Kansas group protests school#039;s gay-straight club

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 13, 2003

(Editor's Note: The following article contains what many would consider offensive language but is necessary to illustrate the views expressed.)

CANNONSBURG, Ky. -- Anti-gay protesters with colorful, graphic signs

protested outside Boyd County High School Monday.

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Seeking to gain media attention, more than a dozen members of Pastor Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka, Kan. protested in response to the ongoing controversy of the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance club at the school.

After much debate, the Boyd County High School council approved the Gay-Straight Alliance in November, but then opted to ban it. After the ACLU notified the school that this violated federal law, the council canceled all clubs for the remainder of the year.

The issue has continued to escalate and gained national attention last week as Boyd County Superintendent Bill Capehart appeared on "The O'Reilly Factor" news show on Fox television.

On the broadcast, Capehart said the American Civil Liberties used "some intimidation measures" to force the school to suspend all the clubs.

Host Bill O'Reilly criticized the ACLU and called them fascists.

Protests began over the weekend and continued today as the picketers gathered near the school on U. S. 60 and outside the school board office on Bob McCullough Drive in Boyd County.

According to Phelps' Web site at www.godhatesfags.com, "the only lawful sexual connection is the marriage bed. All other sex activity is whoremongery and adultery, which will damn the soul forever in Hell (Heb. 13:4)."

"Decadent, depraved, degenerate and debauched America, having bought the lie that it is OK to be gay, has thereby changed the truth of God into a lie, and now worships and serves the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever," the Web site states.

"If you research what homosexual activists have planned, the first part is to desensitize the population," Timothy Phelps, son of Fred Phelps said. "This club was trying to do that."

"What we do, and have done for 12 years, is preach everywhere this issue raises its head," he said. "We did not put the issue on the front burner but now that homosexuals have, we will answer it with God's message."

Phelps said that their signs should only be offensive to those who ignore the word of God and that all homosexuals are damned.

Boyd County High School Principal Jerry Johnson said that some of the elementary school buses may have been rerouted so the children did not see the signs, but that overall the situation was not as bad as anticipated.

"We have known about this for a month and a half. It has actually deescalated," he said. "We are going to have a normal school day. The high school students have acted responsibly."

Johnson said he expects the issue to return after the school year as the clubs are debated again.

Dozens of law enforcement officers were at the protests but reported no major incidents.

Paul Helton, chief of the Boyd County Police, said that they were prepared for the situation and that things went well both Sunday and today, as far as he knew.

"Our main goal here is to keep people safe," he said. "We want to give the protesters their right to protest, but in a safe manner."

The protests began Saturday and Sunday outside local churches in Ashland and Huntington, W.Va., that either supported the GSA club and those that opposed it but still were unwilling to condemn homosexuals.

On Sunday, Phelps' supporters picketed a rally sponsored by the Ashland Human Rights Commission at the Paramount Arts Center that promoted unity but did support either side of the GSA debate. A couple of hundred people showed up in support of the rally.