Sunday, March 1, 2009

From the mailbag: Religious fanatics are evil

The Westboro Baptist Church is at it again, this time targeting Moore OK high school students:
Claiming they speak for the Almighty, members of the Westboro Baptist Church announced they would picket Moore High School next Monday afternoon because God hates the students there.

In a media release, the Topeka-based church announced that "God hates Moore High School" and said church members would picket the 6A high school in "religious protest and warning" at 2:45 p.m. Monday March 2.

"We will picket your really large high school because you southern(ish) hypocrites keep lying to the children," a second document, distributed with the release said. "We have a message, from your Maker, high school students -- we're here to deliver God has cursed you, with your parents' lies. Now God is rejecting your filthy raging lies violent brats, God hates you."

The announcement by the controversial church -- which has previously picketed military funerals in Norman and south Oklahoma City -- raised the concerns of Moore school officials and city leaders.

In an e-mail to The Transcript, Moore councilman Robert Krows -- who also teaches in the Moore district -- said school officials are trying to do "all they can to make the day as normal and as safe as possible."

"Unfortunately, that's not the goal of the WBC group," Krows said.

This week, Moore school officials sent letters to parents in the district about the protest. In a letter dated Feb. 23, Moore High principal Mike Coyle said school administrators were "working closely" with the Moore Police Department to "ensure a safe and orderly conclusion" to the school day.

"We have been advised that the group will create a video chronicle of the protest," Coyle wrote. "We strongly recommend that our students do not interact with this group."

Because of the protest, Coyle said school officials would dismiss the high school early.

"Given our overriding concern is and will continue to be learning in a physically safe and emotionally secure setting, we will dismiss early so as not to subject anyone to inflammatory speech," Coyle wrote. "For student safety, exits from the school will be controlled. School will be released at 2:25 p.m."

A second letter, written by superintendent Deborah Arato, said school officials expected a "non violent protest" and said school officials had "not been contacted nor have they spoken with" representatives of the church.

"Our position is that the event is disruptive in its effect on students and staff at a time of day when we are releasing hundreds of student-age drivers from school," Arato said. "We have heard from numerous patrons and community members who do not represent the philosophy represented on the Westboro group's Web site. Many of our students have discussed ignoring the protesters so as not to provide any further attention to their topic."

The district's goal, Arato said, "is that school is a place for our students to come and learn in physical and emotional safety. We do not appreciate interruptions of that goal."

Telephone calls to the Westboro Church's Topeka office were unanswered. Calls to the telephone number listed in the group's media release noted the number had been disconnected.

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