God Hates Graduating Fags, Says Westboro Baptist Church

Put yourself in the shoes of the children and administrators of Itawamba Agricultural High School for a moment.

So far, administrators canceled prom so that lesbian student Constance McMillen couldn’t attend.

Then, to make it worse, many of the adults and students were in on a prank against Constance in which they sent her to a fake alternative prom.

But now comes a dilemma for them.

Fred Phelps‘ Westboro Baptist Church is coming to town to protest the school’s graduation ceremony.

“[We] will picket the graduation of Itawamba Agricultural High School to remind the parents, teachers and students of this nation that God said ‘Thou shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind, it is abomination’.

“This generation has been raised to believe that they can live for the devil and still go to heaven, that God has no standards and the biggest lie of all — that God loves everyone.”

So, what will the students and administrators do…?

Support Westboro?

Even they couldn’t stoop that low, could they?

Counter-protest Westboro, implicitly supporting Constance?

That goes against their already pathetic morality.

They’re caught between a rock and a hard place… do they continue fighting gay people? Or do they fight against the people fighting gay people, even though they’ve shown they’re not that much better than the Phelps clan?

Still, I hope they take the latter route. Amidst all the shit they’ve flung onto themselves during this whole debacle, this could be at least a slight attempt at making things right.

Wait. Update. Just when you were hoping Mississippi could get its head back on straight, they fuck it up again.

Ceara Sturgis is a lesbian high school senior at Wesson Attendance Center who was cut from her yearbook:

“It’s like she’s nobody there, even though she’s gone to school there for 12 years,” [mother Veronica] Rodriguez said. “They mentioned none of her accolades, even though she’s one of the smartest students there with wonderful grades. They’ve got kids in the book that have been busted for drugs. There’s even a picture of one of the seniors who dropped out of school.

“I don’t get it. Ceara is a top student. Why would they do this to her?”

We know why.

For her senior picture, she wore a tuxedo instead of a dress.

So this is the petty way they’re getting back at her — by expunging her from the yearbook. These “adults” are acting petty, immature, and homophobic. And they’re pretending this is all for the best.

Here’s the superintendent:

“We have had our legal counsel research the validity of the position of the School District on this matter,” Copiah County Superintendent Ricky Clopton said in the statement. “We are informed by counsel that this exact issue has been litigated in federal court. The decisions of the federal courts completely support the policy of the district in this regard. It is the desire of the Copiah County School District to inform, first, the patrons of the district, and second, all other interested parties, that its position is not arbitrary, capricious or unlawful, but is based upon sound educational policy and legal precedent.”

“Sound educational policy”? To ostracize a student because she wears different clothing from what you expect?

These are the kinds of lessons the administrators in that district want to pass on to students? If the students are smart, they’ll find a way to honor Ceara in their own way.

They’ll also do what they can to ignore the pathetic, immature “wisdom” of the officials in that district.

(Thanks to Travis for the link)

  • liz

    i was wondering when the westboro baptists were gonna make it to that school. Of course they’d choose graduation…

    And the second article….absolutely stupid. I’m so glad i came from a somewhat accepting school.

  • Evilspud

    The ruling regarding the tux was unfair for the only reason that they were unable to offer her another photo. This time wearing a dress, and here’s why.

    I cannot wear a dress to school (I’m a dude)because it is considered disruptive and innappropriate for school. Most schools grant a level of leeway to it’s studnts in this regard, but certainly not for a yearbook photo, which should reflect the policy of decency that applies to all students.

    Now if a straight girl or guy wore what could be conidered innappropriate for school, then you could make a case for discrimination. She would not deserve leeway for getting good grades.

    I think it is reasonable that schools consider cross dressing to be innapropriate for school functioms.

    My mother is a child service worker in the public school system here, so she knows the law pretty weell. I’ll try to call her up later today and see if I can get her input on the issue.

  • Bob

    Gee, I always thought ‘sound educational policy’ would be to have a clearly expressed dress code for school photos, not arbitrary excision after the fact.

    Which came first, the unreasoning hatred or Leviticus?

  • muggle

    I hate to say it, especially since I really wasn’t impressed with Constance’s later snobbery towards other misfits, but the school brought that on themself and I’m having trouble having any sympathy for them. Hell, I won’t be at all surprised at this point to see them support Westboro. Counter protest? Not likely after that separate prom thing.

    The yearbook thing is outrageous! What is all this with girls must wear dresses bullshit? I’m straight and haven’t worn a skirt in over two decades!

