The Conversation: Inside the Westboro Baptist Church

Documentary filmmaker K. Ryan Jones talks about the controversial church.

ByABC News
October 6, 2010, 7:18 AM

Oct. 6, 2010— -- "Thank God for dead soldiers."

"God Hates Fags."

Those are some of the messages that members of the Westboro Baptist Church wave in the air outside funerals for fallen U.S. soldiers, and their acts of protest were the focus of the Supreme Court today.

But away from the picket lines, what is it like inside the Kansas church, which claims that God is punishing America for tolerating homosexuality?

As a student at the University of Kansas, filmmaker K. Ryan Jones spent a year with the members of the church, learning their personalities and their beliefs. He spent time with them at birthday parties, at their workplaces and he even interviewed Fred Phelps, the patriarch at the center of the congregation.

"9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, all of that is divine punishment because we as Americans have tolerated homosexuality for too long," Jones said, explaining the church's philosophy.

Jones' documentary, "Fall from Grace," originally aired on Showtime in 2007.

Church members pay their own way to various protests across the country.

"They have good jobs, a lot of them are lawyers. Some of them work in the corrections system," Jones said. "There's no secret fund or benefactor or anything like that."

Jones spoke with ABC's Jeremy Hubbard for today's conversation about his experiences with the church.

"I think that what I really came away with was that these people are serious and earnest about what they're doing," Jones said. "They're very, very intelligent people, just misguided. And just because they're ignorant doesn't necessarily mean that they're stupid."

We hope you'll watch today's Conversation for more.

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