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Surviving America’s Most Hated Family

Sunday 14th July @ 9pm on BBC 2

Thirteen years since first encountering one of America’s most notorious hate groups, award-winning film-maker Louis Theroux makes a long-anticipated return to Kansas to spend time with the Westboro Baptist Church – a hugely-controversial Christian ministry that for years has picketed at military funerals and other high-profile events with deliberately provocative and homophobic placards.

In 2006 and again in 2011, Louis uncovered a world of indoctrination masterminded by church-founder and figurehead Pastor Fred Phelps, known amongst his congregation as Gramps. But since his death in 2014, the church has experienced a significant change that has threatened to tear apart what was once a tight-knit family community and challenged their relevance in Trump’s America, where outrageous statements are par for the course. As well as a series of allegations about Pastor Phelps’s final days, including rumours of mental illness and his excommunication, the church has also been hit by a number of high-profile family defections, including Pastor Phelps’s granddaughter Megan, now Westboro’s most prominent critic. Yet despite the unrest, the church has continued to attract new members, including Bradford-born Mathias Holroyd, who sees Westboro’s fire-and-brimstone rhetoric as the perfect tonic to his struggle to fit in with modern-day Britain.

Immersing himself in the strange and unpleasant world of Westboro, Louis explores what happens when a hate-group largely populated by one family loses its patriarch. And, as he discovers, Pastor Phelps’s doctrine of divine hate has cast a shadow not only on the church’s true-believers but also on those who have managed to escape Westboro’s vice-like grip.