It wasn’t until Libby Phelps was an adult, a twenty-five-year-old, that she escaped the Westboro Baptist Church. She is the granddaughter of its founder, Fred Phelps, and when she left, the church and its values were all she’d known. She didn’t tell her family she was leaving. She ran into her house, grabbed a bag, and fled. No goodbyes.
Based in Topeka, Kansas, the Westboro Baptist Church community is one of the country’s most notorious evangelical groups. Its zealous members are known for their boisterous picketing, brandishing antimilitary, anti-Semitic, and antigay signs—“Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “God Hates Jews,” or “Thank God for 9/11”—and their notorious catchphrase “God Hates Fags.” Search for them online and you’re directed to their website, www.godhatesfags.com. The church makes headlines in news across the country. It has seventy members, and 90 percent of them are part of Libby’s family. They picket concerts, football games, other churches, and, most notoriously, the funerals of servicemen and victims of hate crimes. For its members, to question its rules is to risk going to hell.
In Girl on a Wire, Libby is candid about her experience and what’s happened since her escape. This unusual memoir presents a rare inside look into a notorious cult and is an astonishing story of strength, bravery, and determination.