My indoctrination into the "church" started at the young age of 15 when my father moved my family from FL to KS to join the WBC. From that point on until my early twenties, I picketed funerals, churches, and public assemblies shouting messages of hatred-against the U.S. government and specifically against homosexuals-as part of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. At the age of 22, I was cast out of the Church and had to create a new life from scratch and re-evaluate everything I'd been taught. I've written about these experiences in a new memoir, BANISHED, which you can pre-order now at most online stores like Amazon (

You can follow me on Facebook ( or Twitter (@LaurenDrain).

Proof: Twitter @LaurenDrain

UPDATE: Thank you all for the wonderful questions, to reddit & the mods for helping me through this. After 3 hours of answering questions I'm going to call it a night :) If you have more questions, please see the FAQs on my Facebook fan page.

Comments: 1074 • Responses: 69  • Date: 

themike314377 karma

What was your reaction when Megan and Grace also left the WBC? Are you in contact with them?

LaurenDrain680 karma

I have reconnected with the girls and I am SOOO happy for them. :)

texaspufflin309 karma

What is something most people don't know about the inner workings of the WBC?

LaurenDrain568 karma

As judgmental as they are about others, they have some ridiculous hypocrisies inside that they don't want anyone else to know about. Their tactics of keeping membership involve threats that God will kill them if they leave.

texaspufflin263 karma

Hasn't it been obvious though that God isn't killing people who are leaving? Like.. you?

LaurenDrain445 karma

Yea I would hope others would pick up on that, and they have. People are starting to question the church and leaving. Thank God I am still here :) I initially had fears that maybe they were right, but brainwashing isn't easily undone. There is a deprogramming process you have to go through and I am much better off now :)

RothmanJason282 karma

What is the best way to counter a protest when the WBC comes to town?

LaurenDrain636 karma

Ignore them the best you can, the less attention they get the better. They want you to react, thats what fuels them. They want to get on the news, they want people to get fired up and confront them... dont.

CallMeFlare120 karma

So the WBC are practically the same as internet trolls

LaurenDrain251 karma


KaneHau249 karma

What do you think will happen to the WBC once Fred Phelps leaves earth?

LaurenDrain442 karma

I hope it will further erode at the churches foundation and more members escape.

ugatz220 karma

How has life been for you since leaving WBC? Have you had any communication with your parents since the last documentary filmed by BBC?

LaurenDrain517 karma

Life outside WBC is absolutely amazing! I have so many freedoms that I can now fully enjoy and I'm especially happy to not carry hate, anger and judgment around with me. Some of those freedoms include: living on my own, traveling outside the country, having hobbies such as crossfit, snowboarding and dirtbiking, spending my own money, exploring my own ideas about God and reconnecting with family in Florida. I have tried to communicate with my parents several times after leaving but they continue to be avid supporters of the hate doctrine. I mention some of those conversations in my book :)

dermo529213 karma

Are you still a Christian?

LaurenDrain1167 karma

Yes. :) I now am :)

ScrapBuilder774176 karma

What's it like being in the spot light for being a member/ex-member of the WBC? Do you often get recognized in public?

LaurenDrain251 karma

When I'm in public with my friends, I often forget and just act myself. If people do recognize me, I haven't had anyone tell me that. Despite having been in the spotlight before, that isn't really my goal at all. I'm much more comfortable being with my friends. My main goal for promoting my book is to help others escape similar situations such as mine, make sense of what they went through and hopefully make a successful recovery.

biamia543 karma


LaurenDrain423 karma

What a lovely thing to say. I am so sorry for the pain that was caused. My condolences to you and yours. Every time I hear something like this and the overwhelming forgiveness people have in their hearts, I am filled with happiness and hope. I am hoping to set an example to others inside the WBC, that should they choose to leave, they will be met with love and forgiveness, something they are not familiar with. Thank you so much for sharing!

ra84144 karma

What are your viewpoints on homosexuality now?

LaurenDrain534 karma

It is not my place to judge others. I've openly apologized to those I've hurt. I judge people more for character, not who they are attracted to. I have some great gay friends and don't treat them any differently than the rest of my friends.

Upgrayeddz136 karma

Hi Lauren,

If I recall correctly from the Louis Theroux doc., your father was himself a documentary filmmaker researching the WBC when he made the decision to join. Do you what his views towards WBC were like prior to starting that project?

