Megan Phelps-Roper, 27, and her sister Grace, 19, the granddaughters of 83-year-old Fred Phelps, issued an online statement Wednesday after separating from the church in November.
"We know that we've done and said things that hurt people. Inflicting pain on others wasn't the goal, but it was one of the outcomes. We wish it weren't so, and regret that hurt.
"We know that we dearly love our family. They now consider us betrayers, and we are cut off from their lives, but we know they are well-intentioned. We will never not love them.
"We know that we can't undo our whole lives. We can't even say we'd want to if we could; we are who we are because of all the experiences that brought us to this point. What we can do is try to find a better way to live from here on. That's our focus."
"Up until now, our names have been synonymous with 'God Hates Fags.' Any twelve-year-old with a cell phone could find out what we did. We hope Ms. Kyle was right about the other part, too, though – that everything sticks – and that the changes we make in our lives will speak for themselves."
Megan was once called the ‘future leader' of the Topeka-based hate church founded by her grandfather and mostly made up of immediately family. Westboro, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as a cult and hate group, gained national attention for protesting funerals of fallen soldiers with signs that read "No Fags in Heaven" and "God Hates Fags." Megan was responsible for the majority of the church's social media interactions.
The latest in a string of defections from the the church, Megan and Grace are now estranged from their mother Shirley Phelps and dozens of other family members still active in the church. They are currently staying with their cousin Libby Phelps Alvarez, who left Westboro in 2009, and her husband in Lawrence, Kansas.
"We started praying for people to die," Libby said during an emotional interview with NBC earlier this week. (video below)
Megan toldFast Company editor Jeff Chu that her doubts over church teachings began with a conversation with David Abitbol, an Israeli web developer who's part of the team behind the blog Jewlicious, on Twitter:
"I would ask him questions about Judaism, and he would ask me questions about church doctrine. One day, he asked a specific question about one of our signs—‘Death Penalty for Fags'—and I was arguing for the church's position, that it was a Levitical punishment and as completely appropriate now as it was then. He said, ‘But Jesus said'—and I thought it was funny he was quoting Jesus—‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.' And then he connected it to another member of the church who had done something that, according to the Old Testament, was also punishable by death. I realized that if the death penalty was instituted for any sin, you completely cut off the opportunity to repent. And that's what Jesus was talking about."
Steve Drain, a spokesman for Westboro, told the Kansas City Star that Megan and Grace are on the "path to hell."
Drain's own daughter, Laura, was banished from cult-like group in 2008 for questioning the beliefs of the church. She has since authored the book "Banished: Surviving my years in the Westboro Baptist Church," which will be released in March.
‘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!," Laura wrote as part of her recent participation in the pro-gay NoH8 Campaign.
As of Saturday, nearly 340,000 people have signed a petition to revoke the tax exempt status of the Westboro and re-classify the church as a hate group on the White House, We the People, website.