Could the reason for Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps' hyperbolic hatred of homosexuals be the result of an ongoing battle with his own repressed homosexuality?
One former member says perhaps.
Speaking with the Advocate following the release of her book about leaving the WBC, 27-year-old Lauren Drain, daughter of WBC spokesman Steve Drain, suggested the bigoted cult leader likely formed his anti-gay worldview in the aftermath of a gay experience during his teen years.
In the interview, Drain, author of Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church, discusses Phelps youth in the Boy Scouts and his preparations to join the military, which ended abruptly due to an transformative "event."
At 17, Phelps suddenly dropped out of West Point and decided to become a preacher, Drain said, "and now he had this whole crusade against sexual immorality. … And it was after this event."
Drain admits she never discussed the life-altering incident with Phelps one-on-one, but says she has speculated quite a bit about it, and believes it might have had something to do with a gay experience. (For the record, Phelps himself attributes his about-face to a revival meeting at a a Methodist church in Meridian.)
I never understood why, when [the media asked him], "Why are you so against the homosexuals? Did you have a homosexual experience? Do you have homosexual tendencies?" And he would get so mad, he would shut down. And he'd be like, "I can't talk to this person anymore, they're stupid." His reaction to that was stronger than any other question you can ask him. So I always wondered that - why does he get so mad? If I'm not gay, I'll just say I'm not gay. And I'm not going to freak out, like, "Why are you calling me gay?" I always thought that was super strange. … I don't know what happened there, so [speculation] is all that I can leave it at. But something happened, and something made him change his mind about the military, and in turn have kind of a crusade against sexual immorality and homosexuals.
With more and more high-profile members of the WBC jumping ship in recent months, we may not need to subsist on speculation alone for long.