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Female fans invited into Watkins’s inner circle began writing worrying messages on internet message boards.

He believed that all people were born depraved, and that only a tiny elect who repented would be saved from Hell.

A literalist, Phelps believed that contemporary Christianity, with its emphasis on God’s love, preached a perverted version of the Bible.

Every Sunday, Megan and her ten siblings sat in Westboro’s small wood-panelled church as her grandfather delivered the sermon.

Fred Phelps preached a harsh Calvinist doctrine in a resounding Southern drawl.

During the next few months, Phelps-Roper spearheaded Westboro’s push into the social-media age, using Twitter to offer a window into life in the church and giving it an air of accessibility.

easy for Phelps-Roper to write things on Twitter that made other people cringe.He was surprised that a member of the Westboro Baptist Church was on Twitter at all.“I sort of thought they would be this fire-and-brimstone sort of Pentecostal anti-technology clan that would be removed from the world,” he told me. Sample tweet: ‘Phelps-Roper was exhilarated by the response. Like this: God hates America.” That afternoon, as Phelps-Roper picketed a small business in Topeka with other Westboro members, she was still glued to her i Phone.Since elementary school, she had given hundreds of interviews about Westboro, but the reaction on Twitter seemed more real than a quote in a newspaper. “I did not want to be the one to let it die,” she said.“It’s not just like ‘Yes, all these people are seeing it,’ ” she told me. By the end of the day, Phelps-Roper had more than a thousand followers.Tons going in & taking pics—even tho others tried to block our signs”).

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