What role does religion play in the Laramie Project? How does in create conflict? How does it bring people together?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that there might be a difference between religion and spirituality.  The notion of established religion and orthodoxy as depicted in a manner that embraces a singular notion of the good.  Reverend Phelps is representative of this trait.  In trying to make the issue of homosexuality as one that questions where one's allegiance with God creates a setting that seeks to divide people into an "us or them" situation.  This is the same demeanor that frowns upon the Muslim woman in the play who awakens the social ire of some townspeople because of her cultural traditions.  Here again, we see a distinction between "us" and "them."  This divisive approach to religion is not representative of all the established religions as Matt's funeral is held in a Catholic church, a moment where establishes religion does seek to bring people together.  Additionally, there are other religions that might not be ready to fully embrace homosexuality and its implications on its clergy, but do not respond in the manner of Reverend Phelps.  Where the play might make the greatest statement on religious notions of love and compassion is within the individuals featured in the play.  Townspeople like Jedidiah struggle with trying to reconcile the sense of loyalty to town and their commitment to fraternity in accepting all individuals. Romaine Patterson's willingness to invoke the notion of "angels" is another example of how religion or religious iconography seeks to bring individuals together.   Matthew's father displays the level compassion, to which religions seek to impart in their followers, as he wishes life to be given to Matthew's killer, even though life was denied to his son.  His desire to start the process of healing indicates a component where spirituality brings people together.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this story, religion plays an unfortunate role: That of a conduit of prejudice and judgement. This is how it also sadly seems to echo the feelings of the community and, in a sick way, "brought it together". It mentions the condemnation of homosexuality as an immoral practice, and you sense the resistance of an otherwise church-going community to accept homosexuality as a natural incident in the lives of many individuals.

The way religion keeps people apart in the play is paradoxically also through judgement, and the feelings of Jebediah as he questions whether his priest and his father are correctabout their arguments against homosexuality, and it is his questioning what raises the separation of reality versus religion and the statement of not allowing organized religion permeate the contents of our character.