Phelps Clan To Disrupt Gay Student's Graduation
[DES MOINES, IA] - As dozens of seniors graduate next week from Des Moines' Lincoln High School, one student will be under police protection.
Julius Carter, the senior class president, member of the football team, and part of the school choir is this year's recipient of the Matthew Shepard college scholarship and that has America's most rabid anti-gay group raging. Rev Fred Phelps, who runs the infamous God Hates Fags website and whose followers demonstrated at the funeral of Shepard, the Wyoming college student who was tortured and killed in 1998, announced Wednesday that his followers will stage a demonstration at Carter's graduation.
The scholarship was created to help gay students who have shown leadership. The Phelps' clan say they will set up picket lines in front of Veterans Memorial Auditorium for the May 31 graduation ceremony.
Officials at the high school confirm they have received a letter from the group condemning them and the school district for recognizing Carter. Principal Al Graziano said he was " dismayed" when he read the letter.
Carter said he was offended that the group was attacking his school. "I could care less what they say about me because I go through that all the time," he said, but he is angry that Phelps' followers are attempting to ruin the graduation for fellow students. "The last thing I want to do is be someone who hinders their happiness," he said.
Carter said he came out about two years ago. He applied for the Matthew Shepard scholarship to help pay for his pre-medicine education at the University of Iowa. The scholarship covers tuition, books and fees for four years. "My friends are very protective of me, even more so now," Carter said after word spread throughout the campus about the demonstration. "By this happening, (Phelps) is going to see that no one in Iowa cares because the way he presents himself is wrong."
Phelps' daughter, and spokesperson for his Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, Shirley Phelps-Roper, said between 10 and 15 protesters are expected to stage a noisy protest on the street.
"There are some people left in this world who haven't given over whole hog that it's all right to be gay," she said. "The issue is to publish this message. And what better way to catch these children is when they're heading into their graduation."