April 25, 2018
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Teen makes case on TV for protest ban

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

Zach Parker, the Frankfort high school senior whose history class project about banning military funeral protests has garnered national attention, sounded both exhausted and exhilarated Friday while heading home from Boston after appearing on national television program “Fox & Friends” earlier that morning.

“I thought the interview went well,” Parker, 17, said from the chauffeured car that the network sent to transport him and his mother, Tara Parker, for his appearance on the program. “We’re having a good time.”

Parker’s segment lasted fewer than four minutes, time that he spent talking with co-host Dave Briggs about his plan to propose federal legislation to ban all protests at military funerals. He appeared on the New York-based program by video link from Boston, and was able to hear, but not see, Briggs.

Searsport District High School history teacher Gail Anthonis had asked her students to take a political or a social issue and act on it, and Parker began researching the Westboro Baptist Church, a controversial Kansas congregation that has made a name for itself by protesting at soldiers’ funerals across the country, he said.

“I think that a law needs to be put in place to stop these guys,” he told Briggs during the interview.

At the beginning of the segment, Briggs read aloud an e-mail that a church member apparently had sent to Parker on Thursday.

“You must be living in a painful Spiderman movie if you think you can stop God from killing soldiers or stop his people from standing on a public right-of-way to help you connect the dots from that wrath of God,” the e-mail stated. “Your parents utterly failed in their duty to you and God says that is for the simple fact that they hate you.”

Parker said Friday receiving that message was a shock.

“We’ll see firsthand what they’re like on Wednesday, if they show,” he said of Westboro Baptist Church members.

On Wednesday, Jan. 5, he will present a seminar about the proposed legislation at the high school, and church members have said they intend to picket the event.

Parker said Friday he has heard that a local Veterans of Foreign Wars post intends to have 100 people come to the seminar and will hand out American flags to attendees.

He has heard from many people in support of his plan, he said, including someone who wrote to him from Spain. Other news outlets that have expressed interest in his story include National Public Radio and AOL Teens, Parker said.

On “Fox & Friends,” the teen told Briggs that he also plans to share the proposed legislation with Maine’s congressional delegation.

“If you can’t reach Sens. [Susan] Collins or [Olympia] Snowe, let us know,” Briggs responded. “We will surely help you out with that.”

Briggs wanted to know something else from Parker.

“What is the message here, in terms of acting, of getting off your butt and doing something?” he asked.

Parker had a quick response.

“I can tell you not to underestimate any project you’re given,” he said. “I certainly never expected to be on national news for this. This was just a small-town project and has turned out to be a national phenomenon.”

Parker’s presentation will begin at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 5, at Searsport District High School. It is open to the public. Those who want to attend may RSVP by e-mailing him at zachparker2011@gmail.com.

Parker’s interview with Fox News can be heard online at http://video.foxnews.com/#/v/4479166/teen-takes-on-westboro-church/?playlist_id=87937.

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