(Photo courtesy Lauren Drain)
A former member of the Kansas-based group Westboro Baptist Church has started a charity meant to help others escape the controversial organization.
Lauren Drain, author of the book Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church, launched the charity earlier this week.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Drain explained that she felt her cause "is just another tool to help chip away at the foundation of the WBC."
"I've been thinking about starting something for months, but needed to grow the courage to do so as I didn't know if it would be successful or well received by others, given the controversial nature of the group," said Drain.
"I want to be able to help those that have recently escaped, be it with simple things like furnishing a small apartment, or helping with educational expenses to flying someone out to reconnect with lost family."
The present fundraising goal for the charity is $20,000. Drain told CP that after two days she has already received about $1,300.
Drain's charity can be found at gofundme.com, where she describes the purpose of her efforts in an entry posted Sunday.
"Some of us left by choice and others banished for questioning the doctrine. In both instances, we're forced to start life over after years of brainwashing, indoctrination and near isolation," wrote Drain.
"When I was ostracized, I was given a few hours to pack my life into a few suitcases, dropped off by my father at a motel and told to never return, never contact my siblings and that I was now disowned."
Drain's online charity was launched less than a week after the White House officially responded to the petitions on its website to classify Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group.
While hundreds of thousands of Americans signed on to the effort, the White House responded that "the federal government doesn't maintain a list of hate groups."
"That all said, we agree that practices such as protesting at the funerals of men and women who died in service to this country and preventing their families from mourning peacefully are reprehensible-- a point that President Obama has made for years. That's why he signed a law to ensure that protesters keep an appropriate distance at military funerals," reads the response in part.
Since leaving Westboro, Drain has been active in gay rights causes, including getting a NOH8 photo taken by Adam Bouska in response to her time in WBC.
"I am still a Christian through and through. However, in my opinion, religion of any kind is a personal choice, full of personal values, definitions and views that should stay just that - personal," said Drain on her Facebook profile.
"I don't think anyone should judge or persecute another human being or any group of individuals based off of those personal, chosen, beliefs. I am against any and all forms of violence, discrimination, bullying or bigotry directed at someone else for any reason."
Headed by Fred Phelps, Westboro Baptist Church is not affiliated with any Baptist denomination.