How Fred Phelps’ Son Ran Away From Home

The very awesome Nate Phelps (son of the not-at-all-awesome “God Hates Fags” preacher Fred Phelps) has received some great media coverage over the past few days because he represents something remarkable: Someone who left a cult-like hate church and became a reasonable, rational atheist:

Nate Phelps

If you haven’t heard it before, the story of how he finally escaped Westboro Baptist Church is amazing:

Let’s go back to that night of your 18th birthday. You were determined to leave then. How did you do it?

Well, the actual planning, I had saved up money. We were selling candy for years there, and I was able to save a few dollars here and there and hide it, and I bought an old used car from a security guard at my high school and I hid that down the street so no one knew that I owned it. I kept it far enough away from the house that no one realized it was mine. And then over the course of the last month or so I started packing my meager belongings; I think I had four, five, six boxes of stuff. I would pack a little bit at a time and hide it in the garage. And then on the night of my 18th birthday I waited until about 10.30 when everyone was asleep and I went and got the car and backed it into the driveway and loaded the boxes into the trunk. Then I went and parked the car about half a block up the road, just in case, because it was critical that no one know that’s what I was doing. One of the dynamics of the situation is that we were more than willing to throw each other under the bus to save ourselves.

Not one brother or one sister you could’ve confided in at that point or would have?

It was way too dangerous to do that. So I went back in the house and I remember sitting in my room for about 15 minutes just literally shaking. As it approached midnight I actually stood at the bottom of the stairs going up to my dad’s bedroom and watched the clock on the wall. As soon as it hit midnight I yelled as loud as I could at the top of my lungs and then ran out the back door and jumped in the car and took off.

That was 35 years ago.

Nate still hopes he can reconcile with his mother one day, but it’s unlikely that she’ll ever find it in her heart to do that. How can she find the time to meet with her son when there are so many gay people she needs to hate? ***Edit***: A couple of commenters point out that Phelps’ mother may be an abuse victim and the decision to see her son may not be as simple as that. She may not be doing it out of fear of what her husband may do to her. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s certainly plausible given how Fred Phelps rules over his family. I apologize for not considering that when I originally wrote this post.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X