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article imageChurch planning to protest high school play

By Cynthia Trowbridge     Nov 4, 2008 in World
A church known for their ugly protests at soldier's funerals is now protesting school plays. The play, "The Laramie Project" is part of the scheduled protests for this church.
The Laramie Project is a play that gives an account of what happened to a gay college student in Laramie, Wyo. Matthew Shepard the gay college student was tortured and beaten to death in 1998.
Grosse Pointe South High School in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan is putting on the play later this month. According to Grosse Pointe South Principal D. Allan Diver, The Westboro Baptist Church has vowed they will picket on opening night, Nov. 21. The school says the play will go on.
Diver said the students will get a real life lesson in why there is a need for tolerance.
The play was selected by a committee that included both teachers and parents. They have received only one complaint about the play from a parent.
Diver said, "If a hate group shows up, it would concern me a lot. But no, I would not cancel the play. "That would be exactly what they want.
"I would use the protest as a teachable moment, because it is."
The Westboro Baptist Church member Shirley Phelps-Roper told the Detroit News they have staged loud protests against the play throughout the nation, which includes about 20 high schools.
According to Phelps-Roper, "That play has one purpose ... to teach rebellion to the sons and daughters of this generation against the standards of God; to call God a liar." She added between four and 10 of the church's 71 members will travel to the school to protest the play.
Phelps-Roper said the church has held more than 35,000 protests in more than 600 cities in the past 18 years. They are mostly known for disrupting the services with loud protests at funerals for soldiers who have died in Iraq. Their claim is God allows soldiers to die in Iraq as punishment on the nation for tolerating homosexuality. The church is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and is not associated with any known Baptist conventions or associations.
Jon Manganello, a senior at Grosse Pointe South High school is a member of the 20 member cast and plays multiple roles. He said, "It makes us all more passionate about the work we're doing. It will heighten the message, and show there are still people out there who feel so passionately that homosexuality is so wrong.
"By performing the show we are teaching people that (gay-bashing) is not OK."
The director of public safety for Grosse Pointe Farms,Dan Jensen, said there will be extra security on opening night.
Jenson said It's not the first time they've dealt with the sect: Four protesters turned up at the funeral of a soldier at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial last winter.
We're not going to tolerate any violent behavior.
If you come here and you want to protest we're going to let you, as long as you play by the rules."
The second photo was taken on March 18, 2005. This is what was said about it,
"Probably the best moment of this entire production was during the cast party. Someone had brought these two signs to the party and around midnight most of the cast and crew walked down to the beach with them. We stood in a circle and lit both of the signs on fire. Then the entire group started singing Amazing Grace softly (the song was performed during the play by a character played by Aaron). It was a very powerful moment and a wonderful way to purge all of the emotions churned up by the production."
More about High school play, Protest, Westboro church
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