LaurenDrain297 karma

My dad originally titled his documentary "Hatemongers" and hoped to expose their "crazy subculture" in a satirical fashion. So he did not go into that project looking to be converted to their doctrine. I think he found it was a safe haven for controlling his family. Ironically, he ended up casting me out, his eldest daughter.

itchydino128 karma

Were you cast out because you no longer felt the way they did, or for some other reason? If the former, at what point did you begin to see things differently? Also, do you still keep in any contact with your family?

LaurenDrain187 karma

That's a loaded question, haha but a very good one! I was cast out for multiple reasons, I believe. I'm pretty sure I would have eventually left on my own but I was not mentally ready to leave my little siblings behind forever.

dreasdif118125 karma

Do you still respect your father and mother?

LaurenDrain309 karma

This is a tough question. I love them both dearly, however, I don't agree with any of the things they do anymore. I'm sad that their life has come to tearing apart families, threatening to engage in cruel protests such as the innocent children at Sandy Hook, and continue to hold so much hate and arrogance in their hearts. The fact that my little siblings don't have a chance to see me, question their beliefs or ever live a normal life makes me extremely sad. I pray for them and should they ever reach out to me, I would try and help them.

goldenratio1111118 karma

What's your favorite new-found pleasure that was not allowed by WBC?

LaurenDrain318 karma

I would say most definitely it is traveling! I was not allowed to even ponder the idea of leaving the country. They had a fear of being arrested and hated other countries also. I find other cultures fascinating :)

causalcorrelation113 karma

is it true that the WBC is mostly made up of lawyers and their families?

LaurenDrain182 karma

I would say that is a pretty accurate statement. :)

LaurenDrain91 karma

Hey guys/girls, I'm here and I'll start to answer questions now :)

jpreston200581 karma

Do you have a hard time fitting in? what was your first encounter like with someone who you used to despise?

LaurenDrain177 karma

This is a good question. I had an extremely hard time assimilating to "life outside" as I thought everyone would hate me for my previous life. On the contrary, everyone was extremely welcoming and happy to accept me despite my past. I had some awkward encounters for sure as the WBC does not allow contact with others on the outside so it's almost a naive social retardation at first haha.

Herecomethedrums80 karma

Do you like Louie Theroux?

LaurenDrain135 karma

He did a great job with his documentary!

Ninenetman66 karma

Despite the hatred on the outside, are the members caring to each other behind closed doors?

LaurenDrain125 karma

Yes. That is actually what initially attracted me to them. If you have seen the Louis Theroux documentaries he describes that there is a charisma they have towards one another that I definitely experienced. However, this is fleeting, and became a much more gang-like mentality after a member leaves. Over the years, the "elders" strived to say that human emotion, feelings, and love for other humans, even family is a sign of weakness.

kitkat200965 karma

What do you think we on the outside can do to minimize the cultural power of the WBC?

LaurenDrain167 karma

Don't give them a spotlight! They have no power to hurt if the media ignores them or if the media chooses to give a vague explanation of them versus describe the cruel things in detail that they say.

affluentsummerdress65 karma

Do you think your dad has some sort of power complex and that he wants to be the "next Fred Phelps" after FP dies?

LaurenDrain125 karma

He definitely has a power complex. It's sick and sad. He used to be so happy and a good father despite how he acts now. I wouldn't at all be surprised if he wanted to be the next pastor. I talk about how my father changes throughout my book as well. I used to have a really good father daughter relationship until his views became extreme.

ThisIsJay51 karma

How often does the church receive threats and how do the members react?

LaurenDrain88 karma

Its pretty normal, and threats/violence only makes them feel martyred.

majohime50 karma

At what point did you realise that what the WBC stands for and was teaching you was wrong? And thanks for doing this thread :)

LaurenDrain65 karma

There were many points, and I talk about them in the book. But 9/11 stands out... there after the church seemed to get more and more extreme in their ideology and their tactics.

LaurenDrain45 karma

Sorry guys, Reddit is being a bit slow right now and my replies arent showing up right away. But trust me, I've been replying the best I can for almost 3 hours now :)

KKori44 karma

Just wanted to tell you, my prayers are with you and with Megan and Grace. :)

LaurenDrain48 karma

Thank you so much, what a lovely thing to say :)

wbdowning41 karma

What was WBC reaction to the Anonymous hacking?

LaurenDrain81 karma

I don't know their reaction except that they were blackmailed and did not end up picketing what they intended to do.

ltherapistl40 karma

Hi Lauren, I was wondering, how do you stand with your belief in God now? Do you still believe there is a God out there, etc? Thank you!

