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Group calls Gallaudet play 'blasphemous'

Gallaudet University in the District has come under fire from a group promoting moral values on campus for an upcoming play that the group considers "blasphemous."

Gallaudet, which serves deaf and hearing-impaired students, plans to stage the play Corpus Christi for three days starting Thursday. In an April 1 statement, the group TFP Student Action says that the play, "which portrays Our Lord and the Apostles as homosexuals, was canceled last week at Tarleton State University in Texas due to large peaceful protests."

"No. Blasphemy does not qualify as free speech," said John Ritchie, student action director at TFP Student Action, in the statement. "Just as everyone is entitled to their own good reputation, Gallaudet University has no right to harm and slander the spotless reputation of the God-Man with blasphemy, then run to academic freedom for cover."

The organization, based in Spring Grove, Penn., says on its Web site it is a project of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, founded in 1973 "to resist, in the realm of ideas, the liberal, socialist and communist trends of the times and proudly affirm the positive values of tradition, family and private property."

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It is mobilizing members against Gallaudet with a "call to protest," inviting them to contact University President T. Alan Hurwitz. "Be polite but firm," the advisory says. There is also an online petition.

Gallaudet spokeswoman Mercy Coogan told me that Hurwitz, who is deaf, is accepting e-mails but routing calls to his chief of staff, Don Beil, who is hearing.

Coogan said Gallaudet students have had "a series of dialogues" about the play. Playwright Terrence McNally is coming to campus in person this evening to meet with the actors.

An e-mail sent to the publication Inside Higher Ed by Gallaudet provost Stephen Weiner laid out the school's response:

"Gallaudet University neither endorses nor condemns the views expressed in Corpus Christi, or any dramatic production. We understand that there are people who will find this play affirming, liberating, and cathartic, and others who find its message disrespectful, distasteful, and repugnant. We seek to allow all views to be aired openly and respectfully, and we hope that open discussions will allow individuals to listen to one another. This is the hallmark of an academic institution."

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By Daniel de Vise  |  April 7, 2010; 2:24 PM ET
 | Tags: American Society for the Defense of Tradition Family and Property, Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi play, Gallaudet University, Gallaudet protest, Tarleton State University, Tarleton protest  
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Comments

John Ritchie is a fool. He states:

"No. Blasphemy does not qualify as free speech," said John Ritchie, student action director at TFP Student Action."

Yes, it sure does. The Government can neither promote religion, nor impede its free exercise. By extension, it cannot "protect" one dogma from another. You absolutely 100% have a free speech right to criticize a religion, or opine about it. In either case, how is this "blasphemous?"

Posted by: gasmonkey | April 8, 2010 6:32 AM | Report abuse

One man's blasphemy is another man's religion.

You may think I blaspheme your religion because I don't think Jesus was the son of God, I don't think he was the Messiah, and I think the story of the resurrection is one of the most ridiculous concoctions ever.

I think you blaspheme the Bible by asserting those things.

Moslems think we're both infidels.

It's called religious freedom. Deal with it. The Society for Tradition, Family and Property (which, you will not be surprised, has a close relationship with conservative elements of the Catholic church) is welcome to assert its medieval view of how society should be organized, but it ought not misstate the current state of American law. Blasphemy is very much protected by both the First Amendment (which only applies to government efforts to restrict speech) and, more broadly, American social customs regarding freedom of religious expression.

Posted by: Meridian1 | April 8, 2010 7:12 AM | Report abuse

Well done, Gallaudet! How fortunate we are to have individuals and organizations that are brave enough to stand up to the plethora of religious nuts in society today! Perhaps someday our religious leaders will have the same resolve.

Oh, and to John Ritchie: You are an idiot! Please keep your delusions regarding the zomie jeezus to yourself.

Posted by: watsonja | April 8, 2010 7:40 AM | Report abuse

What's the point of putting on a play when more than 70% of your admitted students read and write at a fourth grade level. No self respecting student is going to set foot at that diploma mill.

