Not My Father's Son: Help Us Tell Nate Phelps' Story!


Recovering From Religion has teamed up with filmmaker Brad Johnson's efforts to tell the story of how Nathan (Nate) Phelps, son of infamous Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, overcame religious abuse and learned to love those whom he was taught to hate. We realize many people prefer to donate directly to non-profit organizations, and this is where we come in. This documentary will chronicle Nate's journey from the years of abuse he suffered at the hands of his father through his healing and his subsequent fight to end discrimination and bullying, but we need your help to make it happen. Fred Phelps was the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, known by its trademark slogan "God Hates Fags," in Topeka, Kansas, prior to his death in 2014, and you can click here to read Nate's heart-wrenching response to his father's death.  Nate's escape from this hate-filled environment coupled with his determination to break the cycle of abuse and intolerance for future generations create a poignant and powerful theme for this film. Nate's story is powerful, and many people from all walks of life need to hear it. Please help his story be heard by donating to the Kickstarter or making your tax deductible donation right here on this page today.

If you prefer to donate directly to the Kickstarter campaign, click here

A Message From Nate:

Not long ago, I was in Windsor, Ontario, for a speaking engagement. Following my talk, a group of us gathered at a local restaurant for dinner and conversation. It was there that I met a man who shared with me about his mother who had recently passed. He spoke about growing up with the knowledge that being gay was bad. I assumed and subsequently asked the man if his mother was an outspoken religious type, and he replied that while his mother was a church-goer, she never preached hate to him. I was a bit embarrassed that my assumptions were incorrect and decided to simply listen as the man explained how he learned that gay was bad. 

"You just…understood it. It was her facial expressions and the odd comment now and then. She wasn’t comfortable with the topic, and you knew she didn’t like them," he explained. 

"I get that," I replied. "That’s actually how most people pick up prejudices in their youth. It’s not the radicals screaming from the pulpits so much as the masses picking up the sensory virus and passing it on just as subtly." 

The man went on to recount a conversation he had with his mother many years later. He was watching TV with his mom at her home, and the program contained a discussion about equality for gays. To his surprise, his mother said, "I don’t see anything wrong with gays being married if they love each other."

He continued, "I think it was when she was sick with cancer. Several of her nurses and assistants were gay. When she had a personal experience with someone she assumed was bad, she felt something different. "It changed her heart, Nate, and then it changed her mind." 

When I saw Brad Johnson’s vignette about his mother’s coming out experience at the age of 52, I knew he understood this dynamic. When I met them a few months later in Lawrence, Kansas, and they asked if they could do a documentary about my story, I knew they were the ones who would do it right. 

Because they get it. 

When I watched the trailer they’ve created for "Not My Father’s Son," I was reminded again…they get it. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with them and the remarkable team they have assembled to get this message out…the cure for bigotry of the brain is to inoculate the heart with loving connections. In addition to my sincere thank you to each of you who are investing in this project, I make this commitment: This investment will not return empty. We will change hearts and minds. We will save lives. We will secure a better future for the coming generations. Thank you for your tremendous support.

Nate Phelps

Why is RR Helping to Make This Film?

You can read more about how Nate's story impacted Brad and his mom on their Kickstarter page, but for me, the reason is simple. We can all identify with that moment of truth. The shattering realization that the life we've been taught to lead is not in line with the values we hold dear, and the importance of that truth outweighs the threats and realities of abandonment, isolation, and heartache from  the family we've loved and mourned all our lives. We know there are so many other people waiting to tell their own story, and we hope to reach them by telling Nate's. We don't have much time to bring this together, but we know with your help it will happen. Thank you, to all of you, for listening to all our stories so that many more will find the strength to tell theirs. Please donate what you can today, and know that your donation will go towards making this film a reality.

Sarah Morehead Executive Director Recovering From Religion

Where Will It Be Seen?

We want this film to have the broadest reach possible, which means your support is so vital, no matter the pledge amount. The more people who like our Facebook page, share the video to their families, friends and co-workers on social media, and the number of people willing to spend at least one dollar will help us prove to distributors the broad desire to see this film. We would love to have our film shown not only in theaters across the nation and internationally, but in middle schools, high schools and universities to speak to children and youth, on PBS and Netflix for universal access, and VideoOnDemand menus in a variety of markets. Spreading this message as far as possible is in your hands!

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