Supporters outnumber Kansas church anti-gay protest in Vegas

Associated Press/May 12, 2004

Las Vegas -- Counter-protesters far outnumbered anti-gay picketers from a Kansas church who rallied Wednesday against a high school play based on the 1998 beating death of a University of Wyoming student.

"Wherever they are, that's where we'll be," said Christian Jose, 20, a property agent carrying a rainbow flag and a sign reading, "Hate Kills."

Jose joined more than 250 people who jammed a sidewalk in front of the Las Vegas Academy, facing about 10 picketers on the other curb from Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan.

The church group held posters and sang songs to highlight what they call the homosexual message in "The Laramie Project."

"God does not love everyone," said protest organizer Shirley Phelps-Roper. "You cannot live like the devil himself and expect to get into heaven."

Students have been staging the play about how Laramie, Wyo., responded to the slaying of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard.

Students prayed in the inner courtyard of the school while Principal Stephen Clark joined about 50 police officers and the American Civil Liberties Union keeping watch on the protest.

"I think our kids, who've learned about tolerance and bigotry, have seen that here," Clark said.

Las Vegas police detained one man after he ran into the street, but said he was released without arrest.

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