Former Westboro Baptist member first 2019 Artist-Lecture guest

Former Westboro Baptist member first 2019 Artist-Lecture guest

Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church, a church known for protesting at funeral services for soldiers, against the LGBT community, Jews, and other religious faiths. As granddaughter of church founder Fred Phelps and daughter of former church spokesperson Shirley Phelps-Roper, Megan Phelps-Roper played a central role in spreading Westboro's signature brand of hate to a global audience through its Twitter account.

Through the platform that social media provided, Phelps-Roper delighted in exchanges with those who questioned Westboro's beliefs and actions. But after calm, civil online interactions with empathetic individuals, including one who would eventually become her husband, Phelps-Roper began to question the beliefs with which she had been raised. She questioned her faith's celebrations of human tragedy in the name of punishment. In 2012, she and her sister made the brave and rare decision to abandon their cloistered way of life, leave their family and home, and renounce their teachings.

Phelps-Roper will visit Midwestern State University as the first Artist-Lecture Series speaker for the Spring 2019 semester at 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 23, in Akin Auditorium. Her talks advocate for a better, more empathetic way to overcome disagreements - for engaged communication that not only heals wounds and forges bonds, but also expands narrow perspectives. "Listening is not agreeing. Empathy is not a betrayal of one's cause. These are tools of effective persuasion," she says.

In her TED Talk - one of the top 10 most-popular talks of 2017 - Phelps-Roper shares how understanding and compassion can transform lives, even across the widest of ideological gulfs. She was also the subject of a 2015 profile in The New Yorker that brought her change in attitude to a more public light. An upcoming memoir to be released by Farrar, Straus and Giroux is being made into a major feature film directed by Marc Webb, scripted by Nick Hornby, and produced by Reese Witherspoon.

The Artist-Lecture Series was established in 1964 and since then has since brought many noted lecturers, musicians, and personalities to the MSU campus and the Wichita Falls community.

Admission is $20 to public; $18 for senior citizens, active-duty military, and MSU alumni; free to MSU students, faculty, and staff with ID. Tickets are available at the Clark Student Center Information Desk. For tickets or more information, contact the Office of Student Affairs at 940-397-7500 or email