Waynflete School plans Portland event to counter anti-gay protest

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PORTLAND — Waynflete School will hold a community event Saturday in support of people affected by hatred and bigotry.

The event is a response to a threat by a Kansas hate group to picket a school production of “The Laramie Project.”

“This is a Safe Place” will take place at 6:15 p.m. Saturday, April 10, on the Waynflete campus in the West End. The public is invited to attend and show support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning community.

Waynflete received word in February that the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church had was threatening to protest at the school during performances of “The Laramie Project.” The play is based on the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student, in Laramie, Wy. Shepard was beaten and left for dead, the victim of a hate crime.

The Westboro Baptist Church openly hates homosexuals and homosexuality. Its members travel the country protesting events, including productions of “The Laramie Project” and funerals of soldiers killed in war, whose deaths they blame on the country’s embrace of homosexuality.

Although the church often threatens to picket but fails to show up, the school is working with the Police Department to make sure the campus is safe this weekend.

Members of the public who wish to attend the school’s counter-rally should visit the school Web site, waynflete.org, and select the “This is a Safe Place” link for more information.

“The Laramie Project” is being performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. More information about the performance and tickets can be found on the school Web site.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net