The Baptist Minister recites what seem to be Amanda Gronich’s memories of his sermon. The Baptist Minister says he is preaching the word of God, and that the Bible, which sometimes contradicts science or modern thought, must be believed entirely and verbatim. Next, Unitarian minster Stephen Mead Johnson, in what appears to be excerpts from an interview, talks about the dominant religions in the area, saying that Baptists and Mormons are everywhere. Doug Laws, the Mormon Church leader in the area, talks about how many outsiders are threatened by the Mormon belief that God still speaks to everyday people and Mormon leaders.
The Baptist Minister’s sermon about believing the Bible word for word shows that the Minister’s reading style is highly conservative. While the Minister encourages this literal, direct, evangelical way of reading the Bible, the play itself seems to require the opposite kind of reading. Since the play represents a living community and since its characters change over time, it resists readings that nitpick, decontextualize, and fail to see the work as a whole.
Stephen Mead Johnson resumes talking about the different religions in Laramie, describing them on a political spectrum from left to right. Furthest left is the Unitarian Church, and then next leftmost is Father Roger Schmit and the Catholic parish. Stephen says that, immediately after Matthew Shepard’s attack, Father Roger hosted a vigil for him. The floor then goes to Father Roger, who talks about how, when he tried to get different ministers together for the vigil, some hesitated to join because they wanted to wait and see how the public would react. Father Roger was angered by this lack of leadership.
While Catholicism is often viewed as a conservative religion, Father Roger seems to have a more open interpretation of its doctrine. Father Roger’s description of other religious leaders’ hesitation after Matthew’s death suggests that some religious groups simply reflect preexisting values rather than shaping communities and leading them to morality. Father Roger finds that model of religion frustrating.
Doug Laws talks about how “God has set boundaries” and people must study scripture to learn these boundaries and follow them. One of these limits, according to Doug, is the definition of a family as “one woman and one man and children,” which cannot by deviated from. The Baptist Minster adds that his followers may be criticized for their faith, but they must follow the Bible.
Doug Laws and the Baptist Minister’s views of God and morality are very authoritarian and strict. Meanwhile, both leaders express a sense of victimhood about the fact that some people criticize their religious views, hypocritically ignoring that their views totally ostracize and dehumanize LGBT people.
Stephen Mead Johnson mentions how many of the conservative Christian pastors in the community did not condemn what happened to Matthew Shepard. He says that they use the Bible as a way to defend their views. The Baptist Minister describes himself as a “Biblicist” and says that, regardless of people’s beliefs, the Bible is true. Stephen tells the company that he arrived in Wyoming just a few weeks before Matthew’s murder, and felt that his purpose in Laramie was to help the community through the trauma surrounding it.
As Stephen Mead Johnson describes how the conservative religious leaders in Laramie defend their views, his phrasing seems to suggest that they read the Bible in a literal way to support their preexisting bigotry, rather than actually deriving their views from the text. Stephen Mead Johnson’s contrasting views of religion shows how varied different manifestations of religions can be.