Posted by: biffgrifftheoneandonly | April 8, 2010 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Biff,

Where's your data to back that up? And how are you accounting for people for whom ASL rather than English is their primary language?

Posted by: amm72 | April 8, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Blasphemy is a victimless crime.

Posted by: member8 | April 8, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

"Blasphemy is a victimless crime. "

excellent!

Posted by: newagent99 | April 8, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: itkonlyyourr | April 8, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: itkonlyyourr | April 8, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

"No. Blasphemy does not qualify as free speech"

Wow. Just wow.

The state of American civics education must be at an all-time low.

Posted by: 12008N1 | April 8, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

"And how are you accounting for people for whom ASL rather than English is their primary language?"


English is the official language of this country. What's the point of making beautiful gestures when you can't read and write.

Posted by: biffgrifftheoneandonly | April 8, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Biff, I hate to break it to you but America does not have an "official" language. The issue has come up before Congress before, and has been defeated every time.

Posted by: high_fidelity_fan | April 8, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

to biff:

There is no official language of the United States.
Also, what does reading and writing skill have to do with putting on a play? If you have assistance reading and understanding the lines, performing the play is no harder. Also, reading and writing has little to do with the audience.


to amm72:

In its purpose, ASL is equivalent to spoken English. So while I have no idea if biff's numbers are correct, reading and writing have nothing to do with your argument about ASL.

Posted by: mytwocents | April 8, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Gallaudet's Administration is quoted as saying, "We seek to allow all views to be aired openly and respectfully, and we hope that open discussions will allow individuals to listen to one another." I fear this is untrue. I can't imagine that administration allowing a pro-Nazi speaker or play, or any un-PC event. Honestly, can you?

Posted by: DoTheRightThing | April 8, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

In my numerous experiences with the hearing-disabled I have found them to be inappropriately aggressive and difficult to deal with. Victim pathology, perhaps, I don't know.That Gallaudet wants to present such an offensive play is to be expected.

Posted by: JohnRice | April 8, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Ok, let's have them put on a play where Obama is portrayed as a step-n-fetch-it nworder, working for the rich white socialist George Soros. Think you could get away with that?

Posted by: jhr1 | April 8, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

This play seems a bit over the top for a tax-supported University.

Posted by: Bluefish2012 | April 8, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Here is an excellent response from a leader of a church: 'My last point concerns the religious sphere. Space does not permit me to discuss the large questions that are currently being debated here. I limit myself therefore to one point that is fundamental to all cultures, namely reverence for that which is holy to other persons and reverence for the Holy One, God. One can certainly deman this even of those who are not themselves willing to believe in God. Where this reverence is shattered, something in a society perishes. We may be glad that one who mocks the faith of Israel, its image of God, or its great figures will be punished in today’s society. The same is true of those who scorn the Koran and the basic convictions of Islam. When, however, it is a question of Christ and that of that which Christians revere as holy, it appears that freedom of opinion is the highest good and that any limitation on this would endanger or even destroy tolerance and freedom as a whole. But freedom of opinion has an inherent limit: it is not entitled to destroy the honor and dignity of other persons, nor is it a freedom to utter lies or to destroy human rights. Here we may observe a strange self-hatred of the West that can only be called pathological. ...' From ‘Values in a Time of Upheaval’, 2004, a compilation of essays and lectures by then Cardinal Ratzinger, available for viewing under Google Books.

Posted by: Call_to_Holiness | April 8, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

One wonders if the brave, progressive souls at Gallaudet might consider a similar treatment of Islam's founder.

Perhaps they might dip a toe in the water with a screening of "Fitna"...

Posted by: spamsux1 | April 8, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Why is it so difficult to believe that jesus was gay? The circumstantial evidence for that is far greater than otherwise! It is also likely that god is gay -- he had to come to earth for a mother for his child and there was no physical intimacy. Take that, homophobes!

Posted by: bob2davis | April 8, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I'm a Gallaudet graduate and I got a perfect 800 verbal on the GRE. I'm graduating summa cum laude from another university.