LaurenDrain121 karma

I most definitely still believe in God. In fact, I feel a have a much better understanding of who God is and what he wants with his creation. I study on my own and have a pastor I listen to online. That was one of the main ways I healed from the banishment, as I was lost in the beginning.

Peaches9236 karma

Truly ridiculous people are posting hurtful comments on here for you. You were young and naive. You seem like you have changed. I apologize for those comments. I couldn't imagine leaving my family and I think you are a very strong person for doing so. Kudos.

LaurenDrain52 karma

Thank you, I have to take everything with a grain of salt. Not everyone knows my full story or the story of many of the kids that were brought up while in the cult who never knowing any better. Imagine being spoon fed this ideology from the time you were a kid, being told that you'll go to hell if you leave and that you will die. Leaving = the loss of your family, friends, identity and everything you ever knew. We have to rise above the hate the WBC spreads.

s0ma_c0ma35 karma


When do you think the WBC will eventually dissolve? & How many more do you think will defect?! Do you think your family will come to their senses?

By the way, hearing Grace & Megan defect was inevitable. My opinion is based off of Louis Theroux's documentary & how they showed signs of connecting to others outside of their group (e.g., Grace/muslim boy, Megan/talking about keeping in contact with outsiders).

Finally, you are a babe!


LaurenDrain35 karma

Hi Zac - I'm getting more and more hopeful that the church is disintegrating by all the news of those defected. I was so happy to hear about Megan and Grace getting out and reconnecting with them as they are very lovely girls. I hold out hope for my family and others still there to question the church and eventually leave. That is actually one of the main reasons I wrote my book; to help those inside see there is life outside and a much happier one at that!

BonoVoxGS29 karma

Why did it take you up until 22 to be banished?

LaurenDrain60 karma

That's a loaded question, but like I've said before, despite having questioned many of the "church's" ideology while in it, I was not yet ready to leave my siblings and family behind forever. That is an extremely hard thing to do. Had I not been banished at that time, I probably would have left on my own eventually. I had thought about it several times.

tneaglesfan136929 karma

Were you ever afraid when you were out on protests (Many times I heard people commenting that something "bad" would happen to the members of the WBC)? Do you fear for the safety of your family now that you have left the WBC?

LaurenDrain59 karma

I wasn't ever afraid because we were taught to be brave for God. We were taught the highest token of our Christianity was being hated/persecuted for our "preaching." The members picketing know what kind of dangers they may be exposing themselves to, and they purposely mock people enticing such attention. Sometimes I fear for my little siblings who have no choice about whether or not to be on the picket line in danger.

fanboyvalor27 karma

What do you plan on doing now?

LaurenDrain43 karma

I plan on living life, exploring my newfound freedoms and trying to set a good example for others that are in or have been in similar situations as me. People can change and when I hear stories of those I've helped, it warms my heart.

Rock_it_Scientist27 karma

Do you have plans to try to get some more of your 'former' friends away from the WBC?

LaurenDrain70 karma

It seems more and more people are defecting and the "church" is becoming more and more extreme. Therefore my hopes are that it is crumbling from the inside out. A large part of the reason I wrote my story was to try and help reach out to the members or others in similar situations and escape by providing my perspective on life before during and after.

ShhhDream25 karma

Very personal question, but I would really value your outlook:

Do you feel hatred for your family? If not, what do you feel towards them?

LaurenDrain67 karma

No I do not feel hatred. Feeling hatred or anger is extremely unhealthy. My parents told me I would fail at everything on the outside when my father kicked me out. To the contrary, I am extremely happy, blessed and full of life. I am sad for them because my dad sought out something he thought would keep control over his family and in the end he end up ripping his family apart. I pray there is hope for them and they don't waste their whole lives there.

dustn6422 karma

I heard that the teens and college-aged followers aren't allowed to date. How do they plan on keeping the fellowship going in the long run, as in 50 years down the road?

LaurenDrain36 karma

They have become more and more extreme over the years, forbidding outside families, dating, marriage and even babies. I have no idea what they think at this point. It seems to be disintegrating from the inside out.

huckstah18 karma

Lauren, if Fred Phelps became incapable of running the church, and had to leave his position, do you feel the church would survive without his influence?

LaurenDrain27 karma

I don't think Fred Phelps becoming incapable would be the reason the church would collapse. I tend to think it is disintegrating as more and more members question things and get kicked out or leave. The brainwashing is so deep that the second and third generation believe just a strongly as the Pastor himself.

bwurtsb17 karma

What is dating scene like within the WBC? There has to be pressure from them to only socialize with other members, but are there arranged marriages, older men trying to get with underage women or are you free to do what you want?

