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Learning What God Hates...

Director and Vermont high school student Graham Raubvogel discusses his documentary God Hates..., which explores the Westboro Baptist Church’s visit to Vermont in September 2009.

By Alli Rock

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A still from "God Hates..."

Director Graham Raubvogel is a seventeen year-old senior at Burlington High School and has been making films since 2006. He directed and produced God Hates..., which is featured as a part of the 2010 Online New England Film Festival, in Vermont, where he spoke with local high school students, teachers, and legislators to hear their perspectives on the Westboro Baptist Church. This week he talks about why he decided to make this documentary and what he discovered about his fellow Vermonters in the process.

Alli Rock: What inspired you to make this film?

Graham Raubvogel: My inspiration stemmed from the Westboro Baptist Church's visit to Vermont last September. I had heard a little about them, but the fact that they were protesting in my city and state against my friends’ and family's sexual identities, legal rights, and religious views, including my Jewish identity, really gave me the drive to begin working on this film.

AR: What influence do you think living and filming in New England had on God Hates…?

Raubvogel: God Hates... ended up having a very unique perspective because of the region that it comes from. New England is graced with a multitude of progressive ideals, and that enabled a sharp contrast between the film's local subjects and the Westboro Baptist Church's hateful beliefs. For the most part, Vermont hasn't had to face this many strong convictions head-on before. I saw many conflicting viewpoints as to what the proper anti-protest should be, if any, and how protected the Westboro Baptist Church is by the First Amendment.

AR: Did you discover anything about this issue or yourself and fellow students through making this film?

Raubvogel: Working on this documentary led me to fully understand the power that my peers and I have in pointing the direction of this nation. My goal in producing this film was not to show why the Westboro Baptist Church needs to be "quieted," which I am against. I wanted to present two polar ends of a spectrum, and to ask how far is too far when it comes to fighting for what you believe in. In the end, we all just hold an opinion, and though Vermont now allows gay marriage, I hope that God Hates... and works like it will help encourage young people to continue to stand up for our beliefs.

AR: Have you had any interesting responses to your film?

Raubvogel: Some of my most interesting responses have come from other areas of the country that are not as progressive as Burlington. Having grown up here, these ideas have been presented intrinsically, so realizing just how strange this film's subjects may seem to some people was eye opening.

You can find Graham Raubvogel’s film God Hates... at http://newenglandfilm.com/festival/2010/godhates for the duration of the 2010 Online New England Film Festival.