A former member of the notoriously homophobic Westboro Baptist Church is reaching out to Jamaica’s oppressed gay community.
Grace Phelps – the daughter of church spokeswoman Shirley Phelps – is one of the many members of the Phelps family who have left the church and expressed pro-gay beliefs.
Ms Phelps travelled earlier this year to Jamaica to reach out to the many gay people who have been ostracised by society in made homeless.
The trip was organised by Planting Peace – a grass-roots equality group who run ‘Equality House’ directly across the street from the homophobic church in Topeka.
She said: “I spent twenty years learning why God hates gays, preaching that they’re ‘beasts’ and ‘depraved,’ and protesting anyone who dared to speak up for them.
“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.”
Aaron Jackson, the President of Planting Peace, said: “Grace and I have become good friends since she left the church, and she jumped at the opportunity to join with Planting Peace and help document the conditions in Jamaica when I told her what was happening there.
“What we witnessed in the sewers of Kingston was nothing short of horrific. 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.”