Indoctrinated child brandishes Westboro Baptist Church placards
Child brandishes Westboro Baptist Church placards

A former disciple of the extreme anti-gay congregation of Westboro Baptist Church has founded a group to help former members adapt to normal life.

According to Lauren Drain, people who leave the group, regarded by many as a cult, find it difficult to adapt to life outside. That is because they have been indoctrinated for years to believe the world is a cursed and damnable place, by church figurehead Fred Phelps, said Drain.

Drain spent years propagating Westboro's ideology with placards declaring "God Blew up the Space Shuttle", "Fag Sin = 9/11" and "Firefighters in hell".

Events picketed by the group have included funerals of US soldiers. Most recently, the Westboro group announced plans to picket the funerals of 19 rescue workers killed in wildfires in Arizona.

It propagates its philosophy through a website called

Drain said the impact on individuals who were ostracised in wider society because of the sect's brainwashing was profound.

Lauren spreading hate (l) and today, as part of NOH8 campaign
Lauren Drain spreading hate (left) and today, as part of NOH8 campaign

She said: "Many have struggled to find their way and start from near scratch. Often times the church, or family, leaves the defector with little to no personal possessions and those who are able to plan an escape usually leave quickly with the bare minimum.

"With more and more young members defecting or being kicked out for questioning the church, I want to set up a safety net for those who need help getting back on their feet once they escape.

"Be it to help with housing, living essentials, educational needs, travel to reconnect with lost family, or just to explore the new world and see that it is not full of hate and evil like we have been brainwashed to believe."

Only 19 members have escaped from the church in the past 10 years, she claimed. They are banished completely from the small community. Drain wrote a book about her experience of banishment.

Drain with her book, 'Banished'
Drain with her book, Banished

Now Drain, who is still worried about her young siblings Taylor, Bo and Faith, who still belong to the church, is asking for donations to help ex-believers as they come to terms with a new reality. Her target is $20,000.

In the meantime, she has opened up her home where former members can stay as they try to get back on their feet.

"If this is successful in helping, maybe it will set a great example for those others who are thinking of walking away from the only family they've had, the only friends they know, the community they are forced to maintain and the only life they have ever had."