OKC Civic Affairs

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City responds to pastors who oppose play featuring gay characters, biblical satire

by William Crum Published: November 25, 2013
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In a letter to pastors who object to a play opening next week at Civic Center Music Hall, the city says the best course for those with concerns is to contact the producer.

The Oklahoma City Theatre Company’s production of “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” opens in preview Dec. 5 in CitySpace, a small theater in the Civic Center’s basement.

Several dozen pastors have signed a letter objecting to the play, which has homosexual characters and satirizes biblical stories.

They call the play “gross pornography” and ask in their letter why it is “necessary to mock the Bible in the Christmas season.”

The pastors’ letter is addressed to elected officials including Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and members of the City Council.

The pastors asked for a response by Dec. 1 in order to let their congregations “know where their elected leaders stand on issues such as these.”

The Civic Center’s facilities manager, Jim Brown, responded on the city’s behalf, noting the Civic Center is a city-owned rental facility.

Brown wrote that the U.S. Constitution “does not allow us to turn away productions based on their content.”

The pastors plan a prayer vigil outside the Civic Center on Dec. 6, the play’s official opening night. A group of the play’s supporters plan a counter-demonstration.

Director Rachel Irick said Saturday that the play’s opening weekend is almost sold out. “Most Fabulous Story” runs for 13 performances through Dec. 22.

Here’s the city’s letter, followed by the pastors’ letter.

Reclaiming America for Christ November 21, 2013
1230 N. Sooner Road
Edmond, Oklahoma 73034

Dear Pastors:

Mayor Cornett’s office asked that I respond to your email regarding the Civic Center Music Hall.

Quite often there is some confusion between the responsibilities of the Civic Center Music Hall and the groups who conduct performances here. The Civic Center is owned by The City of Oklahoma City and serves strictly as a rental facility. The performances held here are presented by individuals or groups who choose the shows they wish to produce.

Since the Civic Center is a City-owned facility, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution does not allow us to turn away productions based on their content. The City of Oklahoma City and the Civic Center Music Hall are required by law to rent space to individuals and organizations so long as they comply with our policies and ordinances and have paid the established rental fees.

The City does not underwrite performances. If citizens disagree with specific performances, the most effective course of action is to contact the show promoter and voice your concerns.

It is our intention to help you make well-informed decisions about performances by providing show information on our website, through social media and in brochures. I appreciate your patronage and hope I have responded appropriately to your concern. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.

Respectfully,

Jim Brown
CCMH, Facility Manager

------

November 13, 2013

To:
Governor Mary Fallin
Attorney General Scott Pruitt
Members of the Oklahoma Senate
Members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives
Mayor Mick Cornett
Members of the Oklahoma City Council
Sheriff John Whetsel
David Prater, District Attorney
Carolyn Saal, President, Board of Directors, OKC Theatre Company
Amber Sharples, Executive Director, Oklahoma Arts Council
Jim Brown, General Manager, Civic Center Music Hall
Louisa McCune-Elmore, Executive Director, Kirkpatrick Foundation

In 1965, United Artists released an epic movie on the life of Jesus Christ called “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” Now in an overtly offensive play, the Bible is publicly mocked in the “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” which is scheduled to open in the City Space Theatre at the Civic Center in Oklahoma City just in time for Christmas.

On artistic merit alone, this play falls short. The New York Times review on this play included such comments as: “The evening still needs a bit of pruning” and “…it sometimes strains in its bad-boy impishness. (Not all jokes are created equal, even by Mr. Rudnick (writer)” or “this kind of blunt, conversation-reversing humor could grow weary.” When a newspaper known for its liberal point of view struggles to defend a liberal play; then that alone should cause concern.

Secondly, this play is an affront to the contemporary community standards of our fine city. In addition to a “fair amount of cursing” (N.Y. Times review), this just in time for Christmas gift to Oklahoma City calls for full frontal nudity, men simulating anal sex on stage, men simulating oral sex on stage and the promotion of bestiality. But instead of this kind of gross pornography being shown in a XXX theater, it is supported by public dollars and hosted in a municipal facility.

Finally, this play is openly offensive to Christians. The playwright intentionally mocks and provokes Christians as it “retells the Bible from a flamboyantly gay perspective, beginning with the Adam and Steve in the Garden of Eden.” In addition, the writer calls Eden a “myth” and says the Bible is “absurd.” He has a right to be wrong in his opinion, but not at the taxpayer’s expense and on city property.

One further note; applying contemporary community standards, it is quite possible that this production meets the definition of obscenity and might be in violation of Federal and State obscenity laws. Oklahoma Title 21. Chapter 39, Section 1021 law defines “Every person who willfully and knowingly either: 1. Lewdly exposes his person or genitals in any public place.”

This play might have been within New York City’s contemporary community standards, but it is certainly not within Oklahoma City’s contemporary community standards. Since it is likely that a judge will determine whether the material in question meets the definition of obscenity, we are also bringing this matter to the attention of law enforcement.

Christmas is an official public holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ and recognized as such by the United States. With the thousands of plays available from which to choose, why is it necessary to mock the Bible in the Christmas season? With 85% of the citizens of Oklahoma identifying themselves as Christians, why is it necessary to profane Jesus Christ?

Furthermore, if someone wishes to promote something that is this overtly offensive, why is it being housed in a public facility? Likewise, why is the State of Oklahoma funding the Arts Council with tax dollars if they use the money to promote pornography, offend so many and violate the community standards of public decency?

