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She believed that all manner of other tragedies—war, natural disaster, mass shootings—were warnings from God to a doomed nation, and that it was her duty to spread the news of His righteous judgments.To protest the increasing acceptance of homosexuality in America, the Westboro Baptist Church picketed the funerals of gay men who died of ,” and the outrage that their efforts attracted had turned the small church, which had fewer than a hundred members, into a global symbol of hatred.Day, Twitter announced a promotion: if users employed the hashtag #red, their tweets would appear highlighted in red. “You won’t repent of your rebellion that brought His wrath on you in this incurable scourge, so expect more & worse!Megan Phelps-Roper, a twenty-three-year-old legal assistant, seized the opportunity. #red.”As a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, in Topeka, Kansas, Phelps-Roper believed that was a curse sent by God.Since elementary school, she had given hundreds of interviews about Westboro, but the reaction on Twitter seemed more real than a quote in a newspaper. “I did not want to be the one to let it die,” she said.“It’s not just like ‘Yes, all these people are seeing it,’ ” she told me. By the end of the day, Phelps-Roper had more than a thousand followers.

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She learned about Twitter in 2008, after reading an article about an American graduate student in Egypt who had used it to notify his friends that he had been arrested while photographing riots.

“She had a well-sharpened tongue, so to speak,” Josh Phelps, one of Megan’s cousins and a former member of Westboro, told me.

In August, 2009, Phelps-Roper, under the handle @meganphelps, posted a celebratory tweet when Ted Kennedy died (“He defied God at every turn, teaching rebellion against His laws. ”) and a description of a picket that the church held at an American Idol concert in Kansas City (“Totally !

He believed that all people were born depraved, and that only a tiny elect who repented would be saved from Hell.

A literalist, Phelps believed that contemporary Christianity, with its emphasis on God’s love, preached a perverted version of the Bible.

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