Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper are still trying to start anew nearly a year after leaving Westboro Baptist Church. In a recent interview with a Canadian newspaper, they admitted that they hurt a lot of people and that they now feel enormous empathy for the victims of their vitriolic hate speech.
The Phelps-Roper granddaughters are currently in Montreal, spending a month at the invitation of a Jewish community, reports NPR. Though they’ve remained mostly under-the-radar since splitting with Westboro, they do often speak to community and education groups on the topics of tolerance and religion.
“We don’t have a set home,” Megan told The Globe and Mail.
“I’m at a complete loss,” she continued, speaking to her future goals. “But I do know that I want to do good, to have empathy. Even though we intended to do good [with the picketing], we hurt a lot of people.”
Megan and Grace admit that it was difficult to leave their family, but they seem to understand that the church presents a toxic worldview and environment.
“The way the church presents it is, there’s the WBC and the rest of the world. And the rest of the world is evil. The WBC is the only place in the world in our generation that is telling the truth of God,” Megan says of the church’s philosophy. “Over time, those little things built up, and there were so many of them. Once you step out of it for a second, and you’re out of that vacuum, things change.”
Even though it was made clear to them that leaving Westboro Baptist would result in shunning from their parents and siblings, they knew it was a choice they had to make.
“We were both terrified after leaving,” Megan said. “I was afraid we were going to hell. Many times when we were driving, I thought God was going to kill us.”
“I won’t get to hear my brothers playing piano again or see my parents’ hair go gray,” Grace added.
Aside from staying out of Westboro Baptist Church, Megan and Grace have little set in stone for their futures. Megan admits she wants everything from a “blueberry farm” to a career in acting, but there’s one thing both women agree on: Avoiding book deals and reality TV.
“We do not want to use our past as a way to make money. We abhor the idea,” Megan said.