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MUSKEGON – A West Michigan church has announced it has canceled a public performance of a controversial religious drama that portrays a murderous lesbian with AIDS who is a victim of incest being dragged off by demons into hell.
Inspired by the Bible’s Book of Revelation, “The Last Call” was performed in two Muskegon-area public schools before the community challenged the drama on the basis it violated the separation of church and state.
Performed by Shiloh Tabernacle Church of rural Dalton Township, the play made its public school debut at Muskegon Heights High School in December. But it was the April 14 performance at Muskegon’s Steele Middle School that provoked public outrage.
Steele teachers, staff and students were required to attend a Good Friday assembly in which a morality play of sorts was performed by more than 50 actors. In the most controversial skit, a man who molested his two teenage nieces is murdered by one of his victims, who is lesbian. Upon his death, the child-molester repents, accepts Jesus and is escorted into heaven. Upon her death, the lesbian does not repent and is seized by demons who drag her off stage amid smoke and blood-curdling screams into hell.
In another of the nine skits, a woman who had an abortion repents and is reunited in heaven with the fetus.
After teachers contacted the local newspaper and the ACLU, the Rev. Verne Wright of Shiloh defended the performance and vowed it would be performed June 30 at the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts, Muskegon’s historic playhouse. Wright announced there would be no admission and encouraged people to attend in order to form their own opinions.
After weeks of letters to the editor and an ACLU investigation of Muskegon Public Schools, Wright announced he was withdrawing “The Last Call.”
“I don’t want anybody to get any information that would cause some people with a negative viewpoint to go after the schools,” Wright told the Muskegon Chronicle on June 19. “I think that’s what the ACLU is looking for.”
Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan, told The Chronicle that an investigation into the church-state issue continues.
Speak OUT: The ACLU of Michigan is seeking individuals who saw “The Last Call” at either Muskegon Heights High School last December or at Muskegon’s Steele Middle School in April to help in its ongoing investigation of the incidents. Those seeking to help should call Rachel Simmons at 313-578-6814.