If you don’t know the name Fred Phelps, you probably recognize his Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church for the evil it regularly commits—carrying their anti-gay protests, complete with “God Hates Fags” signs, to every public forum available to them in the country, including the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. A notable fact about the church: It’s membership is made up almost entirely of Fred Phelps’ descendants.
And its membership is getting smaller. This week, Libby Phelps Alvarez gave an interview to the Today show describing how she left the church in 2009. She said she hoped other family members would follow her: “I would tell them I love them and that people aren’t evil like we were taught,” she said. “And even though I am crying right now, life isn’t full of sadness and sorrow and disease and heartache like they told us. You can lead a happy and good life.”
Indeed, another reporter has confirmed that two more young women from the clan, Megan and Grace Phelps, have also left the church and taken up residence in Brooklyn. Megan Phelps explained to a reporter that her mind and heart were softened by a visit to the library.
In December, she went to a public library in Lawrence, Kansas. She was looking through books on philosophy and religion, and it struck her that people had devoted their entire lives to studying these questions of how to live and what is right and wrong. “The idea that only WBC hadthe right answer seemed crazy,” she says. “It just seemed impossible.”
As a former card-carrying member of the Lawrence Public Library, I couldn’t be more happy or proud. You know what? It seems like a good time to make a donation to your local library in honor of Megan Phelps—even in the digital age, our libraries are places where we can come together, learn, and have our lives changed for the better.