"I know first-hand the devastating effects of censorship, so I wholeheartedly support Terrence McNally's right to speak without being subjected to threats and intimidation. Anyone who thinks his views are offensive has the right to say so – but they don't have the right to silence his voice."
– Judy Blume, best-selling author

"Political and economic censorship have the same results – the suppression  of ideas."
– Ming Cho Lee, Theater Hall of Fame

New York, October 13, 1998. To express their support for the official opening of Terrence McNally's new play, Corpus Christi, a large group of prominent writers and artists, joined by organizations supportive of free  expression, the arts and literature, has issued a statement applauding the Manhattan Theatre Club's decision to go forward with the play. The MTC has been a target of protest, including threats of violence, since it announced production of the play earlier this year.

The controversy has not deterred theater-goers, however, nor has the increased security at the theater. The play is reportedly sold-out, and press interviews with members of the audience during previews indicate that  at least some viewers found the play spiritual and moving, not offensive, as the Catholic League and other religious groups claim.

Among those signing the statement in support of the MTC's decision to produce the play are playwrights Arthur Miller, Tony Kushner, Wendy Wasserstein, and Craig Lucas, authors Judy Blume, Mary Gordon, and Thulani Davis, the dancer Bill T. Jones, and artists including Chuck Close and Hans Haacke, together with organizations including Actors Equity, College Art Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, New York Foundation for the Arts, NY Screen Actors Guild, and many others.

For more information, contact:

Joan Bertin, National Coalition Against Censorship, 212- 807-6222
Diana Ayton-Shenker, PEN American Center, 212-334-1660, ext. 105
David Greene, National Campaign for Freedom of Expression, 202-393-2787
Christopher Finan, American Booksellers Foundation for Freedom of Expression, 212-587-4025
Roberta Cooper, People for the American Way, 212- 944-5820.



Statement Supporting Manhattan Theatre Club's Right to Free Expression

The undersigned organizations and individuals salute the Manhattan Theatre Club's brave decision to produce Terrence McNally's controversial new play, Corpus Christi. Now, members of the public can decide   for themselves whether to see the play, and what to think about it if they do. We respect the rights of those who disagree with the play's message to express their opinions. We ask only that they do so in a way that respects the rights of others who disagree.

Corpus Christi reportedly portrays a gay Christ-like figure, and some critics object that this characterization is offensive to their religious beliefs. Arts organizations are frequently subject to attacks because of the content of art they support, including art with gay and lesbian themes. Like the Manhattan Theatre Club, Esperanza in San Antonio and Out North in Anchorage, are under assault by critics who are offended by the content of some of the activities they sponsor.

However, the right of free expression includes the right to express unconventional and nonconformist ideas, even if offensive to some, or many. To safeguard this freedom, we must support arts organizations, even  when they present works that may challenge our most heartfelt beliefs. Otherwise, we risk the right to see The Merchant of Venice and to read Huckleberry Finn.

The arts should reflect and serve the entire community, and no one sensibility should dictate what all may see. To many artists and patrons, the arts are at their best when they challenge conventional wisdom and mores, provoke and stimulate dissent and debate, and force the world to confront a different moral vision. The effort to reimagine religion in a way that makes it more inclusive of gays and lesbians, is offensive to some, but is surely welcome to others. Those who object to certain messages in artistic expression have an easy choice: they don't have to see anything they don't like.

Freedom of expression must be protected because of its central importance to democratic values, institutions of civil society and the creative spirit. Indeed, the right that the critics of Corpus Christi enjoy to protest publicly depends on neutral enforcement of First Amendment principles, rather than on the popularity of their views.

Their rights are inherently parallel with the rights of other speakers with whom they disagree. The fact that MTC has received federal money for other projects is no argument for getting around the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that the government may not use funding decisions to penalize or suppress disfavored viewpoints or ideas. We would hardly need the First Amendment if it required less. Our nation's free speech principles were designed to protect, not the mainstream, but the controversial and the unpopular, in relation to religion no less than to politics.

We deplore the efforts to silence Terrence McNally and to intimidate the Manhattan Theatre Club through threats of violence. We are gratified that these crude pressure tactics did not work, and that MTC has had the courage to support our right to see, or choose not to see, Corpus Christi.

