DRAMA students at the Margaret River Senior High School have caught the eye of American hate group the Westboro Baptist Church.
This week the Mail reported about the students performing The Laramie Project – the documentary drama of gay high school student Matthew Shepard who was bashed to death for his sexuality in America in the late 90s.
The story, which was posted online, apparently attracted the attention of several members of the WBC, who then began using Twitter to alert the Mail that they would be preaching their ‘God Hates Fags’ mantra at the school’s performance.
“WBC to preach God H8s Fags [sic] @ the Margaret River Senior High School -- the land of the damned down under,” several members of the Church tweeted to @AMR_Mail and to their thousands of followers.
Fortunately, rather than being concerned about being hatefully attacked, students at the school were reportedly excited they had attracted the WBC’s attention, and said they must be doing something right if the WBC didn’t like it.
“Yes [the students] are quite excited they’ve generated a response,” said MRSHS arts teacher Mem McCormack.
“They have had an emotional response but they feel quite empowered by it – they feel they are doing something right.”
Student Holly Harford responded to the hateful tweets with kindness.
“@WBCSays thanks for the promotion of our show :) xxxxx,” she tweeted.
School principal Andrew Host laughed and said he was proud to hear of the students’ response.
“We’re a school that promotes social tolerance,” Mr Host said.
“It’s a challenging text and I’m sure they will do an outstanding job of performing it.”
The Westboro Baptist Church is one of the most controversial and prolific hate groups in America, well known for their ‘God Hates Fags’ catchcry, and their curious tendency to picket at the funerals of soldiers and rock concerts.
Most recently, the group picketed outside the venue of a concert for 17-year-old New Zealand popstar Lorde, who encouraged her fans to offer their condolences for the Church’s loss of their leader and founder Fred Phelps, who died on March 20.
Margaret River Baptist Church Pastor Michael Lochore said the behaviour of the Westboro Baptist Church is tragic, and their name is all they have in common.
“We’ve got absolutely nothing to do with them,” Pastor Lochore said.
“It’s tragic – Jesus gave his life to give people lives of their own and Jesus had his harshest words for hypocrites.”
Pastor Lochore also quoted Christian rapper Lecrae, who made a post on Facebook regarding tolerance on Thursday morning.
‘“My friends are poor, rich, straight, gay, lesbian, homophobic, liberal, conservative, racist, Muslim, Christian, agnostic, atheist, addicted and clean. I’m just trying to love them like Jesus loves me.”,’ Pastor Lochore said.
Editor of Perth gay and lesbian lifestyle magazine Out In Perth Graeme Watson said WBC’s efforts to preach their message of hate will be unsuccessful in WA.
“The Westboro Baptist Church will be sadly disappointed to discover that after they travel over 17,000km across the globe, their ridiculous protests are as unwelcome here as they are anywhere else,” Mr Watson said.
“Matthew Shepard’s story continues to resonate with people everywhere, showing the true nature of homophobia and hate crimes.”
The students will perform the play at the school’s auditorium this Tuesday, before taking it to the Busselton Senior High School in the coming weeks.