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    Lawmakers frown on school's play

    ©Associated Press

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 31, 2001

    BOCA RATON -- Several state lawmakers threatened to cut money to Florida Atlantic University because its theater department is staging a play featuring a gay Christ character.

    The play, Corpus Christi, opened Wednesday on FAU's Boca Raton campus. It is about a young, Christ-like character named Joshua, growing up gay in modern-day Texas. The story line resembles parts of the Gospels.

    There are three kisses in FAU's production. The first two are brief romantic kisses between Joshua and his high school sweetheart, Judas. The third comes when Judas kisses Joshua, in a way similar to the kiss the biblical Judas used to identify Jesus to the Romans.

    "For anyone who's a Christian, it's very offensive," said state Sen. Debby Sanderson, R-Fort Lauderdale, whose district includes FAU. "It's in terrible taste and poor judgment."

    FAU said it would allow the play to finish this weekend's run. Canceling the shows would violate free speech, officials said.

    "It's a matter of academic freedom," FAU spokeswoman Lynn Laurenti said. She said top administrators did not know of the play's content until this week.

    Sanderson and other senators, including Sen. Don Sullivan, R-Largo, said Thursday they would read the play and then decide what action, if any, to take against the university.

    Last year, the university received $112-million from the state.

    "I think legislators should not attempt censorship through financial punishment," said Jim Green, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

    Corpus Christi was written by acclaimed playwright Terrence McNally. When it debuted on Broadway in 1998, it was met with fierce protests from Roman Catholic rights groups. However, critics found the play itself to be tepid.

    The Florida-born Emmy-, Tony- and Pulitzer-winning McNally spent some of his boyhood in St. Petersburg.

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