Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Phelps' Grandson Preaching Love ; Phelps: 'Let Us Overcome Hatred with Love'

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Phelps' Grandson Preaching Love ; Phelps: 'Let Us Overcome Hatred with Love'

Article excerpt

The marquee outside Westboro Baptist Church on Wednesday read "Fag Marriage Dooms Nations."

Across S.W. Orleans Street, on the front lawn of the Equality House, a former church member and grandson of its founder held up a sign with a different message: "Love Never Fails."

Zach Phelps-Roper, 23, found his way to Topeka from his current temporary home in a small town in Missouri, where he is staying with a friend and fellow anti-WBC group member.

Hours before, he and another member of The United Bikers For Unjust Causes And Tragedies held signs and yelled from S.W. 12th and Topeka Boulevard -- a couple of miles from the WBC complex he called home for more than 20 years.

"I was screaming at the top of my lungs," Phelps-Roper said, with a chuckle, his smile audible through the telephone.

A short video he posted Wednesday morning shows him screaming "Say no to Westboro. We love you, Topeka. Good morning."

When asked what it was like to be on the other side of that picket line, Zach Phelps-Roper said, "it feels pretty damn good."

"This is what I think is the right thing to do, the kind thing, the compassionate thing," he said.

Wednesday was Phelps-Roper's second foray into counterprotesting his family. The first came Tuesday evening in Kansas City at the Ben Folds Five concert. That night, his sign read: "Trust Your Heart."

Phelps-Roper said he was screaming at his family members, including his father, Brent Roper, and mother, Shirley Phelps- Roper. He was telling them he missed them and loved them.

"I could tell they were trying very hard to ignore more," he said. "I had a booming voice."

Shirley Phelps-Roper said she thinks she saw her son Tuesday, but wasn't sure -- when she pickets, she said, she is focused on keeping the signs up against the wind and on her singing.

When she heard of her son's sign from that night, she offered this statement: "The Lord God says the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked and who can know it. I say, (trusting your heart) is a bad plan. He's acting against his own interests."

Zach Phelps-Roper left his former life Feb. 20, after irreconcilable differences with the WBC faith in which he was brought up.

Since then, he has been in touch with siblings, cousins and friends with whom he was formerly banned from speaking. He has found a new message -- empathy and unconditional love as the only way to fix the problems of this world -- and has set about trying to do just that.

Phelps-Roper said he wasn't sure what was going to be next for him, describing himself as a drifter who "takes things as they come." He believes he is on a mission from God to "spread unconditional love to the world."

He has been active with that message on social media, Twitter, Vine and Facebook. …

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