Family banish daughter who refuses to believe child's death is God's punishment

Lauren Drain's life was turned upside down when her father told her she was joining the Westboro Baptist Church.

Daily Record, UK/October 20, 2017

By Kara O'Neill

As she stood outside a church, alongside people holding signs saying 'You're Going to Hell,' Lauren Drain tried desperately to remain out of sight.

She shuffled to the end of the line of members of the Westboro Baptist Church, overcome by her horror.

Lauren had been sent - alongside friends, family and other church members - to picket a child's funeral.

She didn't know the child, but she knew she would have to hold a sign for grieving relatives to see.

It was the moment Lauren had been dreading all day. For the first time since she joined the church as a young child, she was horrified by the part she was playing.

Lauren said: "We had always protested odd events, but when the church sent me to picket an innocent child's funeral, I felt ashamed and disgusted.

"I tried to be as far down the picket line as possible so my sign wasn't as visible and I was hoping the media wouldn't approach me that day."

Westboro Baptist Church has one overriding belief - if you're not part of their community then God hates you. And the death of a child is God's way of punishing you for not following the path of righteousness, something the church was determined to shout loudly to all who would listen.

Lauren Drain is a successful nurse and fitness, happily married and living in Florida.

It's the kind of life that many of us think is pretty normal - but for Lauren 'normality' is something she will never take for granted.

Because Lauren, now 31, was once a member of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas.

The religious group has hit headlines across the world for their extreme values and their penchant for picketing the funerals of US veterans - and even children.

They're often spotted holding signs with slogans like "God hates fags" and "Thank God for dead soldiers".

Lauren escaped the hate-filled cult when she was 21, leaving behind her family, including her sister Taylor, 26, brother Boaz, 15, and youngest sister Faith, 13, who have all remained devoted members.

The family is so devoted to the church, in fact, that she has only spoken to her dad once in the last decade, after he cut all ties with her and the rest of her relatives.

Losing her family is a harsh reality that Lauren has had to face as she made her way in a world that she was taught is full of hate.

Unlike many members of the church, Lauren wasn't born into it. She knew was life was like on the outside.

She had friends, a school, teachers and a life. But that was all turned upside down when her father, Steve Drain, 51, began filming a documentary about the church - and suddenly decided that he wanted to follow their way of life.

Lauren, her mother, Luci Drain, 51, and her siblings were told they were moving from Florida to Topeka in Kansas to start afresh.

Her father had started to believe that Westboro was the only "true church" left in America and gave his family no choice in the matter.

Lauren told Mirror Online: "My father had already pulled me out of public high school and started to home school me, so I had lost contact with most of my friends.

"I was no longer allowed to communicate with my former friends and the isolation/seclusion started happening right away.

"When he told me we were joining the church, I had a mixture of emotions. Nervous and curious - but without any options really.

"I trusted that my father wanted what was best for our family but I was definitely hesitant and I had no idea how much my life would change."

Before the family could become part of the church, Lauren remembers having to demonstrate "good behaviour" in front of all the members.

Lauren said: "If a single member didn't think you were 'worthy', you were not allowed to join.

"We were taught that the only thing waiting for us was hell, death, disease and destruction if we chose not to join the church."

Once the family had been accepted, Lauren's daily routine was a far cry from the life she was once used to.

She said: "I'd wake up, go to school and study with other members of the church. They became my friends and I enjoyed this. I always got straight As in school.

"But then I'd have to come home and picket or protest somewhere with hateful signs and messages.

"After that, I'd either look after the younger members of the church or go to work before finishing the day with Bible study or a family movie night.

"There was little to no free time for any other activities. We were expected to be 'exemplary members of society' at school, at work and anywhere we went.

"I think in some ways, the way I was raised did keep me out of trouble. I never partied in college and I didn't wear makeup, date or drink alcohol until after I left the church but those are all things that should be done in moderation anyway."

Although she liked some aspects of church life, when Lauren turned 21 she realised she didn't want to be part of the community anymore.

It was a sudden decision, based on one particularly despicable act the church made her carry out.

Standing in the picket line at a young child's funeral, Lauren desperately wanted to escape - but was terrified of the consequences.

