Zach Phelps-Roper, grandson to the late Fred Phelps, defected from the Westboro Baptist Church earlier this year after his family tried to heal his back injury with prayer.
Zach, son of Shirley, had a back injury that caused him a huge amount of pain. After the church refused to bring Zach to the hospital for treatment and instead opted to pray over his recovery, he said, “I don’t love this religion anymore.”
Zach’s blasphemous statement lead to his immediate excommunication from his church, which he was notified of after returning home to find all of his belongings on the porch.
Zach is one of 20 members to have left the church in the last decade; the most recent to leave were Shirley’s other two children, Megan and Grace. Zach told Vocativ.com that his mother was left despondent at their departure.
Earlier this year, the former spiritual leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, passed away. However, his influence ended in September 2013, when he was excommunicated from the church he had founded in 1955.
Zach now says that Fred “had a change of heart” near the end of his life. He explained that his grandfather was allegedly caught by one of the elders outside the church, calling to a band of activists across the street, “You are good people!”
Church members voted unanimously to kick out Westboro’s founder and for the last year of his life and Fred was banned from all church activities.
Since leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, Zach has dealt with bouts of depression but says he has since had a revelation. He believes that the church members should be treated with love by activists; he believes that shouting derogatory things are easily forgotten and validate their position. But it isn’t as easy to forget kindness.
“Since they believe they’re supposed to be hated, loving them would prove them wrong.”
Outside of the church, Zach has few friends, most of whom are defectors from the church. One close friend is Theo English, a party animal and sex shop-worker, who is also gay.
When asked about being friends with a man he was brought up to hate, Zach said: “I can’t change the past—the person I was feels like a complete stranger to me now.”
© 2014 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.