A former member of the Westboro Baptist Church has contributed to the NOH8 campaign, which collects photographs of people who oppose Proposition 8 and other anti-LGBT discrimination, in what she says is an act of defiance against the church’s teachings.
Lauren Drain, 27, became a member of the Westboro Baptist Church at age 15 when her father relocated her family to Kansas in order to join the church and live in its compound.
At first she accepted the extremely anti-gay teachings of the church and its leader, Fred Phelps. The church is known for its belief that the majority of people will go to hell, and for its pickets at the funerals of soldiers and victims of disasters in which members carry signs reading “God Hates Fags” and other inflammatory statements.
Although she originally attended pickets and supported the Westboro Baptist Church, Ms Drain began to question their teachings and was subsequently cast out at the age of 22.
In a statement for NOH8 Ms Drain said: “I am still a Christian through and through. However, in my opinion, religion of any kind is a personal choice, full of personal values, definitions and views that should stay just that – personal.
“The main reason I posed for the NOH8 Campaign was in direct response to the judgments of the WBC. I wanted to show people that despite having grown up within the cult and having spent a good portion of my life on the picket line, holding signs condemning our deceased soldiers, reveling in any and all forms of tragedy and simply striving to be hurtful in the name of God; that the WBC is wrong and what I did at the time was wrong!”
Ms Drain’s family remains tied to the Westboro Baptist Church, and she has three siblings who are still members.
She voiced her concern for them in a recent interview: “They have no opportunity to see any type of outside influence, any type of other perspective on God, any other type of knowledge of a good life or good people.
“They have no idea there is happiness, and life and forgiveness on the outside.”
The NOH8 campaign has photographed a number of high-profile political supporters of marriage equality, including members of the US Congress.They have also photographed celebrities, including Alan Cumming, Christina Perri, and George Takei.