A controversial church known for its anti-gay protests failed to show up at Buffalo Grove High School on Saturday, but students kept their word and staged their own rally in support of gay youth.
For nearly 20 years, the Westboro Baptist Church from Kansas has been organizing anti-gay protests around the country, often at high school productions of "The Laramie Project," a play that deals with the 1998 torture and murder of a gay student named Matthew Shepard.
The vitriolic Westboro demonstrators are actually depicted in the play, protesting at Shepard's funeral, just as they did in real life.
But Saturday, no one from Westboro bothered to show up at their scheduled rally outside Buffalo Grove High School. Instead, dozens of students, parents and other supporters gathered outside the school, holding signs with slogans like "Yay for gay!," "God doesn't hate or discriminate," and "Hate is not a family value."
Westboro Baptist Church is known to demonstrate at soldier's funerals arguing that God is punishing the West for accepting homosexuality. The church's Web site says "it engages in daily peaceful sidewalk demonstrations opposing the homosexual lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth."
Over the years, students at high schools and colleges have taken to staging counter-protests, often dwarfing the number of demonstrators from Westboro. Last year, University of Chicago students staged a lively counter-protest, which included "God Hates Figs" fliers, and a fraternity disco dance number to "I'm Coming Out" by Diana Ross.
The production of "The Laramie Project" is also taking place in Liberty, Mo,. High School, California State University in Santa Ana, California, and a Canadian Theater in Edmonton, Alberta. The Daily Herald reports that the church is encouraging its members to protest at these locations as well.