Lawsuit Seeks to Block Play Depicting Gay Christ

Affiliate: ACLU of Indiana
July 18, 2001 12:00 am

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FT. WAYNE, IN — Residents and state lawmakers asked a judge Tuesday to block a state university from allowing students to stage a play that portrays a gay Christ-like character, the Associated Press reported.

According to the AP, 11 residents and 21 legislators have filed suit seeking to ban Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne from presenting the play, “Corpus Christi,” next month. They say the play should not be presented at a taxpayer-funded university.

On Monday, the university reached an agreement with the New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. The group agreed to support the school’s right to stage the play, but will distribute a protest statement to people who attend.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Indiana state Senator Michael Young, who is one of the plaintiffs, said of the play, “It may be vulgar, dirty, vile and everything else, but I guess we do have the First Amendment.”

Yet, the Times reported, he and the other plaintiffs believe that because the university receives taxpayer funding, it should not be permitted to stage a play that some people find offensive and anti-Christian.

A federal judge will consider the case today and could issue an injunction blocking the students from staging the play.

“Under the Constitution, we can’t use tax money to promote religion, so we don’t think it’s fair to use tax money to tear down religion,” said Young, a Republican.

Supporters of the play argue that many great works of art are offensive to some people and that controversy and provocation are beneficial to a democratic society.

If censorship prevails, academic freedom will be strangled as various groups seek to define — and protect — their own “acceptable version” of the Christ story, warned John Krull, executive director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union.

The Constitution “prevents government from endorsing a particular religious faith,” Krull added. “It does not prevent government from ever discussing questions of faith.”

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