Lauren Drain is a former member of the extremist hate group and cult, Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), who today is using her voice to “try and lead by example, with love, compassion and an open mind.” Your are probably familiar with the church’s antics, which have been regularly covered on the news with images of members protesting funerals of soldiers, spewing messages of hate and anger in front of grieving families. The WBC is proudly anti-gay, racist, anti-Semitic, and anti practically everything and everyone, including some of their own.

A member of WBC from 2001 to 2008, Lauren was first brought into the group at age 15 by her father, a once secular and liberal man who became indoctrinated into the church when working and producing a documentary about WBC. As Lauren assimilated to the church’s extreme beliefs, she became an active member and vocal picketer. But, as she matured she started to ask questions, challenging the core belief system she had so eagerly adopted, which led her to be excommunicated from the church, cutting her off from her family and friends.

Although the WBC’s name includes “Baptist” in it, WBC is not affiliated with any Baptist denomination or recognized by any religious organization as such. In fact, there was a recent White House petition to legally recognize WBC as a hate group. The petition, which closed mid January 2013, received almost 350,000 signatures.

Laura Drain Banished book coverLauren has certainly come a long way since leaving WBC, recently posing for the NOH8 Campaign, an organization whose mission is to promote marriage, gender and human equality and to overturn California’s Proposition 8. It’s a far cry from a t-shirt she once sported with the words “God Hates Fags” emblazoned across the front.

In addition to Lauren’s coming out with the NOH8 Campaign, she has also written the tell-all memoir Banished: Surviving My Years in Westboro Baptist Church to be released today.

It takes courage to stand up against a world of hate and religious fundamentalism. Lauren’s story is a fascinating one of growth and perseverance that we can all learn from.

Lauren’s Inspirational NOH8 Message

“My name is Lauren Drain, former member of the Westboro Baptist Church, and despite having denounced any and all beliefs and preachings of the WBC, 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. I don’t think anyone should judge or persecute another human being or any group of individuals based off of those personal, chosen, beliefs. I am against any and all forms of violence, discrimination, bullying or bigotry directed at someone else due to their personal lifestyle.

“The WBC is wrong and what I did at the time was wrong!”

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! I now try and lead by example, with love, compassion and an open mind. Having done a complete 180, I still struggle with little things from time to time – but I know in my heart that I am now on the right path.

In the end, I think God will judge us all; however I think He wants us all to have the freedom to make our own decisions.”

You can follow Lauren on Facebook and Twitter.