The Laramie Project

The Laramie Project

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Reverend Fred Phelps Character Analysis

Reverend Fred Phelps is the minister of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, which preaches a doctrine that glorifies judgment and hatred. Reverend Fred Phelps and his followers protest Matthew Shepard’s funeral and the trials of Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. Reverend Phelps represents a brand of religiosity that is so extremist and hateful that it goes completely against most people’s sense of morality and decency, showing how religion can be a dangerous tool for hatred.

Reverend Fred Phelps Quotes in The Laramie Project

The The Laramie Project quotes below are all either spoken by Reverend Fred Phelps or refer to Reverend Fred Phelps. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dramatists Play Service edition of The Laramie Project published in 2001.
Act 3: Snow Quotes

I decided that someone needed to stand toe to toe with this guy and show the differences. And I think at time like this when we’re talking about hatred as much as the nation is right now, that someone needs to show, that there is a better way of dealing with that kind of hatred. So our idea is to dress up like angels.

Related Characters: Romaine Patterson (speaker), Russell Henderson, Reverend Fred Phelps
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Romaine Patterson, who is a friend of Matthew’s, an out lesbian, and a budding activist, talks about how she organized a protest to block out Fred Phelps’ hate speech at Russell Henderson’s trial. Before this quote, Romaine discusses how she was inspired by a peaceful counter-protest at Matthew’s funeral.

As Romaine describes her decision-making process, she focuses on the need not only to drown out Phelps’ ranting, but also to show that pro-LGBT political activism is the ideological opposite of Phelps’ hateful rhetoric. Romaine feels determined to use her protest not only to stop Phelps, but also to set an example for the entire country of how to confront hatred and violence with symbols of peace and love.

In pursuit of these goals, Romaine chooses to dress up herself and her fellow counter-protestors as angels. In doing so, the protestors present themselves not only as symbols of peace and love, but also of God and religious morality. Through the use of these symbols, the protestors reclaim religion, which is often cited as a justification for homophobia, in the name of acceptance for LGBT people.

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Reverend Fred Phelps Character Timeline in The Laramie Project

The timeline below shows where the character Reverend Fred Phelps appears in The Laramie Project. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 3: Snow
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Violence, Punishment, and Justice Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Kerry Drake, a reporter, talks about how Reverend Fred Phelps , the leader of the extremist Westboro Baptist Church, protested the funeral. An actor playing... (full context)
Homophobia, Tolerance, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Religion, Morality, and Prejudice Theme Icon
...months after the funeral, the company went back to Laramie for Russell Henderson’s trial, where Fred Phelps was also protesting. Romaine Patterson, who was a friend of Matthew Shepard’s, decided to organize... (full context)