Phelps Congregation Plan to Picket BCA’s ’Laramie Project’

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday December 2, 2008

The Boston Center for the Arts is set to stage a production of The Laramie Project, with a special guest appearance by the congregation of Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church, all the way from Westboro, Kansas.

Far from decrying the planned visit by the Phelps crew, however, the BCA is ready to receive the Reverend and his words of hate with a constructive response: the GLBT education initiative Driving Equality is now taking pledges for any amount donors care to put up.

For every minute that the Phelps congregation pickets the BCA with their notorious signs (slogans such as "God Hates Fags" are common to Westboro picketing actions), donors are encouraged to pledge a quarter, a dollar, or whatever amount they can spare.

All proceeds will go to Driving Equality, in which activist Chris Mason traverses America's 48 contiguous states on an 85-day road trip to underscore the absurdity of the nation's inconsistent patchwork of laws and protections concerning GLBT citizens and families.

The longer the Phelps crew picket the BCA, the larger the donation to Driving Equality.

The press release for the event says, "The Phelps clan will be protesting in front of the Boston Center for the Arts Black Box Theatre from 7:15 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on December 12th.

"You can pledge any amount you chose, whether it be $0.25, $1, $2, or even $5 for every minute they protest.

"You can even pledge a flat rate for the entire time the group will be demonstrating."

Continues the release, "The point of this Phelps-A-Thon is two fold. First, we are using Phelps' own hateful message to raise funds for a good cause, one that will help counter the lies that are being spread about LGBT people.

"Second, we will be displaying a sign in front of the 'God Hates Fags' clan tallying how much money they have helped raise for LGBT equality.

"This will certainly upset the group and it is possible that they will leave early to stop our fundraising."

The release noted that, "On the 'God Hates Fags' website, Phelps has this to say about the upcoming protest in Boston:

"'BCA Black Box Theatre - God Sent Matt 2 Hell! 527-551 Tremont Street. Matt is in Hell! Deal with it. Just read Romans 1, and see him and you in those words, and finally this: Romans 1:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have in them that do them. AMEN!'"

The Laramie Project is a play based on interviews with residents of Laramie, Wyoming, the town outside of which the notorious bashing of openly gay Matthew Shepard took place at the hands of two men who left the badly beaten Shepherd tied to a fence in freezing weather.

Shepherd later died in a hospital.

The play has become a touchstone in the debate over gay equality and legal protections for GLBT Americans. A recent updating of the play incorporated new material in observance of the tenth anniversary of Shepard's murder.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.