Another Westboro Baptist Church Defector Tells Her Story

How many members of the Westboro Baptist Church can defect before the whole place crumbles? Rhetorical question, perhaps, but following the stories of Lauren Drain and Megan Phelps-Roper and her sister Grace and atheist Nate Phelps, we have yet another story of a God Hates Fags church member who is no longer with them.

Fred Phelps‘ granddaughter Libby Phelps actually gave interviews about her defection earlier this year, but a Los Angeles Times article tackles the issue in a bit more depth:

Libby Phelps-Alvarez

Since Libby left Westboro Baptist Church in 2009, there have been about 10 other defections — most of them grandchildren

Steve Drain, a Westboro spokesman, downplays the departures. “They’re not of us,” he said. “They want to define God in their own terms. Good luck with that.” His daughter Lauren left and recently wrote a book critical of the church.

Libby married in July 2011. Her parents did not attend.

Her name is now hyphenated: Phelps-Alvarez. Now 30, she lives in Lawrence, Kan., about 20 miles from her childhood home. She has new friends, a new family, a new world. But she misses her parents. Just after she left, she received an email from a church member saying her mother and father wanted no further communication with her. Her parents did not respond to requests for an interview.

Let’s hope the floodgates have opened. Let’s hope the younger members of the Phelps family find inspiration in their siblings who escaped and find ways to join them.

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.

  • Sven2547

    Just after she left, she received an email from a church member saying her mother and father wanted no further communication with her.

    “And they’ll know we are Christians by our…?”

  • Gus Snarp

    I’m a fan of women keeping their own names or hyphenating when they marry. My wife uses her maiden name. But in this case, I think I’d jump at having no vestige of my former name…

  • ggsillars

    According to Nate, the environment on the inside is something like the Stockholm Syndrome.

  • Space Cadet

    I remember listening to a podcast (memory fails as to which one) that had an interview with one of the Phelps. The subject of free will came up, and when the interviewer attributed the doctrine of free will to all christianity, the interviewee rejected that outright. He stated that they don’t believe in free will, but rather in predestination.

    I am greatly amused every time they protest against something that they believe god preordained. Do they not see the irony in their situation?

  • ShoeUnited

    I agree with your sentiment, but there are two major segments in Christianity in the US. One side believes that will is what makes you Christian and that deeds are only a form of ass-kissing. The other side believes that deeds are what make you Christian and that will is merely ass-kissing.

    Not quite the words they’d use (something about calvinists) but there are two very divergent views even within Christianity about how to best serve God. They are clearly in the camp where deeds is hypocritical.

  • ShoeUnited

    Inside outside, God will burn you forever so praise him because he loves you. If you praise him and love him enough he may just do something nice for you. But if you make him angry he’ll have to bring the hammer down. And if you’ve been doing good and bad things still happen, then he’s just testing your faith. Because he loves you and wants to see if you will falter. Of course he knows you won’t because he’s omniscient. But even if he is omniscient, please beg him for forgiveness and a chance at winning the lottery because he loves you each individually, but he’s a very busy guy so don’t bother him with every little problem.

    I don’t think Stockholm Syndrome is unique here.

  • Michelle

    Christian Love! Stay in our church or by god we’ll kick you out of our family and curse our loins for ever giving birth to you!

  • sara

    I hope very much that when these family members leave they are finding each other, so that they can have that sense of family that the church tries to deny them.

  • Space Cadet

    “…foot on their throat.”

  • allein

    So then obviously it was also preordained that the younger generation would leave one by one…(or is it two by two?)

  • Reginald Selkirk

    How many members of the Westboro Baptist Church can defect before the whole place crumbles?

    A quiverful. (bada- bing!)

  • SeekerLancer

    Maybe you could just tell people you’re related to the Olympic swimmer?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    (Steve Drain) said. “They want to define God in their own terms. Good luck with that.”

    And why is your method of making shit up any more authorative than theirs? Why are the Bible verses that Fred Phelps cherry picks any more impressive than the verses that other people cherry pick?