We the undersigned pastors of Oklahoma call upon the OKC Theatre Company to reconsider this production, which is obscene and is an affront to Oklahoma City community standards. We call upon Oklahoma City community leaders to use greater caution in the future and take steps to ensure the protection of our contemporary community standards.

We also call upon the Governor and State Legislature to cease funding the Arts Council. It seems that our taxes might be better spent on infrastructure or meeting the needs of the Department of Corrections and let private donations underwrite the OKC Theatre Company.

With respect, as elected officials, we request a detailed explanation regarding your position on this extremely important matter. Please send your responses to 1230 N. Sooner Rd., Edmond, OK, 73034, on or before December 1, 2013. We would like our congregations to know where their elected leaders stand on issues such as these.

Sincerely,

Pastor Paul Blair, Fairview Baptist Church/Edmond
Pastor Dan Fisher, Trinity Baptist Church/Yukon
Stephen Black, First Stone Ministries, OKC
Pastor Ken Smith, Sunnyside Baptist Church, OKC
Pastor Jerry Peterson, First Lutheran Church of OKC Jim Vineyard, Pastor Emeritus, Windsor Hills Baptist Church of OKC
Pastor Bill Harris, Living Faith Ministries International
Pastor Donnie Edmondson, Anadarko
Pastor Bruce Delay, Heartland Church, Tulsa
Pastor Alan Conner, Northwest Bible Church, OKC
Pastor Rod Rieger, Newcastle Christian Church
Pastor Ken Merrihew, Calvary Chapel, OKC
Dan Adams, Administrative Pastor, Calvary Chapel, OKC
Pastor James Taylor, University Christian Church, Norman
Pastor Steve Meier, Gospel Light Baptist Church, Enid
David Story, Associate Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Edmond
Pastor Brad Lowrie, CBC Edmond & Lighthouse Ministries
Pastor Jason Murray, Draper Park Christian Church, OKC
Josh Bullard, Headmaster, Christian Heritage Academy
Pastor Mark McAdow, First Methodist Church of OKC
Pastor Keith Gordon, First Christian Church of Crescent
Pastor Tom Vineyard, Windsor Hills Baptist Church of OKC
Pastor Mark Hitchcock, Faith Bible Church of Edmond
Pastor Steve Kern, Olivet Baptist Church of OKC
Pastor Jerry Drewery, Norman First Assembly of God
Pastor Stephen Lopp, First Baptist Church of Jones
Pastor Jack Bettis, Associate Director of the Capitol Baptist Association
Pastor Rusty Canoy, First Baptist Church of Lexington
Pastor Danny Gandara, First Baptist Church of Fort Gibson Pastor Travis Southern, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Purcell
Pastor Mateen Elass, First Presbyterian Church, Edmond
Pastor Glen Howard, International Ministries, Inc.
Pastor Chilles Hutchinson, Tri City Worship Center Assembly of God/Newcastle
Dr. Eddie White
Pastor J. T. Carvell, Central Baptist Church/Muskogee
Pastor Andy Busch, Open Door Baptist Church, Midwest City
Pastor Steve Eden, Grace Church, Choctaw, OK
Pastor Kevin Clarkson, First Baptist Church of Moore
Pastor Perry Greene, South Yukon Church of Christ
John Michener, Justice for All
John Roberts, Fairview Cowboy Church, Wetumka
Pastor Chris Reding, Community of Faith Fellowship, Stillwater
Pastor Jason Gaddis, Southwest Baptist Church, OKC
Paul Sublett, Associate Pastor, Olivet Baptist Church & General Manager of Bott Radio
Pastor John Ward, Associate, Church on the Rock & Pastor’s Prayer Network
Pastor Larry Baker, 40th
Street Baptist Church of OKC
Pastor John Youell, The Crown Center/Moore
Pastor Stephen Burke, Springdale Baptist Church of OKC
Pastor George Samkuty, Shalom Church of God of Yukon
Pastor Joe Cannon, Crown Heights Baptist Church, OKC
Pastor Robert Fowler, First Baptist Church of Tryon, OK
Pastor Craig Wright, Faith Crossing Baptist Church of OKC
Pastor Gary Bostwick, Shields Blvd. Baptist Church of OKC Pastor Rodney Derksen, Trinity Bible Baptist Church of Choctaw
Minister Jerry Pitts, First Christian Church, Jones
Minister Ricky Musgrove
Pastor James Fortune, Oasis Church, Edmond
Richard Peterson, Deliverance Ministries
Pastor Norm Wilkie, SpiritLife Church, Tulsa, OK
Pastor Tommy McLaurin, SpiritLife Church – Forest Ridge Campus, Broken Arrow
Pastor Randy Barnett, Riverside Church, Edmond
Ralph Bullard, Headmaster Emeritus, Christian Heritage Academy, Del City
Dave Mehlhaff, Headmaster, Liberty Christian Academy, Edmond
Pastor Charley O’Daniel, Maranatha Baptist Church of Western Oaks, Bethany
Carol Gordon, Co-Founder & Director, Heart Menders Int’l, Inc.
Pastor Wayne Stark, First Indian Church of the Nazarene
Pastor Richard Bond, Executive Director OKC Compassion
Pastor Larry Bowman, Sunnylane UMC
Pastor Steve Brant, Cornerstone UMC
Pastor Ed Cook, Tuttle UMC
Pastor Bob Canary, Putnam City UMC
Pastor David Cressman, Luther & Nicoma Park UMC
Pastor Randy Little, Harrah UMC
Pastor Shawn Money, Muldrow First Assembly of God

by William Crum
Reporter
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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