The deaf faculty at Gallaudet are far brighter on average than any other faculty I've met at other universities, and far more intellectually demanding of their students.

I've experienced plenty of inappropriate aggression, including verbal abuse, assault, and other crimes, as well as open prejudice.

Yet you won't catch me stereotyping hearing people as a single unit. I'd thank you all to do the same.


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 8, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Blasphemy IS free speech. The only speech that ever needs protecting is the controversial kind. That is something they should teach you in college. Not how to kowtow to those who can't stand a different interpretation of their faith.

Posted by: sarahabc | April 8, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

TFP Student Action has a right to be heard, but they should not be permitted to hold sway. Gallaudet has every right to put on this play and this group should not be permitted to overwhelm the university. That would be "free speech for me, but not for thee."

How is TFP's position any different from that of the fundamentalist Muslim who claim that Danish cartoons of Mohammed are blasphemous?

Let us hope that their rhetoric is heard, but they are not successful, as happened in Texas, in making the District into a place where a theocratic cabal can quash freedom of expression in the name of their religion.

Bullies should not be allowed to win.

Posted by: demostheneswashdc | April 8, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Personal opinion...if Jesus were here, I think he would attend, enjoy the show and perhaps even write a review.

Posted by: johnklenert | April 8, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

I am a current graduate student at Gallaudet. I speak & sign multiple languages. The professors in the lingusitics department are deaf and graduates of prestigous universities such as MIT, Berekley, and Princeton. They are, without pause, leading researchers in their respective fields.

Mayberry & Lock's study (2003) proved that age of first-language acquisition of sign language affects the outcome of all subsequent language learning. The study showed that English syntatic proficiency of native deaf signers who learned English as a second language is nearly equivalent to foriegn born immigrants who learn English a a second language and move to the US (essentially foriegn graduate students). Deaf individuals who have almost no language exposure until after the age of 5 have a difficuly time with English acquisition because their first-language acquisition was so severely delayed. This late-L1 acquisition is the direct result misinformation about sign language.

Posted by: codajeff | April 8, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

OK - I will bite. If Gallaudet is so great, why were they put on probation by their accredation body? I will cite the MSC document directly: deficiencies in standards for leadership, academic rigor, student retention and integrity.
Yup, I am thinking "shoot, sign my kids up for it. Heck, if they're lucky they might get 800 on their GRE".
I am deaf and I know your type very well, 800 on your GRE. You would have done just as well at any school. You went to Gallaudet to big a big fish in a tiny pond. The ability to master English is a cognitive ability, this is true. When over 70% of your community are not capable of this, for whatever reason, then what empty rhetoric are you going to hide behind? The simple truth is this: the vast majority of deaf people have bigger problems than deafness. You can see it in their faces. They look a little "off".

Posted by: biffgrifftheoneandonly | April 8, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Considering Middle States reaffirmed the accreditation of Gallaudet, that last complaint about being on probation is at best moot, at worst misleading. It is no longer on probation, and has not been since June 2008.

Posted by: peregrinato | April 8, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

"No. Blasphemy does not qualify as free speech,"

Blasphemy is absolutely covered under free speech. In fact, it's just the kind of speech that the first amendment was set up to protect, since you don't have to protect popular ideas.

Posted by: thurdl01 | April 8, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Attacking Christians and Christianity by college students are old hat.

I agree with the person who said that the students should try a new play which shows Mohammed and the early Moslems as homosexual, and start shocking people unused to being shocked.

Insulting people who are instructed by their religious leader to turn the other cheek is one thing. Insulting others who do not have that tradition is something else.

And from this Moslem response, the college students would actually learn something. For once.

Posted by: LeeH1 | April 8, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

OK - the challenge to Gallaudet is to have this play AND one that targets Mohammad (or perhaps an art show displaying those Danish Cartoons) AND a rousing mockery show about The Buddha. Then we can really understand what the exercise of free speech is all about. I will be amazed if Gallaudet students follow my suggestion. But I suspect that they really respect Christians since they know they won't get violent.