Endorsed by:

Actors' Equity Association
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
American Society of Journalists and Authors
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Association for Theater in Higher Education
Boston Coalition for Freedom of Expression
The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, City University of New York
College Art Association
Council on Literary Magazines and Presses
Creative Time
Feminists for Free Expression
Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
Institute for First Amendment Studies
Intellectual Freedom Committee of the American Library Association
Legion Arts, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Massachusetts Music Industry Coalition
National Association of Artists' Organizations
National Campaign for Freedom of Expression
National Coalition Against Censorship
New York Civil Liberties Union
New York Foundation for the Arts
New York Screen Actors Guild
PEN American Center
People For the American Way Foundation
Visual AIDS
Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts

Anthony Appiah, author
Robert Atkins, author
Paul Auster, author
Dan Bacalzo, performance artist
Peter Balakian, author
Mark Berghash, artist
Patrick Berg, sculptor
Len Berkman, Smith College
Judy Blume, author
Penelope Boyer, artist/arts advocate
Cindy Brissell, Yale School of Drama
Andy Buck, Assistant Editor, InTheater Magazine
C. Carr, writer, The Village Voice
Lenora Champagne, playwright
Denise Civiletti, Executive Director, East End Arts and Humanities Council
Chuck Close, artist
Luther Davis, author
Thulani Davis, author
Andrew DelBanco, author
Bill Dobbs, activist
Jill Dolan, Professor, Graduate Center, City University of New York
Michael A. Draper, Theater Delphine
Richard Driscoll, Executive Director, Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County
Lisa Duggan, Assistant Professor, American Studies and History, New York University
Christopher Durang, playwright
Bertie Ferdman, graduate student, Performance Studies, New York University
Francis Fitzgerald, author
Beth Freeman, Sarah Lawrence College
Leon Friedman, General Counsel, PEN American Center
Sally Gaskill, Arts and Cultural Council
Ian A. Gerard, Executive Director, Gen Art
Edward Gomez, author
Mary Gordon, author
Timothy Greefield-Sanders, photographer
Mary Griffin, Providence Productions
Hans Haacke, artist
Anne Hemenway, Creation Production Company
Steven L. Herb, Chair, ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee
Catherine Hiller, author
William M. Hoffman, playwright
Amy Holman, Director of Literary Horizons Program, Poets & Writers
Jenny Holzer, artist
Nan D. Hunter, Brooklyn Law School
David Henry Hwang, playwright
Fenton Johnson, author
Bill T. Jones, dancer
Julie Kabat, musician and educator
Wendy Kaminer, author
Graciela Kartofel, author
Judith F. Krug, Director, Office of Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association
Tony Kushner, playwright
Reverend Peter Laarman, Senior Minister, Judson Memorial Church
Aaron Landsman, The Field
Anne Landsman, author
Betsy Lee
Ming Cho Lee, set designer, Theater Hall of Fame, Chair Professor, Yale School of Drama
Joan Logue, video artist
Melissa Lockwood, artist
Craig Lucas, playwright
Matthew Maguire, Creation Production Company
Douglas Mao, Assistant Professor of English, Princeton University
Clarinda MacLow, choreographer and writer
Greg McCaslin, Center for Art Education
Arthur Miller, playwright
Tim Miller, Highways Performance Space
Candace D. Morgan, President, Freedom to Read Foundation
Susan Mosakowski, Creation Production Company
Doug Pace, Executive Director, Albany-Schenectady League of Arts
Grace Paley, author
Ann Pellegrini, Women's Studies and English, Harvard University
David Plant, author
Michael Scammell, President, PEN American Center
Richard Schechner, University Professor and Professor of Performance Studies, New York University
Andres Serrano, artist
Peggy Shaw, Split Britches Co.
Theodora Skipitares, performance artist
Susan Sontag, author
Marvin J. Taylor, Director, Fales Library, New York University
Laurie Uprichard, Executive Director, Danspace Project
Wendy Wasserstein, playwright
Mac Wellman, playwright
Carole S. Vance, Columbia University
Debra Zimmerman, Executive Director, Women Make Movies
Alice Zinnes, author

(Affiliations for purposes of identification only.)

Endorsements as of 10/12/98