Okla. Religionists Want Play Parodying Book of Genesis Closed

OKLAHOMA CITY—At least 36 Oklahoma preachers have their panties in a twist over the impending opening of a play at the capital city's Civic Center Music Hall titled The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told—and the use of the word "fabulous" in the title should be a tip-off to part of what they're upset about.

"[T]his play is openly offensive to Christians," the clergy folk wrote in a letter to, among others, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin. "The playwright intentionally mocks and provokes Christians as it 'retells the Bible from a flamboyantly gay perspective, beginning with 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."

Almost needless to say, the taxpayers haven't contributed a cent to the production, which is scheduled to open for previews on December 5, and as the Civic Center's facility manager Jim Brown tried to make clear in his response to the letter, "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."

But the preachers went even further, claiming that the play, which contains nudity but no explicit sexual conduct, is obscene.

"[A]pplying 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," they claim. "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," they continue. "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."

There's just one problem with that: Under Title 21 of the Oklahoma Statutes, there is no "Chapter 39," much less "Section 1021." The statutes jump from Chapter 30 to Chapter 41, so if there ever was a Chapter 39, it's been repealed. The preachers might have had better luck if they'd cited Title 21, Section 22, part of whose title is "Openly outraging public decency," which reads, in pertinent part, "Every person who willfully and wrongfully commits any act which ... openly outrages public decency, including but not limited to urination in a public place, and is injurious to public morals ... is guilty of a misdemeanor." But even that won't help them, because that law also says that "no punishment is expressly prescribed" for that "crime."

Of course, this being Oklahoma, the preachers aren't the only ones upset about the play. There's also Gov. Mary Fallin, a spokesman for whom said, "The governor agrees with religious leaders who say a play being produced in Oklahoma City is offensive," and noted, "No state dollars are being used to support" the production. Indeed; that forced the Oklahoma City Theatre Company (OKCTC) to hold a fundraiser featuring several local celebrities in order to open the play.

There's also Rep. Dan Fisher (R-Yukon), who called the play a "direct frontal attack" on Christians, and claimed of the play, "There's a difference between satire and pornography. This is pornography.

"For some reason it's OK to demean and besmirch the name of Christ and the faith of Christians," Fisher, who's also a pastor, added, and staked out the position that community standards should govern whether city officials allow OKCTC to produce the play, calling Oklahoma City "primarily a Christian community" whose "residents live by Christian moral values."

If one goes by the letters to the editor of the Daily Oklahoman, Fisher might be right.

"I've watched the assault on Christianity from President Obama on down," wrote one guy. "For some reason it's OK for people on the left to denigrate Christ and Christianity in Congress, in the military and in every aspect of the government, from national to local, while at the same time protecting everything Muslim. Obama and the majority of the left consider Christians more of a threat than radical Muslims."

"As a Christian, I'm offended by the derisive nature of the play and I think it's a bad influence on young people," wrote one woman. "This country is in decline. We need to put God back in our lives—including being entertained. This play seems to be a travesty of all we hold dear in this state. I hope and pray that the producers will have a change of heart and not put it on."

In case anyone is wondering what the play is actually about, Playbill magazine summarized it thusly: "Here, it's Adam and Steve who romp naked through the Garden of Eden... Their idyll ends when Adam's earnest questions about the existence of a supreme deity and life beyond the garden condemn them to a barren wilderness settled by two lesbians, Jane and Mabel. After various Act I misadventures inspired by the good book, and a perplexing confrontation with a God-fearing, and ever-multiplying, race of beings called 'heterosexuals,' the play leaps forward to present-day New York for Act II. Here God is noticeably silent as these four main characters, and assorted friends and interlopers, struggle with the miseries and anxieties of pregnancy, AIDS, and an apartment set riotously overdecorated with holiday season bric-a-brac, including a Christmas tree topped by a menorah." A more complete review can be found in The New York Times.

In any case, the play will run from December 5-22—and on the Sixth, the preachers and their followers plan to stage a "peaceful protest" outside the theater. We're guessing that on the Seventh Day, they'll rest.