Grace Phelps-Roper, daughter of the Westboro Baptist Church’s leading mouthpiece Shirley Phelps and granddaughter of the church’s late founder, Fred Phelps, has avoided the family business like the plague: In fact, she’s raising money to help needy LGBT youth in Jamaica.
After seeing young queers’ squalid living conditions in the sewers of Kingston, Grace teamed up with Planting Peace to launch a crowdsourcing campaign to provide food and other essentials.
She told Huffington Post she sympathizes with the teens because she knows what it’s like to have no family support:
“When I heard about the young people living in Jamaican sewers because their parents kicked them out for being gay, my heart hurt for them. I know what that’s like, being rejected by your family for not going along with their beliefs.
There’s an irony there that I couldn’t ignore: that I share a fate with the very people I was taught to dehumanize so fiercely. I wanted to meet them, to see their plight for myself, and help tell the world their story.”
Grace is one of several former Westboro members who’ve taken a vocal stance against the group’s hateful message, the most notable being her cousins Megan and Libby Phelps, and Fred Phelps’ own son Nathan.
Jamaican culture has been described as deeply homophobic, and the government’s harsh legal and social punishments for homosexuality make it nearly impossible for LGBTs to function in society.
“What we witnessed in the sewers of Kingston was nothing short of horrific,” Planting Peace President Aaron Jackson said. “We documented acid attacks, stab wounds and even personally witnessed an altercation. The world has made great strides in the fight for equality, but this trip was a sobering reminder of how far we still have to go.”
To donate to the campaign, visit CrowdRise.
Photos: Grace Phelps/Planting Peace