She said: "I knew I was starting to question the beliefs I had been taught. But I didn't talk to anyone else about leaving.

"I was too fearful I would lose my family to ever try and leave the church."

But in a cruel twist of fate, Lauren found herself banished from the religious community for an offence she had barely realised she had committed.

She was kicked out after her father discovered an email she had sent to someone who was not a member of the church.

What's more, her family had their suspicions about Lauren's changing attitude to the church and believed she had been causing problems by questioning their beliefs.

Within days, her father had held a secret meeting with other church elders who decided the Lauren would be banished from the community.

Without a chance to explain herself, or talk with her family, Lauren was told to pack her bags.

She said: "I came home from my nursing shift one day and my father kicked me out of the house.

"The banishment caught me off guard because I didn't get a chance to reason with my family, or explain why I disagreed with so many of their practices and beliefs.

"I did not initially want to leave, because I knew that meant I would be leaving my three younger siblings and not able to return home to visit them or my mother.

"They told me if I ever left the church, or was kicked out, then I would go to hell and probably die a horrible disease or suffer punishment for my 'sins'."

Being forced to leave the church in such a way was devastating for Lauren, but she admits she would have eventually left of her own accord.

She said: "I think it would have been a lot less traumatising, had I left on my own.

"I fell into a deep depression after my father cut me off from my family. I tried multiple times to contact my mother and reason with my family that I still desired to serve God. Losing three siblings and both of your parents all at once is one of the most heartbreaking traumas and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."

After leaving the church, it took Lauren a considerable amount of time to repair the damage the cult had done to her identity, her self-esteem and her faith.

She was forced to go it alone after her parents cut off all ties, refusing to even forward her post onto her.

Lauren said: "They didn't help me or check on me once in 10 years.

"I reached out multiple times, even once calling my mother when I felt suicidal, and even then all I was told was 'just pray'.

"I had to grow up fast. I promised myself I wouldn't do anything in excess and prayed to God for guidance and strength."

Lauren found happiness when she married her husband, David Kagan in February 2013.

She recalled: "On our first date, I asked David: 'So, have you Googled my name yet? You'll find a few interesting things on there'."

Lauren's name was brought into the spotlight after she appeared in the 2007 Louis Theroux documentary 'The Most Hated Family in America', which was broadcast on the BBC.

"He [David] wasn't immediately amused. It shocked him that someone would ask that on a first date.

"But he's been extremely supportive and understanding of my past, and has helped me through all the tough moments in my life."

Around three years ago, Lauren discovered her love for fitness.

Alongside David, she began to use exercise as a way to combat the deep resentment she felt over losing her family. Now, the pair run Lauren's fitness coaching business together after she recently gave up her job as a nurse to focus on her new venture.

"Fitness saved my life. It's an excellent way to push your body physically through hard times and causes you to develop a mental strength you didn't think was possible.

"It's very therapeutic but I wouldn't attribute all of my success to fitness. I attribute it to my continued belief in a merciful God and meeting so many kind and inspiring people throughout my life.

"The WBC has an elitist mentality that they are the 'only ones' who 'know it all'. They also strongly discourage enjoying ANY of life's pleasures.

"As a nurse I was always on the reactive side of healthcare and now I am able to help thousands of people through my fitness programmes and weight loss challenges.

"Being able to help so many people gives me purpose and drive to continue to be a better version of myself for others."

Lauren recently opened up her Instagram account to share inspirational images of her stunning figure and workout routines. She has amassed more than 3.6m followers, leading to her being dubbed 'world's hottest nurse'.

Lauren's entire family including her sister Taylor, 26, brother Boaz, 15, and youngest sister Faith, 13, are still members of the Westboro Baptist Church.

She spoke to her dad a couple of months ago for the first time in a decade.

Lauren explained: "MTV was doing a documentary on my family and reached out to me thinking my father would do a meet-up. He didn't agree to the meet-up, but we were able to talk at length, for about two hours.

"It ended with him being disappointed in me and my life and saying my only hope is to go back to the church. But he did wish me well when I go to start a family.

"I pray that one day I am reunited with them. And I believe it will happen."‌

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