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Report: Matthew Shepard's Mom Target Of Bomb Threat


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Report: Matthew Shepard's Mom Target Of Bomb Threat

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: October 16, 2005 12:01 am ET

(Helena, Montana) Police in Helena Montana are investigating threats to disrupt a speech at Carroll College by the mother of murdered gay teen Matthew Shepard.

Judy Shepard is scheduled to speak at the private Catholic college Tuesday about the impact of Matthew's death.

Nancy Lee, spokeswoman for Carroll, said the purpose of the lecture is to promote tolerance. But the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, known for its strongly worded anti-gay literature, has threatened to picket the event.

One flier distributed on campus makes reference to the use of "improvised explosive devices," Lee told the Associated Press.

Copies of the flier have been turned over to police and an investigation is underway to determine if they violate Montana law. It also is not known if they originated with Westboro Church or were made by someone trying to capitalize on the planned protest.

Members of the Westboro Church are followers of the Rev. Fred Phelps - mainly relatives - and although they regularly demonstrate at LGBT events - including Matthew Shepard's funeral - have never used violence in the past.

A heavy police presence, bolstered by campus security will be on hand for the speech. Lee said that picketers will not be allowed on the private campus. Still, Westboro members could enter the public lecture unnoticed, then disrupt it, she said.

Jim Harwick, vice president for student life at Carroll, said Matthew Shepard's story is not unfamiliar on campus. Freshman have been required to attend a screening of "The Laramie Project" - the movie base on Shepard's killing - the for the past three years.

But, as part of the fallout from fears of violence during the speech the college has told the Montana Human Rights Network that it cannot set up a table on campus, out of fears the table and people gathered around it could become a target.

"The table request is where it gets difficult," Lee said. "If we had the tables out there, we're just asking for a confrontation, and we don't want to go there."

Last week, Judy Shepard called on Congress to enact legislation adding sexuality to hate crimes laws. (story)

“My son Matthew was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime seven years ago this month. Since then, too many other innocent Americans have been attacked or killed because they were gay or transgender. But Congress still hasn’t acted. Every American child deserves the strongest protections from some of this country’s most heinous crimes.”

The House of Representatives passed legislation last month to expand federal hate crimes laws to include gays, lesbians and the transgendered (story) but a Senate version remains tied up in committee, and would not cover transsexuals.

Called the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act it has passed the Senate in previous congressional sessions only to die in the House.

The bill would allow the Department of Justice to assist local authorities in investigating and prosecuting cases in which violence occurs

Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was kidnapped, pistol-whipped, robbed and left to die tied to a fence outside Laramie. He died five days later in hospital on October 12, 1988.

Two men, Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney are each serving two life sentences for the killing.

Since her son's murder Judy Shepard has been an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights especially the need for hate crimes legislation.

©365Gay.com 2005


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