Dozens of pastors have signed a letter to elected officials objecting to “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told.” Oklahoma City Theatre Company is producing Paul Rudnick's play at Civic Center Music Hall. The play has homosexual characters, satirizes biblical stories and includes scenes of simulated gay sex. The pastors' letter states that the play “is obscene and is an affront to Oklahoma City community standards.” Here's a look at three points made by the pastors to support their argument.
Pastors: “It is quite possible that this production meets the definition of obscenity and might be in violation of federal and state obscenity laws.”
To be found obscene, depictions of sexual conduct must be “patently offensive as found by the average person applying contemporary community standards” and be found — when taken as a whole — to appeal to “prurient interest in sex,” again by the average person applying community standards. Additionally, it must be shown that a “reasonable person” would find a performance, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary value.
“I didn't see enough data in the ministers' letter to conclude that an obscenity prosecution was possible or plausible,” said Rick Tepker, who teaches First Amendment law at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. “They have to pass all three tests, and I think they flunk two.”
Pastors: “Why is the state of Oklahoma funding the Arts Council with tax dollars if they use the money to promote pornography?”
The Oklahoma Arts Council declined an application to fund “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” in a Sept. 17 letter to the Oklahoma City Theatre Company. Executive Director Amber Sharples said state law forbids the Arts Council from supporting productions that include simulated sex acts. Gov. Mary Fallin's office said in a letter “no state tax dollars have been allotted to support this production.”
Pastors: “If someone wishes to promote something that is this overtly offensive, why is it being housed in a public facility?”
Oklahoma City responded with a letter from Jim Brown, the Civic Center's facilities manager. “Quite often there is some confusion between the responsibilities of the Civic Center Music Hall and the groups who conduct performances here. ... 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.”
William Crum, Staff Writer