“Please Picket Us, Mr. Phelps!,” Or “What? Doesn’t God Hate North Dakota, Too?”

The AP reports:

North Dakota high school students trying to create publicity for their school play sent messages to a Kansas-based fundamentalist church known for its anti-gay protests, hoping Westboro Baptist Church members would announce plans to picket the production….

But Fargo police said they were told Wednesday by church members that they would not protest Fargo South High School’s production Sunday of “The Laramie Project,” a play about the killing of a gay man in Wyoming in the late 1990s.

Minnesota Public Radio reported that some cast members posted on a Facebook site that has since been taken down that they sent the Westboro church e-mails under fake names, pretending to be offended by the play….

The school district quotes suggest that the students have gotten into a bit of trouble but not too much — probably the right answer, since their behavior was dishonest though not in an especially damaging or morally culpable way. The story also quotes a graduate of the high school, who “said the news that cast members ‘invited a hate group to the community is a huge slap in the face’ to the gay cast members at the high school and to the community.” But I don’t think that’s right, if the students were indeed “trying to create publicity” for the play — more likely, the students were either just trying to draw attention, or perhaps trying to invite the hate group in order for the hate group to face more ridicule and condemnation (and thus indirectly promote gay rights).