  • Lindsey Bain

    The very fact that i am writing this from the UK goes to show the global horror at the way children could be treated in a so called civilised society.

    Their is a link on WBC website about their visit which actually condemns the people of Fulton for the hypocrisy as many of them have unwed teenage mothers for children.

    Congratulations Fulton you have brought this on yourselves and i feel for the normal people of this town who do not just hate others because they are different i’ve spoken to a few.

    As for Ceara’s situation how hateful i think they should make them reprint the whole thing they might think twice about discriminating again. Ive seen the picture (you can find it at the facebook group FREEDOM FIGHTERS FOR EQUALITY) and she looks beautiful.

    What i think is the most hateful is that if their policy supports them with holding her picture im sure it doesnt give them the right to delete her from history all together why is there no text to acknowledge her at least?? I bet there are also picture of pregnant teenagers been published in the past too.

    I always thought the USA was the land of the free i never realised there was a list of conditions attached ;O(

  • idioteque

    Oh, this will be a chance for the bigots of Mississippi to prove just how “godly” they really are. They have to be consistent, and so it only makes sense that they should welcome the Phelps wackos with open arms.

    OH NO

    If you wander far enough
    You will come to it
    And when you get there
    They will give you a place to sit

    For yourself only, in a nice chair,
    And all your friends will be there
    With smiles on their faces
    And they will likewise all have places.

    ~ Robert Creeley

  • http://littlelioness.net Fiona

    I feel sick again. And sad :(

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    The way I see it the (not so good) people of Itawamba Agricultural High School and Wesson Attendance Center are not really any different than the (not so good) people of Westboro Baptist Church. The only difference is that the WBC people clearely articulate their views with simple three and four letter words and the people at the other two high schools use more nuanced phraseology and try to hide their bigotry behind questionable egal precedent.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    I don’t know, but the way God is treating Mississippi these days, with tornadoes and oil spills, maybe the signs should read “God hates haters.”

  • Isabel Jones

    Those people use to say that is not up to normal people to know what god thinks. (when an atheist question some bible bulshit). But it is perfectly normal for them to claim that god hates this or that, isn’t it ? There is something really, really wrong about those people.

  • Trace

    1) “So, what will the students and administrators do…?”

    Join Westboro.

    2) “If the students are smart, they’ll find a way to honor Ceara in their own way.”

    umh….that is a big “if”. I hope they prove me wrong.

  • Pat

    Considering that most high schools have student-driven yearbook committees, I wonder whether Ceara was removed by the students (with adult complicity) or by the administration (without student input). If it were only the senior picture, I’d suspect the administration but the 100% removal strikes me as a cruel student prank.

  • Tiffany

    I’m beginning to hate Mississippi, and I live here. I also attend a Christian university, so I’m faced with this kind of attitude everyday. Our handbook almost clearly says that gay people can be expelled for being gay, maybe not in those exact words, but close.

    But back to Phelps…I won’t be surprised if he also pickets the Second Chance Prom that’s coming up in Tupelo, MS for gay students and allies (which I’m attending). I may have to spend the prom anti-protesting.

  • stogoe

    its position is not arbitrary, capricious or unlawful

    I agree.

    Arbitrary = No. The decision was made because they’re homophobic. There’s a direct causal link between their values and their actions. They targeted Ceara specifically.
    Capricious = No. It takes planning and commitment to remove every trace of the hated GHEY student from the entire yearbook, especially an involved honor student such as Ceara seems to be. No, this was a deliberate and careful removal of a perceived moral contaminant.

    Unlawful = Ehhh. While it’s true that a similar case in Florida initially ruled in favor of the school district, the district settled out of court with the plaintiff before the appeal. Mississippi is not Florida, and Florida cases don’t set precedent for Mississippi. Plus the school bailed out for an undisclosed sum before the appeals court could (possibly) overturn the crackerjack local court. At best, the legality of stuffing TEH GHEY down the memory hole is undeterminded at this time.

  • Claudia

    This has been said before but “Attendence Center” has to be the worst name for a school ever. Why not just call it the “Show Up and Just Appear to be Breathing Center”?