  • JA

    10 defections, plus a few others before 2009…aren’t there only like 60-70 members of that church?

  • Hat Stealer

    The scary thing is that they think that the idea of predestination is morally ‘right.’ Ask any sensible person if they think it’s right that God makes people with the intention that they go to Hell, and they’ll say no. But because God made it that way, and because God defines morality, the WBC thinks it’s a good thing that God makes people so he can torture them.

    In short, there’s no inconsistency. They’re just evil assholes without a moral compass besides their Bahble to guide them.

  • Jane R. LeBlanc

    I agree! I would jump at the opportunity to change my last name.

  • cipher

    I think you’d be surprised by the number of people who subscribe to that belief, to one extent or another. Calvinism and Dominionism/Reconstructionism are the two greatest influences within the evangelical subculture, even upon those who would identify neither as Calvinists nor as Dominionists.

  • Reginald Selkirk


  • indorri

    Some might object to your characterization, but I think you are absolutely correct. They are evil. They are morally decrepit wretches who have thrown away their humanity. Personally, I think we should be louder about this.

  • Croquet_Player

    It’s a particularly horrible and callous kind of parent who cuts off all contact with their child simply because of religious differences. I hope Ms. Phelps-Alvarez can heal, move on, and enjoy a life surrounded by caring and kind friends and new loving family.

  • Stev84


  • Space Cadet

    It’s guaranteed that someone would object to Hat Stealer’s characterization. That’s one of the most frustrating things when it comes to religious debates/arguments. (I know I’m preaching to the choir, here). There will always be someone ready to pull the No True Scotsman card, since even Calvinists and other Reformation denominations aren’t safe from further schism.

  • JT

    except she has a chance to better the name. To prove to everyone that its not a last name that defines a person.

  • Nathan Luke Anderson

    One of two things are going to happen here: 1. Either the entire new generation of WBC members will defect, and the church will fall into obscurity…. OR 2. The church clamps down and becomes a figurative prison, at which point WBC no longer becomes a constitutional rights issue, and becomes a child welfare issue – giving the government the ability to intervene.

  • Redheads glasses

    Fred phelps had an amazing career as a lawyer in the early days of the civil rights movement. He was a hero to the caûse of equality of the races. Where and why he went so far down this horrible road he’s on, hating gay people so much he pickets funerals, I have no idea.

  • Anna

    I don’t know how the government could really intervene. Parents in the U.S. have almost total control over their children. They can do anything they want to them, short of physical abuse that leaves marks or bruises. I’m not aware of any law that says parents can’t raise their children in seclusion from mainstream society and/or with extremely unpopular social or political views. People in the KKK and neo-Nazi movements have children, and the government isn’t taking those children away.

  • sane37

    God sounds like Extreme Santa™

  • Gus Snarp

    You make a good point. But that’s certainly the harder path.

  • Silent Service

    The wheels are coming off the wagon. There will remain enough members to keep the church going for some time, but the Phelps clan is coming apart.

  • Silent Service

    I am willing to bet she kept the name for a reason. To redeem it from her grandfather’s hatred. I find that a worthy goal.

  • tac

    “He will burn you forever…..because he loves you”

    Sounds like a deep, personal conflict. Thanks for sharing your self-loathing.

  • Mike Marion

    Hyper-Calvinism, T-U-L-I-P. Total Hereditary Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverence of the Saints. In other words, cuckoo cuckoo.

  • Jason Valentine

    I think she’s brave to keep her first family name. It’s a brave call..showing the world…they aren’t all like that…

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Where’s the LA Times article quoted from above? I can’t find it in google; the only results are to the same quote, on atheist blogs.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Answered my own question. Here’s the full article:

  • b s

    (Paraphrasing slightly)

    “Right. You’re in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People’s Front.”

    “And the Judean Popular People’s Front.”

    “And the People’s Front of Judea.”

    “What? We’re the People’s Front of Judea!”

    “Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front. Whatever happened to the Popular Front?”

    “He’s over there.”


  • Jennifer Starr

    Actually at that point it would be local law enforcement that would intervene, especially in the case of an adult child trying to leave the home..