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Local newspaper writes slanted, misleading article on parents' forum about homosexual play "The Laramie Project".

Unfortunately, it's what what we've all grown used to.

(ACTON, MA OCT. 24,2007) Two days after the parents' forum at the Acton-Boxborough Regional High School in Acton, Massachusetts, on that school's decision to stage the violent pro-homosexual play "The Laramie Project", the local newspaper came out with a biased and superficial article that even took us by surprise.

As our subsequent letter to the editor of the Acton Beacon (which they printed!) said,

Play story was biased
Letter to the editor, The Acton Beacon
Oct. 24, 2007

The Acton Beacon's “news” article on the Oct. 3 parents' forum on “The Laramie Project” play was extremely biased and misleading [“Forum held on ‘Laramie’]. It was terrible journalism and it does the community a great disservice.

As one of the speakers, I spent over half an hour outlining, in great detail, the reasons the play is considered so offensive and destructive by so many people. None of that got into your article. Why not?

Instead, the reporter portrayed the forum as a “preach session” and demeaned the other speakers by taking statements out of context and twisting their messages. Each of the speakers brought a different insight abut the play, the events surrounding it, and its subject matter. But you wouldn't know that from the shallow coverage in The Beacon.

And of course, of all the people who attended, the article only quotes those with negative comments about the forum. A lot of the people there had a very positive experience. Why weren't any of them quoted? And your reporter certainly didn't bother to interview the speakers at the event. Why not? Didn't he have any questions about what we presented? That's very unusual.

As the play's promoters subtly acknowledge — and as is clear to anyone who reads it — “The Laramie Project” is purposefully meant to demean and demonize Christians and others with traditional values about homosexuality in such an extreme way that they seem capable of murder. The “seeds of hate” represent Christians in any community who might kill another Matthew Shepard. It's a very powerful psychological message that uses the gruesome details of the murder and profanity to drive home its point.

The play's Web sites also lead impressionable kids to very disturbing homosexual sites. No one seems to want to talk about that, either.

The fact that certain hysterical liberal activists in Acton, such as Debra Simes and her petition, went to so much trouble to persuade people not to come to the forum only begs the question: What are they afraid of? Why does a different opinion in the public arena scare them so much?

I would invite people to watch the forum on Acton Cable TV on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week (and beyond) at 10 p.m. And we have more information about the play and the forum on our website, MassResistance.org. Don't be afraid. You might learn something.

Brian Camenker
Newton
[online version of letter]

In addition, the article said some odd things. For example, there was never any reference to three policemen. There were two policemen there (that we saw.)  And Mr. Lafferty's did work briefly for Tom DeLay, but he also mentioned he worked in the Reagan White House and also for Newt Gingrich and several other prominent people.

And as the letter said, the "meat" of the forum was the discussion about why the play was so objectionable -- which the article completely ignored.

This is a prime example of why people can no longer believe most newspaper accounts of controversial issues. A person reading this would have no idea what the forum's message really was.

 

FORUM HELD ON LARAMIE
by Christian Schiavone,
The Acton Beacon, Acton Massachusetts
FRI OCT 05, 2007

ACTON, MASS. - A forum that was billed as a concerned parents' discussion of the high school drama department's production of the controversial play "The Laramie Project" focused mainly on what panelists said were the dangers of homosexuality.

Scott Wilson, father of a freshman at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School, organized the forum to protest the drama department's production of the play. The production focuses on the aftermath of the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old openly gay student at the University of Wyoming. Wilson and some parents have said that the play paints an unfair portrait of religious conservatives and undermines parents' teachings.

The effort to stop the play has also been joined by MassResistance, a statewide conservative advocacy group that was also vocal in opposing gay marriage.

Advocates of the production, including the School Committee and Superintendent Bill Ryan, have said that the play teaches students about tolerance, but Wilson disagrees.

"The core message of the play is that we need to quiet people who have traditional moral values," he said during the opening remarks of the forum.

But the three panelists spent most of the two-hour event talking decrying what they said was a growing local and national homosexual agenda focused on furthering gay rights at the expense of traditional religious values and saying that homosexual relationships are "unnatural."

The panelists were Dr. John Diggs, an internist who lectures internationally on sexually transmitted diseases; James Lafferty, who once worked for former Republican Sen. Tom Delay and was at the trial of Shepard's murderers; and John Russo, a former Reading School Committee member.

Stephen Bennett, who lived for years as a homosexual before marrying a woman and becoming a Christian pastor, was supposed to speak at the forum, but was involved in a car accident on the way.

Most of the approximately 70 people who attended the forum clapped enthusiastically as panelists railed against gay marriage and the decline of what they repeatedly referred to as "traditional moral values," but about 20 attendees sat stony faced, arms crossed in the back.

Brian Camenker, a Newton resident who moderated the event, said that many parents who oppose the play were afraid to come to the play because of threats that have received.

"A lot of them were afraid to come here tonight because they were literally afraid their cars would be vandalized," he said.

Camenker also noted the presence of three police officers at the forum.

"It seems like you never need police at a public event except when it has to do with homosexuality," he said.

Diggs compared the intimidation religious conservatives face to that faced by African-Americans in the civil rights movement and Jews in Nazi Germany.

"Fascism is alive and well, and it's growing in America," he said.

There were no disruptions during the event.

At least 450 supporters of the play signed a statement provided to The Beacon by Debra Simes, whose son Noah is a cast member, saying that they were boycotting the meeting.

"We want to be clear that local people are staying away from this 'forum' in droves because we choose not to contribute to the attention sought by sponsors of the forum," the statement read. "[W]e support our school and our students' production."

Simes, who remained just outside the auditorium doors throughout the event, declined further comment.

There were some skeptics in the crowd, however.

During a question and answer period where attendees were able to submit written questions to the panel, Rob and Nancy Hodgman of Boxborough asked for people who had read the play to raise their hands. Fewer than 10 audience members did so.

"Clearly they're using this as a touchstone for this platform to come in and give this presentation and go off in all these directions," said Nancy Hodgman as she left the auditorium.

Brigid Vorce, who went to Acton-Boxborough Regional High School for her sophomore year before going to he University of Vermont, said the discussion lacked any significant debate.

"It was organized to be a preach session," she said.
Vorce said that during her year at Acton-Boxborough, students freely used slurs referencing homosexuals. While she admitted the play might be offensive to some, she said it is still a good way to get students talking about intolerance.

"If it upsets people, that's awesome because at least they're talking about it," he said. "If the play makes kids think twice about using slurs that's great."

Bruce Sabot, chairman of the Acton-Boxborough Regional School Committee, was one of the few school officials who attended the forum. He said he had hoped for a range of opinions regarding the performance but was disappointed.

"I wasn't very impressed with the evening," he said. "It became more preaching about why being gay is wrong."

Sabot said he is looking forward to the opening of the play on Nov. 2.

Christian Schiavone can be reached at 978-371-5743 or at [email protected]
Link to article on newspaper website