    As for the good folks at Itawamba, I’m betting they will try as hard as they can to ignore the protest, precisely because there are no “winning” options for them that don’t require them to recognize they were wrong. Many many schools have staged loud and colorful counter-protests, even in places not supportive of homosexuality, because most people have the minimum standards to be outraged by the WTC. Itawamba however has taken a very public stance in favor of harrasment of gay kids, so a counter protest would be a complete reversal, something I doubt they have the integrity for. However actually joining in and SUPPORTING the WTC (besides the fact that I refuse to contemplate the possibility that they are that evil) would make them INSANTLY famous again, nationwide. I don’t think they enjoyed their first adventure into notoriety, so supporting WTC is out of the question.

    No, they’ll probably just slink to and from school and pray no newscrews cover the event. That would be so “distracting”.

  • medussa

    @ muggle: what snobbery of McMillen’s are you referring to? I haven’t followed everything but last I saw, McMillen was outraged on behalf of the learning disabled students snubbed by the fake prom as well. Or did something else happen? I’m about to attend a lesbian prom here in SF in her honor, want to make sure I know the full story. Could you fill me in?

    As for Mississippi: Just secede already.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Beth

    @ muggle, I’m curious about McMillen’s snobbery, too. Did something else happen that I’m not aware of?

  • David

    I hate to say this, but it doesn’t sound like the yearbook situation is a homophobic reaction. I remember at my old high school they had very strict/clear guidelines for senior portraits in the yearbook. I would not have expected to have my picture included if I wore a dress.

  • Chal

    Muggle seems to think it was snobbish of McMillen to be unhappy about being sent to the prom that was attended almost exclusively by the special ed students. You can read it in the other thread.

  • plutosdad

    They won’t support Phelps, because they don’t “hate gay people”, they only hate ones that are “in your face”, you know, the ones that dare to date other gay people, and that dare to go out in public, that have pictures of their family on their desks.

    It’s sad, I’m always defending the South since there is so much prejudice up here, but lately it’s been hard.

    And “Attendence Center?” talk about setting the bar low!

  • qwertyuiop

    Religion, every day, continues to make me more and more ashamed of humanity, and makes me ashamed to be the same species as these “people”.

  • http://lyonlegal.blogspot.com/ Vincent

    ‘Thou shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind, it is abomination’

    I don’t see the problem. She’s not lying with mankind at all!

  • Lindsey Bain

    I think muggle has misconstrued Constance’s response from everything i have read and heard from her she was upset that her and the other kids were discriminated against. She wasn’t being snobbish about being at a prom with special ed kids she was upset that she was at a prom with only the special ed kids because the other kids had chosen to discriminate against them all.

    Its not snobbery its horror that other human beings can be treated this way,

    Direct quote from Constance

    “They had the time of their lives. That’s the one good thing that come out of this, [these kids] didn’t have to worry about people making fun of them [at their prom].”

    That doesnt sound like snobbery to me it sounds like a an articulate young woman trying to find a positive out of a negative!

  • Margaret

    Why Westboro would target Itawamba graduation is beyond me. After all, the school did not support the lesbian student. Would not surprise me a bit if some person at Itawamba contacts the Westboro group through private email, pleads “We don’t like her either” case, and then diverts the protesters to stage their ugly scene outside her house. That way, they win. She is subjected to more discrimination, and the school acts like it has nothing to do with them, “hey, she brought it on herself by being abnormal.” I am from the South originally, understand how the Religious Right thinks in small towns, this could actually happen.

  • Lilo

    There has to be responsibility on the part of adults in the yearbook issue because students do mean things when creating yearbook pages. Usually, students do the work and adults check it to see if there is anything objectionable or anyone left out. There are lists of students to check against. Therefore I would think that the school is culpable in the omission of this student. What are they going to do about it? Nothing. What do they have to do about it? Nothing. All they have to do is claim it was a mistake. However, in California, a teacher was fired for letting a pictures with somewhat obscured words written on yearbook pictures by the staff that were demeaning in nature. Sometimes the yearbook publisher will send stickers that can be added to the book to either cover a problem or add a student. When I was a yearbook advisor, I was just glad when the girls had on enough clothes to cover their girls. I would have been delighted with a girl in a tuxedo. Of course, I was the advisor for the GSA at the time.
    I would bet that Ceara’s classmates are to blame for her being left out, and I would also bet that the yearbook isn’t the only thing she is left out of at that school.

  • Claudia

    @Beth, muggle misinterpreted (I think) Constance’s reaction to being sent to the fake prom along with some learning disabled kids who were, like her, considered “undesirable”. My feeling is that muggle though Constance was setting herself apart from the special needs kids. In fact, Constance actually said that the one redeeming feature of the “fake prom” was that the special needs kids had a good time and could relax without worrying about people messing with them, which in itself tells you a lot about the quality of people at that “school”.

