A group of religious leaders in central Iowa today spoke out about a controversial play being staged at West Des Moines Valley High School. They also denounced a group of out-of-state protesters led by Fred Phelps who plan to be in Iowa to protest the play. The Valley production of “The Laramie Project” is about the murder of a gay man, Mathew Shepard.

Pastor Lauris Meek of the Newton New Life Community Church of the Nazarene says they do not condone they way Phelps and his followers condemn homosexuals. Meek says, “I want to explain that our position against Phelps is not in any way endorsing homosexuality. But we want to offer hope to those who’re struggling with that particular sin.”

Phelps has also said he will protest at local churches, and Meek says they want to let everyone know that Phelps does not speak for them. Meek says that homosexuality is just one of the many sins, not the only one and “Christ forgives, transforms and then forgets our sins and puts them behind his back.”

Pastor Bob Deever of Grace West Church in West Des Moines also said he doesn’t believe that homosexuality is right. Deever says he doesn’t agree either with others who want to slam homosexuals. “I don’t agree with going in here with hatred and a message of bitterness and anger,” Deever says, “Because that’s not healthy either.” Chuck Hurley of the Iowa Family Policy Center says Phelps’ message of hate leaves out the forgiveness. He says it’s good to understand the truth of the bible, “which is homosexuality is a sin like all other sins, and it can be forgiven like all other sins. And those two messages need to be in tandem, you can’t have one without the other.”

Hurley says the religious leaders are against the “The Laramie Project” at Valley, because Hurley says it has been proven that the victim in the play, Mathew Shepard was not killed because he was gay. Hurley says A-B-C news exposed the facts that Shepard was not cruelly beaten and killed because he was homosexual, but Hurley says the play goes on. “And the premise of the play and the main teaching of the play continues to be around that supposed fact, but that’s not a fact,” Hurley says.

Hurley says the play leaves out important issues. Hurley says the murderers were using meth for several days leading up to the murder and were out to rob a drug dealer of 10-thousand dollars worth of meth. Hurley says the meth use of the murderers was not mentioned in the play. Hurley says the play also does not mention that the murderers recanted that they killed Shepard because he was gay, and Hurley says police investigators also said the same thing.

Hurley says the play is being used to push the homosexual view without telling the whole story. Hurley says, “When something is one-sided, I think it is more called propaganda than a dialogue.” Hurley says the primary emotional conclusion of the play is “that if you disagree with homosexual behavior then you are somehow offbase to very wrong.”

Hurley says there needs to be a calm discourse that discusses both sides of the issue, and the play does not do that. The play is set to open tonight (Friday) at West Des Moines Valley High School.