(Photo: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)
Former members of Westboro Baptist Church have come out to say that the organization "brainwashed" them and that they no longer wanted to be part of a group that would "pray for people to die."
"We know that we've done and said things that hurt people," read a joint statement by Megan Phelps-Roper and her younger sister, Grace, who left the WBC last year. "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, led by founder Fred Phelps Sr., has held many pickets all across America targeting soldiers' funerals, celebrities and all persons and events that they deem as being supportive of homosexuals or the American government. They have been called a hate group by many, and mainstream Christian denominations have been quick to disassociate themselves with them.
Libby Phelps Alvarez, the granddaughter of Phelps, Sr., who left the church two years ago, added in a separate Today News interview, "They think that they are the only ones who are going to heaven and if you don't go to that church you're going to hell."
"There was a point when we started praying for people to die," Alvarez added. "I didn't actually do that but I was around when they did it."
In a statement to The Christian Post on Thursday, Westboro said that the parents of Alvarez and others who have left the church did their duty as far as raising them "in the in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." They said that "sometimes your mind is so filthy, it could use a good washing."
"Libby, and others, have decided that they don't love and fear the Lord, and are interested in serving themselves, rather than serving the Lord and ministering unto His people," Steve Drain, a spokesman for the WBC, told CP.
WBC stressed that 1 John 2:19 explains why some of their members are deciding to leave:
"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 us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."
"That verse means that Libby HAD to leave, to manifest (show) that she doesn't believe these things that we believe – the words of God," Drain explained.
As for the accusations that the group is praying for people to die, WBC argued that "the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is chock full of a type of prayer known as imprecatory – which means that people of God ask Him to avenge them on their enemies."
In her interview with the Today News, Alvarez says that she is sorry for any hurt that she has caused while a member of the WBC.
"I would tell them I love them and that people aren't evil like we were taught," Alvarez said of what she would tell her family. "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."