  • Revyloution

    Ive said it before, the Phelps clan is doing more for the advancement of LBG&T people than any other group out there.

    No group or individual has the ability to get people together to support them, at the same time force all the bigots to hide their heads.

    I feel the same way about religion. Every they bring up their primitive baptist form of Calvinism, it shines a brilliant light on just how ugly and horrible the bible really is.

    Go Fred!

  • http://youbettarecognize.blogspot.com @briabria

    I see y Xtians prayers aren’t answered. WBC/god r too biz holding summits on how to destroy the lives of gay people!

    Also, I’m curious as to how many of those WBC’ers r struggling with their own sexuality?? It’ll be a matter of time b4 1 of them is caught n a gay bar, or some precarious predicament w/gays.

    Re: Mississippi…shocked but NOT surprised.

  • http://www.magnumdb.com/ Dan

    I think we should start replacing “¡Ay, caramba” with “Itawamba!” when we’re shocked.

    It was Bart Simpson who made “¡Ay, caramba” famous. Well, we should replace his saying with the name of the school, as they sound so similar, and clearly we’re all shocked at what their doing.

    I’d like to see their school’s name synonymous with an exclamation of shock and disappointment.

  • Lindsey Bain

    Slightly off tangent this man John Brewer is standing for the Kentucky house of representatives. He is also the founder of a facebook site called Defend Marriage which is openly anti gay. Funnily enough he doesnt mention his anti gay stance on his agenda!

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/John-Brewer-for-District-28-KY-State-House-of-Representatives/295580064749?ref=ts#!/pages/John-Brewer-for-District-28-KY-State-House-of-Representatives/295580064749?ref=ts

  • Hybrid

    Preach on Revyloution…

    Sometimes it takes an extreme to shake us out of our mindsets. It was only after seeing the extremes of pseudoscience/religion that I began to question, everything before I discovered the “outright-insane-crazy” levels somehow managed to feel natural and comfortable. Phelps and his flunkies are great “consciousness raisers”.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    @Dan

    Itawamba! @#%#%@*

  • sarah

    “God Hates Haters”

    Awesome. They need to make their own sign saying that.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Beth

    @ Claudia–thanks, that’s what I thought, but I wasn’t sure if I had missed something.

  • JB Tait

    I don’t understand the illogic that specifies what textile we must drape ourselves in.

    Example: In the house I wear a polo shirt over boxer shorts covered by a flannel nighty. To go outside, I have to take the nighty off to be decent. I have to wear less to be less indecent.

    If I were to wear my bra and shorts out, I could be arrested, but if I wear my much smaller bikini, I am dressed acceptably.

    When I was young, female children were not allowed to wear pants to school or church. Later, in the 60s, I was denied access to a bar because I was wearing a pants suit, but when I stripped off the pants and ended up in what would be a VERY short dress, that was OK.

    I suspect the tuxedo thing isn’t just about being openly gay but is more about a woman who doesn’t know her place and pretends to be better than she is by wearing the uniform of a man. Based on Deuteronomy 22:5 in the Bible (“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man”), there were times when a woman could be executed if she wore trousers.

    Women are still not allowed to wear pants on many private golf courses and their tee times are less convenient. There are usually men-only times, but no women-only times on those courses too. Sometimes a woman will have her membership withdrawn if her husband dies, or women aren’t allowed full memberships. Then when the pants thing is rectified, usually the memberships and tee times become equal too.

    This yearbook thing is the modern version of shunning. Know your place, girls, or we will pretend you don’t exist.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Just when people started to forget about Constance being mistreated because of her sexuality along comes Fred Phelps and his crazy band of misfits to remind us all. Thanks Fred.

  • idioteque

    Margaret:

    Why Westboro would target Itawamba graduation is beyond me. After all, the school did not support the lesbian student.

    Answer: anything short of stoning homosexuals is simply not good enough for Phelps.

    The Westboro assholes are just trying to convince the bigots of Mississippi to hold a thoroughly consistent bigotry, that is all.

  • littlejohn

    Phelps has become such a self-caricature that I think it’s great he’s showing up. Now, if only the Nazis, wearing their swastikas, will join them.
    I hope any counter-protest to Phelps will take the form that has recently developed: People showing up with silly, non-threatening signs, like “I have a sign.” Or “God hates green beans.” It seems to drive those idiots crazy.

