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April 8, 2014

Western Australian school performance undisrupted by WBC

Western Australian school performance undisrupted by WBC

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) failed to follow through last week on its threats to picket a Western Australian high school’s performance of The Laramie Project.

Margaret River Senior High School was able to perform the play based on the 1998 beating and death of gay student Matthew Shepard to a sold-out audience undisrupted on last Tuesday night, April 1. The closest WBC came to picketing the school was a tweeted screenshot of a published photograph of the performance which featured a performing student carrying a sign which read “God hates fags” — the anti-gay catchphrase of the Kansas based extremist group. The school’s principle, Andrew Host, who was sceptical of the WBC’s threats to picket the school, confirmed to Wikinews the photograph was indeed a student and added “The WBC did not attend the school at anytime during the play production.”

On Thursday, the Church renewed its threats to picket the school, saying again via it’s twitter account “Is tomorrow when Westboro Baptist will picket Margaret River Senior High School? I think so!” For a second time, WBC failed to appear.

Westboro Baptist Church did not respond to Wikinews requests for comment.

The previous Wednesday, March 26, WBC announced its plans to picket the performance via Twitter, saying “WBC to preach God H8s Fags @ the Margaret River Senior High School — the land of the damned down under.” This was followed on Thursday March 27 by another tweet stating the protest would take place on April 2.



Related news

  • “Australian school in Westboro’s sights” — Wikinews, March 29, 2014

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March 29, 2014

Australian school in Westboro\’s sights

Australian school in Westboro’s sights – Wikinews, the free news source

Australian school in Westboro’s sights

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

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Members of the Westboro Baptist Church demonstrate at the Virginia Holocaust Museum on March 2, 2010
Image: JCWilmore.

Margaret River Senior High School, in Western Australia, has become the latest target for the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). The Kansas-based extremist group announced their plans to picket the school’s upcoming play via its Twitter account on Wednesday.

The school captured the attention of WBC when the group discovered students will be performing The Laramie Project — a play about Matthew Shepard, a young gay man killed in a homophobic attack in 1998.

On Wednesday, WBC — well-known for their anti-gay stance — tweeted “WBC to preach God H8s Fags @ the Margaret River Senior High School — the land of the damned down under”. Another appeared on Thursday reading: “Westboro pickets Margaret River HS on 4/2/2014 [April 2, 2014]”.

According to the school’s arts teacher Mem McCormack, the students are excited to have attracted a response from WBC, saying, “They have had an emotional response but they feel quite empowered by it — they feel they are doing something right.”

Principal Andrew Host remained sceptical of WBC’s plan to picket the school, telling Fairfax radio, “I believe it’s highly unlikely that people would travel from the United States to disrupt a play in Margaret River, therefore I don’t think the threat is credible.”

Graeme Watson, editor of Out in Perth, a gay and lesbian magazine, also believes the group will be unsuccessful, saying that WBC’s protest “are as unwelcome here as they are anywhere else”.

WBC has previously traded their announced plan to picket an event — a memorial service for victims of the shooting that injured Congresswoman Gabby Giffords — for radio talk show airtime.

The Laramie Project is a set text in the school’s drama program chosen because it presents a challenge to the students, according to Mr Host.



Related news

  • “Kansas anti-gay church leader Fred Phelps dies at 84” — Wikinews, March 20, 2014

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March 20, 2014

Kansas anti-gay church leader Fred Phelps dies at 84

Kansas anti-gay church leader Fred Phelps dies at 84

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fred Phelps preaching from his pulpit in 2002.
Image: Westboro Baptist Church.

Fred Phelps, the founder of the vehemently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, died yesterday aged 84. The church he founded in 1955 became infamous for leading pickets at the funerals of US soldiers, as well as the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man killed in a homophobic attack in 1998.

At funeral pickets and other protests, Phelps and other members of his church held brightly coloured signs with messages including ‘God Hates Fags’, ‘Thank God for 9/11‘ and ‘Thank God for Dead Soldiers’. The picketing of military funerals stems from the postion that God is punishing the United States for its acceptance of homosexuality. Military funerals have not been the only sites of Westboro’s protests: the funeral of film critic Roger Ebert and concerts by pop acts Lady Gaga and One Direction — who the church described as “crotch-grabbing little perverts” — have also been targets of Westboro’s protests. The Church has sued a great number of local authorities in the United States who attempted to block their demonstrations and the settlements from their First Amendment cases helped fund their activities. In 2011, the Church won a case at the US Supreme Court which upheld their right to demonstrate at funerals.

Other countries were not so keen: Fred Phelps and his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper were banned from entering the United Kingdom in order to take part in a planned protest against The Laramie Project, a play about the death of Matthew Shephard. The UK Border Agency stated the Phelpses were not welcome because of their actions “inciting hatred against a number of communities”. The Church has seen a number of widely-reported defections including Megan Phelps-Roper, who used to run Westboro’s social media operation before publicly leaving the congregation and publishing an apology on the Internet.

At Oberlin College in Ohio in 2000, Westboro Baptist Church’s protests caused gay students to respond with a “kiss-in”.
Image: Paul M. Walsh.

Before Phelps’s death, he was excommunicated from the Church — whose members are primarily drawn from his family. Nathan Phelps, Fred Phelps’s son, posted on Facebook last week announcing his father’s hospitalisation and illness: “I’ve learned that my father, Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the ‘God Hates Fags’ Westboro Baptist Church, was ex-communicated from the ‘church’ back in August of 2013. He is now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made.”

Nathan Phelps continued: “I feel sad for all the hurt he’s caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I’m bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their good-byes.”



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