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In 1994, the church launched a Web site, and early on it had a chat room where visitors could interact with members of Westboro.
As a child, Phelps-Roper spent hours there, sparring with strangers.
“She had a well-sharpened tongue, so to speak,” Josh Phelps, one of Megan’s cousins and a former member of Westboro, told me.
“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.
“It’s proof that people are seeing it and reacting to it.” Phelps-Roper spent much of the morning responding to angry tweets, citing Bible passages. She took the incident as an encouraging sign that Westboro’s message was well suited to social media.
Megan’s father, Brent Roper, had joined the church as a teen-ager.
Every Sunday, Megan and her ten siblings sat in Westboro’s small wood-panelled church as her grandfather delivered the sermon.
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 !