  • Jeigh

    Someday I hope to be part of a WBC counter-protest holding a sign saying this:

    http://img687.imageshack.us/img687/5086/wbcsignd.png

  • ckitching

    Sometimes I wonder if Westboro Baptist is an accidental ally of those who oppose organized religion. I mean, even the KKK doesn’t want to be associated with them (even evil has standards, it seems).

  • Gabriel

    This is just one more way that the poverty striken southern states are holding onto their title as “America’s Shithole”. By carefully driving the inteligent and educated people out of the state. The self imposed brain drain.

  • Krista

    Although I do think it’s stupid and unfair that a girl isn’t allowed to wear a tuxedo for her yearbook picture (or a guy to wear a dress, for that matter), I don’t think what they did was in specific discrimination of her.

    I know that in my high school, our policy clearly stated that if any person wore anything other than the prescribed outfit selected by the school, then that person’s picture would not appear in the yearbook. It may be dumb, but unless there’s proof that some straight girls also wore tuxes and still had their pics in the yearbook, it doesn’t look like specific discrimination.

  • Adria

    A few days ago, you asked what really bothered us about religion. Cherry picking from the Bible and using out of context statements to support your intolerance and bigotry is WAY up there on the list! Ignoring the 100′s of messages about love, acceptance, being non-judgmental and accepting and loving your neighbor while taking one tiny sentence out of context to support your hatred is disgusting! It’s beyond evil to use religion as a vehicle to justify your spiteful, black-hearted, vile bigotry and hatred.

    Dear Constance and Ceara, You should know that there are people out there who admire you for fearlessly stepping forward to show the world that you would not change for anyone. You are true to yourself and you were punished for it. You deserve better! Please know that there are people out there who are on your side. More people than you think! Thank you for being brave enough to be yourself. We need more people like you in the world!

  • Edmond

    And the Leviticus passage about men not lying with men has WHAT to do with lesbians, exactly?

  • Judith Bandsma

    @Muggle, I wonder if their yearbook required not a dress but that stupid drape that makes the girls all look the same. My tech school did that and I refused to wear it since my classes were in a technical field and I was the very FIRST female there. Wearing that drape would have been stupid. They ran my picture in my jeans and t-shirt that was appropriate for my field.

    And I can’t help wondering what the hell is wrong with a woman wearing a tux. My granddaughter was the photographer for her school’s prom last year. She was REQUIRED to wear a tux. Complete with a ruffled shirt and cummerbund.

  • Lindsey Bain

    @Krista i think the biggest upset with regards to Ceara is that not only did they not print her picture they did not mention her at all as if she didnt exist. She is a great student and has won much academic acclaim but there is not one mention of her in the entire book. Rules or not about the photo wiping her from existence completely is just hateful!

  • christopher

    Okay!? Now what can we do to help?!

  • idioteque

    Go on, Itawamba, don’t be shy: embrace your bigotry entirely and welcome Westboro with open arms!

    Be true to thine own bigotry!

  • stogoe

    This yearbook thing is the modern version of shunning. Know your place, girls, or we will pretend you don’t exist.

    All the dudes up there complaing about “Society doesn’t allow me to wear a dress, so how dare ladyparts be draped in Man Clothes?” are completely missing the point. FFS, you should be allowed to wear a dress to your school’s photo day if you want. That’s the point. The whole which-clothing-is-only-for-which-rigidly-apportioned-gender-role taboo is nonsense. Complete nonsense.

  • Peter B

    I would love for the Itawamba Agricultural High School students and staff to do something stupid and attack* the WBC. The WBC *WILL* sue. I would hate for the WBC to collect anything – perhaps poverty would prevent collection.

    A confrontation of hater vs. hater. Priceless. Newsworthy.

    * By “attack” I mean property damage only – something like ripping their signs.

  • Brendargh

    I think that the WBC protest will be an educational opportunity for these teenagers. Hopefully they’ll understand the similarity between the message they sent to Constance and messages of the signs held up by the WBC. Maybe some of them will decide they don’t want to grow up to be WBC members.

    @idioteque – I love the Robert Creeley poem. Thanks for sharing.

  • Abbie

    How stupid is Westboro Baptist Church? Apart from the obvious of course…They’re protesting an organization that by all appearances would support their efforts!
    It’s like the second Phelps and his foul brood hear the word gay, they go into overdrive with no thought for who they might be protesting.


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