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Most Fabulous Protest

“Lighthearted farce” turns into a public land mine — and the arts community now plans a peaceful protest to counteract political backlash.

Mark Beutler November 27th, 2013

What started out to be a small, largely unnoticed production by OKC Theater Company has turned into a First Amendment fight, as well as a battle against Oklahoma City’s gay and lesbian community, claim supporters of the production of The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told.

Fans of the arts — and of the biblical parody — say a conservative Christian group is targeting the play and threatening to have the producers and actors arrested on opening night.

“This is a tongue-in-cheek look at ‘Adam and Steve’ in the Garden of Eden,” said J.D. Bergner, a concerned member of the theater community. “The play is a lighthearted farce geared toward a specific audience. It clearly states it is for adults only.”

Recently, a number of local pastors sent a letter to Governor Mary Fallin, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, media outlets and members of the state legislature, demanding the play be shuttered. Those pastors also will hold a prayer vigil Friday, Dec. 6, the play’s opening night at Civic Center Music Hall’s City Space Theater, 201 N. Walker Ave.

Opposition letter signers included Steve Kern, pastor of Olivet Baptist Church and husband of state Representative Sally Kern. Pastor Tom Vineyard of the Windsor Hills Baptist Church also signed. That church, Bergner says, is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. Indeed, the SPLC website reports the church as an “active chapter” of “active anti-gay hate groups.”

Now Bergner and several other organizations and individuals have planned a peaceful counter-demonstration to the prayer vigil on Dec. 6, too.

“We intend to show these people that the hatred they spew in the name of God will not cause us to back down,” Bergner said. “Jesus’ message was one of love and acceptance — totally the opposite of what they are preaching.” 

“We feel this is largely politically motivated, as Pastor Kern is launching a campaign for state office,” Bergner said. “And much of what they are saying is simply not true. The theater company has not received any tax dollars for this show.” Additionally, the Oklahoma Arts Council or Allied Arts has not funded this production, he added. OKC Theatre Company has rented a 100-seat space in the basement of the Civic Center.

Also stepping in to counter protest is the Cimarron Alliance Foundation, Oklahoma City’s lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender equality group.

“We find it most unfortunate these so-called patriot pastors are entering into the holiday season with such Scrooge-like attitudes,” said Scott J. Hamilton, CAF executive director.

“Ultimately, this is a First Amendment issue,” Hamilton said. “The theater company has the right to present the play, and the pastors have the right to pray at the Civic Center. But the interesting thing is Jesus never spoke against gay men, lesbians, bisexual or transgender individuals. He was quite clear, though, on his warning against praying in public.”

The counter-demonstration, being called “A Most Fabulous Vigil,” begins at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 6 in front of Civic Center Music Hall.

“This will be very peaceful, very civil,” Bergner said.

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