Controversy Over College Asking Student to Dumb Down Religious Play

Religious Play

Religious advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom recently claimed that the drama instructor at Cape Fear Community College ordered a student to “dumb down” the religious tone of an upcoming production so it does not offend audiences. ADF believes the instructor’s orders were ludicrous, since other explicit productions related to rape and incest have been staged at the college with absolutely no limitations.

Travis Barham, ADF attorney, sent a letter to the college administration alleging its drama instructor Jack Landry had wrongfully asked Justin Graves not to support an overtly Christian show, as the college is a publicly funded institution.

“So you ordered him to minimize or ‘dumb down’ the religious content until it was not ‘obvious.’ … You explained that the content could anger taxpayers, prompting lawsuits; that you did not want anyone to feel ‘offended,’ (although you apparently had no such concerns when the drama club sponsored productions that included rape and incest this year); and that this production would violate the First Amendment if it included religious content,’” Barham wrote in the complaint.

While a college spokesperson confirmed having received a copy of the complaint, he refused to comment on the matter.

Graves, a 17-year-old homeschooler with dual enrollment at the college, describes himself as a Christian and an up and coming magician. The production that he had proposed to his drama instructor was one based on faith-based magic, including skits and illusions that would illustrate a life changed by Jesus Christ. While other drama club members approved of the idea and unanimously voted in favour of the project, Landry overruled the students’ opinions. ADF claims Graves was told the project could not proceed any further unless its Christian theme was dumbed down significantly.

“It’s not the adviser’s job to dictate what a student can and can’t say in his own production,” said Barham. “Universities seem to think they have to go on this quest to purge their campuses of all things religious. … It’s absurd to say that a Christian message is somehow offensive if you are allowing all this other content to be portrayed.”

Graves expressed disappointment at Landry’s order.

“I’ve been homeschooled for most of my academic career,” he said. “But I love to get different viewpoints and ideas and discuss them with people. I thought college would be that sort of place. … My faith is my life. To me, you can’t get one or the other. I can’t dumb down knowing what my God did for me.”

Barham insists Landry’s attempt to censor Graves’ production clearly violates the First Amendment.

“The Supreme Court has clearly indicated that public universities cannot single out religious speech for special, detrimental treatment,” Barham wrote in the complaint letter. “Indeed, when the government targets not subject matter, but particular views taken by speakers on a subject, the violation of the first  Amendment is all the more blatant.”

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

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