A group known for its extreme anti-gay views is planning two protests in the Lexington, Mass., area this spring.

A group known for its extreme anti-gay views is planning two protests in the Lexington area for this spring.

On Friday, March 13, the Westboro Baptist Church will picket at Lexington High School and Hanscom Air Force Base after visiting Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in the morning. Members will picket at Reading High School in the evening.

“These years are passing and these children aren’t getting better, they’re getting worse,” said church spokesman Shirley Phelps-Roper.

The church is known for protesting military funerals and military bases, often with divisive and controversial picket signs. The church is vehemently against the military, which it says is “infested” with homosexuals.

The group’s main focus will be the protest in Reading, where the high school will stage a performance of “The Laramie Project,” a play written about student Matthew Shepard. Shepard was a gay university student who was beaten and murdered in 1998 near Laramie, Wyo. by two men who tried to justify the beating and murder by using a so-called “gay panic defense.” The church regularly protests showing of the play, said Phelps-Roper.

Because church members regularly travel from Kansas, said Phelps-Roper, the church makes the most of its time in one place and pickets several targets. The purpose of the March 13 trip is the play in Reading, but Phelps-Roper said she pulled out her map and decided to target Cambridge and Lexington as well.

“We’re trying to go as far and fast as we can, because the time is short,” she said.

The last time it picketed a Lexington function was in 2005 at the Lexington High School graduation.

The three schools in Cambridge, Lexington and Reading all have gay/straight student alliances, which are a popular target with the church.

Lexington officials only recently learned of the church’s plans to picket at the high school and have not yet formulated a response, said Selectman Hank Manz.

In the meantime, UMass student and Lexington resident Alex Maslow said he wants to organize some kind of counter-protest, although he’s not sure what form it will take.

The church’s timing of the protest is certainly suspect, he said, as it is scheduled to begin right as school gets out. A situation where students encounter the church unawares could cause pandemonium, he said.

His goal right now is simply to get the word out.

“They’re dead wrong … and we need to do something about it,” he said.

The Westboro Baptist Church picketed Lexington High School’s graduation at Tsongas Arena in Lowell in 2005. Phelps-Roper said she remembered being surprised at the reception her church received at the protest.

“The Lexington response was so proper and gentle compared to the screaming, raging mob that we encountered” at Brookline High School, where the church had also picketed around the same time, she said.

The church also picketed a showing of “The Laramie Project” at Acton-Boxborough High School in 2007, where it encountered counter-protests from students and residents of Acton and Boxborough.

Lexington Minuteman