LaurenDrain25 karma

There isn't a "dating scene." I only witnessed one couple "court" which is where they basically express interest in one another and can only engage in chaperoned activities. However, other members had dated people "from the outside" so that actually sparked some inconsistencies that I strived against. I wouldn't say the marriages are "arranged" per say, but "the elders" definitely have an inordinate amount of control of who can and cannot be courted. I did not witness any older men trying to court the younger. We were definitely not free to do what we wanted by any means, even after graduating college.

Marie909816 karma

You said you reconnected with the girls? Are you guys on good terms and is everybody doing well?

LaurenDrain25 karma

Yes, I suppose you are speaking of Megan and Grace. They are well but asked for their privacy at this time and I respect that.

FetchySpy16 karma

Do you believe Taylor will follow your footsteps and leave anytime soon?

LaurenDrain27 karma

I pray for that and hope so. I currently do not have any way to contact her so I was hoping maybe she would read my book to get an outside perspective. :) If she ever contacted me, I would be more than willing to help her escape and start a new life. Same thing goes for any other members. :)

ditty_55516 karma

Since it is my understanding that most of the members are lawyers, do they actually believe in what they preach, or is the WBC waiting for someone to violate their First Amendment rights so that they can sue the offender?

LaurenDrain38 karma

It is my belief that they actually believe what they preach. They have concocted such an elaborate doctrine and give no opportunity for the members to question it in their controlled environment. I don't know what the WBC is capable of. They continue to surprise me in their extreme views. I never thought I would see them trying to picket the victims of Sandy Hook elementary. I think they believe the more they are hated/persecuted by others, the more their faith is validated, a vicious cycle.

Rock_it_Scientist15 karma

Do you regularly attend church now or did you cut yourself off from any kind of faith?

LaurenDrain58 karma

I regularly study the Bible on my own as I have had some bad experiences with "churches" in general and have found the best thing that works for me is keeping it rather personal. I have a pastor I listen to online who allows questions unlike my previous one.

laurenk9515 karma

Forgive me if this question has already been asked, but how did you get back on your feet after being kicked out? To narrow the question down a little bit, where did you live? Did you have any friends outside the church that let you stay there?

LaurenDrain37 karma

It was rough, I go into more details in the book. But in short, I was pretty much left at a motel to fend for myself. I had no friends or family outside of the cult and I was told god would kill me and I would go to hell.


How did it feel when you took a step back and saw what WBC was doing? How does one even join WBC? Is it passed down through generation or do they brainwash people?

LaurenDrain35 karma

When I first saw some inconsistencies, I spoke up, to my mom, my father and even Shirley. I was met with some pretty extreme opposition and threatened about questioning the doctrine, calling me a divisive and a liar. The doctrine is passed down to the children and others that join. Brainwashing is simply a doctrine that one believes that cannot be questioned or room for any open interpretation or improvements. So all the members in a sense are "brainwashed." One of the ex-members, Libby described it as being brainwashed into believing that they aren't brainwashed.

FOTBWN11 karma

Do you think that the church will survive Fred Phelps passing?

LaurenDrain14 karma

I don't think Fred Phelps becoming incapable would be the reason the church would collapse. I tend to think it is disintegrating as more and more members question things and get kicked out or leave. The brainwashing is so deep that the second and third generation believe just a strongly as the Pastor himself.

kleiner3529 karma

Are members aware of how bigoted and hateful they are, or do they rationalize their behavior and actually believe that they are doing what is "right"?

LaurenDrain12 karma

If and when they become "aware" they usually question and get kicked out for "rebelling" or just leave. I think the thoughts do come up sometimes but are immediately suppressed by the other members. There are several methods used by the members to scare people into staying. Some of them do really believe what the do, it's a brainwashing.

mindbreaker42288 karma

Hi Lauren, first of all I wanted to let you know that I just wrote a song for you, Megan, Grace, Libby, etc. who have left WBC, and I think that it is awesome that you have written this book and I will definitely read it. Also, I saw you in the Louis Theroux documentary. You rock :)

Two questions for you: first, now that you are out of the church, are you still religious and/or spritual, or has your past involvement with this hate group led you to become anti-religion in general? I'm interested in what happened after leaving the church and whether your past experiences have turned you away from your old ideals and from religion.

Secondly, I would like to know if you ever have moments where you still "believe" what you were taught while in the church - for instance, do you ever catch yourself judging someone, etc.? Thanks so much for doing this Lauren, it really is great.

