Raised to Hate: Kids of Westboro Baptist Church

Seven-year-old taught "gay, fags, hundreds...of Jews" are bound for hell.

June 4, 2010, 4:39 PM

June 4, 2010 -- Boaz Drain, a seven-year-old from Topeka, Kan., and his six-year-old sister Faith are the picture of typical American children, chock full of energy, fun and imagination. They watch movies like "Shrek" and enjoy playing with the standards like "Star Wars" light sabers and ray guns.

Yet ABC News' Chris Cuomo was shocked to hear some of the things Bo told him when he visited the Drain family recently.

"I don't think you'll go to heaven, I think you'll go to hell," Bo told Cuomo, adding those who were destined for eternal damnation included "gays, fags, hundreds and hundreds of Jews," among a wide swath of other people that Bo has been taught since birth were hated by God and bound for Hell.

Bo's family belongs to the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, led by Pastor Fred Phelps. Members believe the Bible is the literal law of God, and the penalty for violating the rules and lessons put forth in the scriptures is eternal damnation.

Westboro, based out of Topeka, Kan., spreads the message that because the United States condones homosexuality, abortion and divorce, all Americans are going to hell. It's a message they hammer home to their children from birth.

"He [God] only loves his elect that obey and he doesn't love the people that don't obey," Bo told Cuomo.

While his father, Steve Drain, stood nearby and occasionally coached his son on the beliefs of the church, Bo went into the ideology he said he firmly believes in.

"You get destroyed and you get put in hell. Hell is like a burning place where it can never be stopped, burning, and it can burn millions of people every day," Bo said about homosexuals.

Bo also considers "enablers" of homosexuality, including all citizens of the United States, to be destined for hell.

Steve and Luci Drain have four children -- Bo, Faith, 19-year-old Taylor Drain and 24-year-old Lauren Drain. Steve Drain was filming a documentary on Fred Phelps and the church in 2000 and came to accept the church's beliefs, uprooting his family from Florida and moving them across the street from Westboro's compound in Topeka.

The Children of Westboro

Most of Westboro's 70 or so congregants are Phelps' family and relatives living in or near the church compound. Their children often can be found playing in the backyard together before joining the parents in their daily task of picketing the streets.

Westboro members made national headlines in 1998 when they arrived at the funeral of Matthew Shepard of Wyoming. Shepard was beaten to death by two men because he was gay and the church held signs proclaiming Shepard was in hell because of his sexuality.

Aside from daily pickets in Topeka, the children of Westboro accompany their parents across the country, arriving at funerals and other events holding signs against the country, gays, other religions and specific public figures -- damning them all to hell, proclaiming God hates anyone not in line and praising God for taking lives.

Church members insist they actually love everybody, and that is why they and their kids picket events. They say they are warning everyone of God's anger in hopes people will change their ways. However, that message often riles up crowds and can put the church's members and their young children in danger.

"We've had knives or guns waved at us, and lots of violent angry people," Lauren Drain told Cuomo.

A particular target of the church is fallen soldiers, according to Steve Drain, who said the church arrives at the funerals to let families know their loved ones are in hell because they fought for a supposedly damned country.

"Military people mostly do the nastiest stuff ... and they, like, let their kids be raped and stuff like that," Bo said when asked why he thought members of the military were going to hell.

His dad, however, clarified their beliefs off camera.

"Remember what we all say: No God fearing man or woman would lift a finger fighting for a country awashed in sin like this," Steve Drain said to his son.

Church Produces Music Videos to Propagate Beliefs

The message is reinforced to Bo and his sisters every night when they sit at home and go over Phelps' fire and brimstone-filled sermons. Steve Drain also has cast the children in the wide variety of music videos the church produces that lampoon popular music and ideas, with their own beliefs on every topic imaginable.

The children of the Westboro Baptist Church can be seen singing enthusiastically to the tune of songs like "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," saying instead, "Santa Claus will take you to hell," as well as the Beatles classic "Hey Jude" ("Hey, Evil Reprobate Jew").

One video features little Faith Drain, with bright blue eyes and blond hair, smiling brightly through a verse of "God Hates the World," that her parents are proud to say they taught her.

"How many people teach their daughter to gyrate and do some Britney Spears song?" Steve Drain said. "I'm teaching my daughter what the scripture says."

"And the scripture says if you don't obey the Lord, your God, you're going to hell," Luci Drain added.

According to their oldest daughter, Lauren Drain, the songs and the pickets and the constant lessons on Phelps' sermons are all part of the church's constant indoctrination.

"They sing lullabies about people going to hell," she told Chris Cuomo in an exclusive interview. "I remember I did that with Faith, and I was teaching her songs and stuff. I was trying to please my parents."

As Lauren Drain reached her 20s however, she said she began to question the gospel she was surrounded by, questions that quickly drew the ire of her follow congregants.

"I saw some hypocrisy, and I mentioned them and they hated it," she said. "You're not supposed to question anything."

Lauren Drain said her natural curiosity drew rebukes from Pastor Fred Phelps.

Eventually, she said, when she was 21 the members voted her out of the church and out of her home, including her own parents.

"My dad didn't cry, my sister didn't cry, my mom cried, she said. "I'm bawling and like out of my mind, you know, and they're laughing. I'm telling them I'm sorry. I'm telling them I'll do anything, what is it going to take, when can I come back."

But her pleas fell on deaf ears, and the same night she was voted out she said her family sent her to stay at a hotel and cut off all communication.

A week later, Lauren Drain returned home to pick up her belongings and said she found that her youngest sister Faith already had been taught to hate her.

"I was gone a week, came back to get my stuff, and my little 3-year-old sister told me, 'You don't live here anymore.' Mocking me," Lauren Drain said. "I raised her from the time she was born. I used to watch her every day. And a week later, she is happy I'm gone."

A Family Divided Over Message of God

Lauren Drain said it was very hard to come to terms with what had happened to her. She has tried to move on and start a new life, working as a nurse over a thousand miles away.

It's been three years, and she still greatly misses her family and yearns for contact. But she said she could never go back to her former life. After struggling with her beliefs, she now rejects the hate she was taught by the Westboro Baptist Church. She hopes her siblings one day can make the choice she did. If they do, they too likely would be cast out.

"The people who are spiritually bound to one another because of a shared fear of the Lord, that's really your family," Steve Drain said.

Drain said if Bo decided he wanted to stop believing, he'd simply say goodbye to him and be done with it.

So far, Bo and his sisters are keeping in line. Bo said he doesn't play with other children at school who are not in the church, although it can be hard. And he seems, at least at his young age, firmly planted in his church.

"I'm preaching and I'm going with this church, and that's what the church says. I'm going to go with that my entire life," Bo said.

As for the daughter they have lost, Steve and Luci Drain said they don't miss her and don't think they would ever allow her back.

"Why would I miss her?" Steve Drain asked.

"She chose a life that is contrary to the Scriptures. She chose that life," Luci Drain said.

The daughter they now say is bound for hell seems to be the only one still talking about love.

Lauren Drain said she wishes she could speak to her younger brother and sisters, to tell them she loves them and that the hate they spread is not the true message of God.

"I miss them and I love them and I really care about them, and God doesn't hate everyone. God has mercy on people, God forgives people," Lauren Drain said she'd tell her siblings.

As for her parents, she said that, no matter what, she still loves them.

"There are horrible things I went through, and I don't hate them," she said. "I forgive them. They're my parents. How can I not love them?"

A book by Lauren Drain about her life will be published in 2012.

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