti-gay crusade because of a gay experience. He was a Boy Scout who graduated with honors and was headed for the military, she said. Then, at 17, Phelps changed his mind and was suddenly set on becoming a preacher to fight against “sexual immorality.”
Via the Advocate:I never understood why, when [the media asked him], “Why are you so against the homosexuals? Did you have a homosexual experience? Do you have homosexual tendencies?” And he would get so mad, he would shut down. And he’d be like, “I can’t talk to this person anymore, they’re stupid.” His reaction to that was stronger than any other question you can ask him. So I always wondered that — why does he get so mad? If I’m not gay, I’ll just say I’m not gay. And I’m not going to freak out, like, “Why are you calling me gay?” I always thought that was super strange. … I don’t know what happened there, so [speculation] is all that I can leave it at. But something happened, and something made him change his mind about the military, and in turn have kind of a crusade against sexual immorality and homosexuals.
Not only did she leave Westboro, but Drain also has become an advocate for gay rights and anti-bullying. In February, she posed for the NOH8 campaign, a movement that promotes equality.
"I don’t think anyone should judge or persecute another human being or any group of individuals based off of those personal, chosen, beliefs," she told NOH8. "I am against any and all forms of violence, discrimination, bullying or bigotry directed at someone else due to their personal lifestyle.”
March 5 saw the release of Drain’s book, Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church, in which she describes how she grew up with Westboro during her formative years, after her father developed an obsession with the group and moved his family from Florida to Kansas.
During a reddit “Ask Me Anything” session last month, one commentator asked Drain, “Do you think Fred Phelps is gay? If not, how do you explain his extreme interest in homosexuality?” She didn’t answer the question at the time, but she did say Phelps has managed to brainwash his followers so much that they believe the hate just as staunchly as he does.
"I don’t think Fred Phelps becoming incapable would be the reason the church would collapse," she said when asked if Westboro may crumble after the 83-year-old dies. "I tend to think it is disintegrating as more and more members question things and get kicked out or leave. The brainwashing is so deep that the second and third generation believe just a strongly as the Pastor himself."