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Movie in works about how Jewish blogger saved ‘God Hates Fags’ church member

Film explores how Megan Phelps-Rope left Westboro Baptist religious group after talks with Jerusalem-based David Abitbol

Megan Phelps-Roper and David Abitbol in Tel Aviv, April 4, 2017. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)
Megan Phelps-Roper and David Abitbol in Tel Aviv, April 4, 2017. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

A movie about Megan Phelps-Roper, who left the viciously anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church after a Twitter correspondence with a prominent Jewish blogger, is in the works.

The screenplay for the film, with the working title “This Above All,” will be written by Nick Hornby. Reese Witherspoon, Bruna Papandrea and Bill Pohlad reportedly have been tapped to produce the film, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The film will be based on Phelps-Roper’s upcoming memoir and a New Yorker article by Adrian Chen that detailed her extended debate on Twitter and via email with David Abitbol, the Jerusalem-based founder of the Jewish culture blog Jewlicious.

Phelps-Roper’s exit from Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas-based congregation notorious for picketing the funerals of gay men and American soldiers killed overseas with signs like “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” was facilitated in part by her correspondence with Abitbol, whose name she found on a list of prominent Jewish Twitter users published by JTA in 2009.

Westboro Baptist Church member Margie Phelps, aunt of former church member Megan Phelps-Roper, rails against Jews and Israel in a protest outside the Washington offices of the Anti-Defamation League, May 8, 2009. (Eric Fingerhut via JTA)

Phelps-Roper is the granddaughter of church founder Fred Phelps, who pioneered the church’s radical theology. The church claims that President Barack Obama is the Antichrist and celebrates the AIDS epidemic as God’s strategy to rid the world of the evil of homosexuality. The Anti-Defamation League has called the church a “small virulently homophobic, anti-Semitic hate group.”

The New Yorker article recounted how Phelps-Roper, who was having some doubts about the church’s teachings, turned to Twitter for answers.

She found a list, published by JTA, of the 100 most influential Jewish Twitter users. She created an account under the pseudonym Marissa Cohen and followed many of the people on the list hoping to learn if Westboro’s prophecies, many centering on Jews, were coming true. Conversations with Abitbol forced her to question her family’s fundamentalist beliefs, and in 2012 she and her sister left Westboro Baptist Church and were excommunicated by their family.

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