Posted by: dmuench | April 8, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

May the deity of your choice spare us all from these evangelical libertarians. These wing nuts are nothing more than Taliban bearing crosses rather than an AK-47. Or maybe both. These types tend to very weapons-oriented as well as closed-minded. You know, 'you WILL accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior--or I will blow your head off!' That type of 'christian'. Hey, 'God is love', right? Right??!! RIGHT!!!

Posted by: ctenwith | April 8, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I went to the web site of the group making a fuss about the McNally play. These are extreme, right wing Catholics who seem to have formed their organization in the waning days of the counterculture. Interestingly, enough, they feature a story about Spain legalizing abortion, but there is no mention of the sex abuse scandal that is wrecking their beloved church not only in Spain, but in Ireland, Italy, Austria and the Pope's Germany. It figures that when your entire religion is standing revealed as a playground for pederasts and pedophiles that you would get whooped up about a play being put on in a university for the deaf.

I suggest everyone else take a look and realize that these really are people who believe that blasphemy should be suppressed.

As Monty Python put it, "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!!!"

Posted by: purdyjack | April 8, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

BigGriff, I also know well these who like to judge other people's reasons for their lifestyle choices.

I find it quite interesting you choose to label me without ever meeting me.

I am very pleased that T. Alan Hurwitz, the former president of RIT, has taken up the reins at Gallaudet. He is an example of a deaf man who did not "need Gallaudet" to succeed, but who is very honored to work at Gallaudet.

Those people are out to try and bully around other people into their idea of free speech. It's not surprising they're targeting Gallaudet. Given its recent history, they must think it's easy prey.

They're wrong.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 8, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Cardinal Ratzinger -
What a great thinker (not). Isn't that the ex-nazi youth, defender of child molesters?
The guy who wears a half pound of gold and jewels while telling the poor to give more to that dying, gilded-lily of a church?

You know, the Vatican, with all the art treasures (many defaced to hide their *gasp* genitals) and land holdings, and tax free status, that keeps urging everyone to eschew earthly concerns. You mean that RATzinger?

Posted by: blackmask | April 8, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

I just worried about our educational system in general when someone actually says something like "No. Blasphemy does not qualify as free speech," said John Ritchie, student action director at TFP Student Action. This is what free speech is for, to put up new and hated ideas. No laws are needed to protect speech that doesn't offend anyone. The 1st Amendment purpose is to protect speech who offends general society or the powers that be.

Does Mr Ritchie believe those that attempt to kill the Danish Cartoonist are noble? If no one protests this play, hardly anyone will see it. If the Religious Right goes nuts, they had better book a much bigger hall, because they are going to sell all their tickets.

Posted by: Muddy_Buddy_2000 | April 8, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

So this is where those people have been hiding - you know, the ones whom were previously assumed to be intelligent?

They are hiding in plain sight as hypocritical zealots who live only to judge others by rules of freedom that they cannot honor themselves because they don't understand that rules must apply to everyone equally - not just when it fits your narrow moral definitions.

That would be fascism and … good grief - you aren't a fascist, are you? Say, what's your position on the new Governor McDonnell Confederate Slave Memorial Fund that was established yesterday to educate hardline republicans from further embarrassing their party? The approach is elegantly simply but doesn't have a chance of success because all you need to do to graduate is to say absolutely nothing if you have nothing good to say.

Listen hard-heads: If you don't like the event, don't go see it. If you don't want said event to be wildly popular, don't make a idiotic attempt to censor it - you have only guaranteed its instant popularity that your righteous indignation has bestowed it.

Well-done! If that's what you wanted in the first place. If not, then you are well done - so stick a fork in it.

Posted by: WorldNet | April 8, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

If you want to believe in some fantasy that's fine but don't get mad when people laugh at you. Of course, this would not apply to any religion that can prove that it is the one true religion.
Good Luck.

Posted by: cduwel | April 9, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

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