How a Westboro Daughter Had a Change of Heart
Twitter and pop culture helped Megan Phelps-Roper leave the church
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 16, 2015 12:28 PM CST
A file photo of Westboro Baptist Church protesters in Houston.   (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

(Newser) – At one point in her 20s, Megan Phelps-Roper had become perhaps the most prominent voice of the reviled Westboro Baptist Church, thanks to Twitter. She gleefully tweeted celebrations about the death of Ted Kennedy and the like, espousing the church's volatile God-hates-gays philosophy. But as a fascinating New Yorker profile of the now 29-year-old Phelps-Roper explains, a funny thing happened on the way to Armageddon: The very tool that Phelps-Roper was using to spread the church's hate—Twitter—also exposed her to the views and lives of the church's critics who were following her. Her back-and-forth with them fostered her own doubts, and she eventually left the church in 2013 with her younger sister.

Though indoctrinated into the church's views since childhood, Phelps-Roper also was a millennial in the modern world, as one anecdote about the death of actress Brittany Murphy shows. Church members were celebrating, "but Phelps-Roper had loved Murphy in Clueless, and she felt an unexpected pang—not quite sadness, but something close—over her death," writes Adrian Chen. She couldn't tweet the usual thank-you to God for the death: "I felt like I would be such a jackass to go on and post something like that." The final breaking point: when she heard a song by Blind Pilot, a band recommended by her Words With Friends buddy, and the lyric, "I can't believe we get just one." It caused her to wonder whether she was wasting her life and whether Westboro might be wrong. "I had to leave right then," she says. "I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin." Click for the full profile.