The Laramie Project, by Moisés Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project, focuses on life in the town of Laramie, Wyoming after a brutal homophobic murder. Matthew Sheppard was an openly gay university student who was discovered bound to a fence in the hills outside Laramie where he had been left to die after being brutally beaten by Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney. Sheppard never recovered from his injuries and Henderson & McKinney are both serving consecutive life sentences for his murder.
The play has been performed professionally all over the world, included as a text in GCSE English Literature courses and been used to teach about prejudice and tolerance in many schools.
You might wonder what would drive someone to cross the Atlantic to picket this production. Well, the Westboro Baptist Church are different from most other churches. For starters, even the most evangelising Old-School Baptists don't want to be associated with them. They are also considered to be a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Centre and are closely monitored by the Anti-Defamation League. Mainly though, they differ in that they are all members of the extended family of the WBC's founder, Fred Phelps.
Oh yeah, and their web address is www.GodHatesFags.com
The reason they are coming to the UK is that they have a rather unusual take on missionary work. Whilst their belief that AIDS is God's retribution for sodomy and promiscuity is not unique, they have an interesting way of acting on it. Whereas most religions would see souls to be saved, the WBC sees an opportunity to celebrate God's work by shouting and waving placards stating "God Hates Fags", "Fags Die, God Laughs" and other variations on the theme. They are rumoured to spend around $1/4m each year travelling the US to picket gay events, soldiers funerals (Iraq war is punishment for lax US morals) and community services/projects they see as aiding sinners. This is from their current published schedule:
02/20/2009 6:45 PM - 7:30 PM Basingstoke Hampshire, UK
Central Studio Queen Mary?s College - God H8s Ur Queen! Cliddesden Road In Merry Old England they plan to further enrage the Living God by putting on the farce known commonly as "The Laramie Project". Now that is so interesting. We will picket them, and see if they actually believe those lies they tell about how tolerant and accepting Brits are. RIIIIGHT! Just because you rage against God and make laws that say you cannot use "hate speech" (a/k/a - you may not speak of the Bible standards) in the UK does NOT mean you will not get the message that God Almighty intends for you to get. God Hates England; Your Queen Is A Whore; You Hate God; God Hates You; You're Going to Hell; Matt Is In Hell; Hell Is Real Ask Matt; God Hates Fags (Buggers); Obey God, etc. Some of the best Bible preaching in the history of the world came out of that dark dismal land, but now it is full of all abominations! God will shortly destroy the UK and the world, but not until they have gotten the plain, clear message so that they will be WITHOUT EXCUSE! Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: You can rage against and lie about God, but it changes NOTHING! Psalm 2:1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. 5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. You see, WBC's KING trumps your Queen! Check out our UK page at www.godhatestheworld.com and our Psalm 2 Music video at www.signmovies.net. AMEN!
I was tempted to add some paragraph breaks for readability, but I thought that might misrepresent the original author by making them seem less of a ranting nutter than they obviously are.
Whether or not they know, or care, that this is a production by a small community youth group is unclear - although they do also plan to picket a high school on the 17th because, "We hear tell that this High School has both a fag club and a bible club."
The real dilema here is how to respond. Should there be counter protests or should the police receive a flood of reports from people feeling harassed, offended, threatened, persecuted and every other excuse the police have used to shut down protests against big business and government? A flood that starts the moment they first raise a placard and continues until they leave. The police can't ignore hundreds of crime reports without having to explain themselves and it might be a fun way to get some use out of the services you fund.