LaurenDrain9 karma

Yes I have had moments where I thought I still believed certain things but it is a growing process and I've done a lot of healing and restructuring my beliefs. Your welcome! Oh wow, wrote us a song? Love to hear it sometime. You can post on my facebook wall if you'd like :)

bucciryan7 karma

what do you think is the most common reason people leave the church and what is the best way to convince people to leave?

LaurenDrain16 karma

People leave for many different reasons, some get kicked out... its hard to say. I think showing them compassion, forgiveness and love should they be questioning their membership can def help.

JewishDoggy7 karma

Does anyone care about morals in that church? Anybody? Anyone? Bueller?

LaurenDrain8 karma

Haha yes. Members are leaving and questioning the church's morals and doctrine as we speak.

kobayashimaru137 karma

You say that you were 15 when your family joined the church. What was your religious upbringing like before the church?

LaurenDrain6 karma

I did not have very much religious background. My mother and father had tried out several churches but there wasn't any solid or consistent ideology taught beforehand.

OriginalAsdfghjkl5 karma

Personally, how did it feel to be part of the "church" throughout the time you were in? Also, how were you cast out of the church? Was it a personal decision or were you just kicked out?

LaurenDrain10 karma

There are a whole slew of emotions I had while in the "church." I was thrust into that controlled environment after having preconceived notions about people, the world, etc., and I had a hard time assimilating at first. There were actually some good things I experienced while there that helped facilitate my membership and continuing therein. It wasn't until later that I was able to draw my own conclusions of how hypocritical that place had become and what I was a part of on a grand scale. I was cast out, as the title of my book is "Banished." :) I definitely had reasons to leave, but I wasn't mentally prepared to leave my little siblings behind.

flotiste4 karma

Have you, or do you feel an impetus to make reparations to the families whose funerals you picketed? Have you made any attempts to contact them and apologize for your actions?

LaurenDrain4 karma

To be honest, I try and apologize and make public statements as much as I can. I've also addressed it at the end of my book. But you have to understand, I personally went on thousands of pickets in my 7 years while in the church. It would be imposible.

lipish4 karma

Can a mod verify this? I have doubts that someone from WBC would incorrectly abbreviate Kansas as KA. It's KS.

LaurenDrain33 karma

Sorry guys, I posted this a bit to early I guess... first timer mistake. I'll start answering everything closer to 3PM.

wiwille3 karma

I recently watched a documentary by about the WBC, where they mentioned you and interviewed your father. Have you seen it and if so is your father's description of your banishment at all accurate? Did you actually admit to your father that he was right about everything when you last spoke?

LaurenDrain2 karma

To tell you the truth, I watched the VICE but I don't even really listen to what he says about me anymore. It's always cruel, half-truths and it saddens me seeing him so hateful. Was there anything in particular you were referring to? That was taken out of context and I talk about that in my book.

Felcher_Christian3 karma

Are you and your family related (by blood or marriage) to the Phelpses? My understanding was that much of the church is literally one big family.

LaurenDrain4 karma

My family is Steve (my father), Luci (my mother), Taylor (my sister), Boaz (my brother) and Faith (my little sister) who are all "Drains." They are not related to the Phelps by blood. Much of the church was comprised of the Phelps family, however, it seems to be dwindling as more and more members defect.

gr18733 karma

Has there ever been a point when the WBC have felt themselves that they went too far with what they have said or done? And how does this square up with the idea forgiveness that I have often interpreted from Christianity?

LaurenDrain2 karma

There were only a very few times they felt they went too far with their decisions, but overall, no. They think they have a monopoly on truth so-to-speak and have no room for questioning or improvement.

Killorcure2 karma

Would you rather have not experienced being a WBC member if it mean't you didn't have a popular book coming out?

LaurenDrain10 karma

I would throw the book away if it meant I could exchange it for a life with my family on the outside and the other ex-members getting their families back in a healthy manner.

filettofish1 karma

Did the U.S. government ever threaten your life while you were protesting? Has the government ever warned you to lay low?

LaurenDrain6 karma

I haven't experienced this, no.

LibertyDies1 karma

So your AMA is basically about selling your book and not answering questions. Moving on.

LaurenDrain4 karma

Pretty sure i've answered A LOT of questions... including this one ;)

blahblahx1 karma

They are coming to my school this month. What's the best way to mess with them while avoiding legal trouble?

LaurenDrain11 karma

My advice would be don't mess with them. Be a bigger person. Unfortunately they thrive on negative attention. Google my youtube video for advice on protests if you would like.