Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Danville pastors protest school play

'Laramie Project' said to promote gay lifestyle

The Associated Press

DANVILLE, Ky. - A group of pastors doesn't want the town's high school to perform The Laramie Project because they say it promotes a gay lifestyle.

The group includes several pastors of black churches and calls itself "Fellowship of One." Members of the group attended Monday night's meeting of the Danville school board to protest the play and said they would monitor the curriculum and special programs, such as the play, in local schools.

The play is about the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student. The play is tentatively scheduled for either Feb. 18 or 19 at the high school.

The pastors' group claims the school would be crossing the line between informing about hate crimes and teaching about the gay lifestyle by allowing the performance.

Board chairwoman Jean Crowley said the board will not block the performance. She said the board planned to hold an informational meeting for parents.

Parents will be told about the play and about how teachers have developed special lesson plans about the play, hate crimes and efforts to increase tolerance about gays and lesbians, Crowley said.

The Rev. Ben Carter, pastor of Danville's Christ the Head Missionary Church, told the board that Fellowship of One is concerned about the teaching component of the play.

Carter said the group acknowledges that the Shepard murder was a tragedy and that killing gays is a hate crime. He said The Laramie Project has a secondary agenda of promoting what he called a gay lifestyle.

"We beg to differ concerning the project and its place in our schools," Carter said. "We see this as part of the ongoing effort of the gay and lesbian community to achieve minority status as well to have their lifestyle accepted and even taught in schools."

The play, a production of the Centre Players from Centre College, will also will be performed at 8 p.m. today and Thursday at Weisiger Theatre at Centre's Norton Center for the Arts.

Jeffrey Meyer, Norton Center's technical assistant and director of the play, said the play has helped bring hate crimes into the national spotlight. It not only documents the specific hate crime against Shepard, but also teaches an attitude of tolerance, she said.

Superintendent Bob Rowland said copies of the play's script are available to students and parents at the high school. He also said students will need parental permission to attend the performance next week.

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