Megan Phelps-Roper, now 27, who quit the Westboro Baptist Church this week, is shown here in January 2009 picketing at the Obama inauguration. / Heather Charles, The Star, via AP
The Westboro Baptist Church -- notorious for picketing famous funerals and public events to promote an anti-gay ideology -- has lost two key followers.
Two granddaughters of Westboro founder Fred Phelps, 83, have publicly quit the church, denounced its campaigns to disrupt funerals for military officers, entertainers and shooting victims, and apologized for years of carrying signs proclaiming "God hates" homosexuals.
Megan Phelps-Roper, 27, formerly one of the most outspoken members of the tiny congregation and a leader of its funeral pickets, and her sister Grace, walked away from the tiny congregation in November, according to the Washington Post.
But it wasn't until Wednesday that they released a statement about their decision, saying. "Inflicting pain on others wasn't the goal, but it was one of the outcomes. We wish it weren't so, and regret that hurt."
Westboro loyalists have condemned their move. Margie Phelps tweeted Friday: "Sadly these young ladies who go from light out into darkness will soon learn how unreliable is the "love" of the world.#WhatSorrowAwaitsThem"
Their mother, Shirley Phelps-Roper, responded to the defection with a Scripture-packed statement posted at the gay and lesbian web site As Good As You. One quotation came from 1 John 2:19: "And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with usā?¦"
The Huffington Post points out other Fred Phelps' family members who have defected from the family compound in Topeka, including Phelps' son Nate, who left three decades ago, and Megan and Grace's brother, Josh, who left in 2003.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group.
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