Community Theater Cancels Production of ‘Inherit the Wind’ After Local Creationists Complain

The New Ulm Actors Community Theater in Minnesota was planning to stage a production of “Inherit the Wind” next week, but the classic play about the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial has been postponed indefinitely:

The reason? Local Creationists were offended:

NUACT originally slated the play as its fall production with [Martin Luther College] student Zach Stowe as director. The play deals with a fictionalized version of the evolution/creationism debate in the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial.” The play is also a metaphor for criticizing the suppression of free expression under the McCarthyism of the 1950s.

The play was not slated to be performed at MLC, but a final audition was scheduled on campus on Friday, Aug. 30. NUACT previously used MLC for auditions, rehearsals and performances.

After seeing the poster for the audition, several MLC professors raised objections about the play’s subject to the administration.

“We felt it was not compatible with what [the school] teaches the Bible says about the universe and the world,”? said [MLC's VP of Student Life Jeffrey] Schone. “This is a ministerial school. People employing our students need confidence about their views.”

I love that final line. As if what potential employers seek from these students is not a weakly-held truth but a confidently-held lie. Students won’t be employable if we keep challenging their firmly-held and completely-discredited views! So stop making them think! (Though I guess the statement makes sense, given what pastors say from the pulpit on a regular basis…)

The pressure from MLC led to Stowe dropping out. Six actors followed his lead for the same reasons or because they didn’t want to be part of the production if Stowe wasn’t there to direct it. The theater couldn’t replace everyone in time and so the show is stalled for now.

Stowe told the media that he was a Creationist, but the play was all about the importance of “open, free discussions,” something his school seems to oppose.

“The play does not just say evolution is right. It treats Christians with respect. The entire point of the play is both sides need open, free discussions,” [Stowe] said. “But I don’t have any negative feelings about it. Everyone acted how their conscience directed them in this situation. I can respect it.”

Incidentally, MLC is affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, a denomination so fundamentalist that Rep. Michele Bachmann quit it so the church’s belief that the Pope is the anti-Christ wouldn’t hurt her when campaigning for President in 2011. (How messed up do you have to be if Bachmann is calling you crazy…?)

Another church in the system once fired its religious school’s principal for questioning church teachings… in a meeting during which women weren’t allowed to speak.

I’d make a suggestion to the actors who are still open to putting on a show. Replace “Inherit the Wind” with something even more controversial-yet-redeeming. How about “The Vagina Monologues”?

(via City Pages — Thanks to Muggsy for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Brian Westley

    Beer is ok, though. So they got that going for them.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Peter Pan? It’s acceptable. Rumpelstiltskin? It’s okay and so is Hansel and Gretel. So we at least know that fairy tales are completely compatible with “what [the school] teaches the Bible says about the universe and the world.”

  • Art_Vandelay

    Fun Fact: JT Scopes actually had no recollection at all as to whether or not he’d even taught evolution.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Seriously? I mean I know the movie has lots of fiction, but- where does one learn that?

      • Brian

        Scopes was actually found guilty of breaking the Butler Law banning the teaching of evolution. The entire point of the trial was to get a public stage to debate the topic, the trial itself was pretty inconsequential, it was nothing but a giant soapbox for both sides, and they needed a defendant to be able to go to trial so they can get that soapbox.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          No I knew that. But I thought it was evident that Scopes had taught evolution. I’m just amazed that he would really actually not remember doing something that was so likely to raise such a controversy.

          What teacher today would not remember if they taught Genesis? They might downplay it, or defend it, or deny it, but not remember?

          • Art_Vandelay

            Well, you have to remember, this was a 24 year old substitute teacher we’re talking about so not exactly Stephen Jay Gould. He had a text book with a chapter on evolution in it. He actually had to get students to testify against him and teach it to them so they knew what to say on the witness stand.

      • Don Gwinn

        There’s a fantastic book on the trial . . . off to look it up. Something about Summer? Summer of the Gods?

        Summer for the Gods!

        That book is awesome and everyone should read it, especially if they want to understand and enjoy “Inherit the Wind” better or more deeply. It’s amazing how deeply aware of the uses of spectacle and media the people around that trial (the whole town, really) were. The whole thing was seen in town as not much different than an Apple Cider Festival or building the World’s Biggest Outhouse every summer. Tourists, news coverage, money for local business.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          Thanks!

  • Dirtpuddle

    Not surprised, my (soon-to-be-ex) husband is from there and it’s a *very* Catholic town, very old-school. Lucky for me I don’t have to go there anymore!

  • grumpy_otter

    Their objection seems ridiculous, of course, but if I recall correctly, that play has no roles for women, so you’d think the Christians would love it for that reason.

    • Ann Onymous

      There’s Rachel, Bert’s girlfriend. And Mrs. Brady. Plus Melinda, the girl looking for Howard at the beginning. And I recall various female townspeople who add flavor or talk for 5 seconds to summarize the town’s attitude. None last long or matter much plot-wise, though.

  • more compost

    I don’t blame them. As Jeffrey Schone states, it is a ministerial school. They can’t have anything going on that challenges the mythological basis of what they teach.

    • ShoeUnited

      They better not teach them how to be ministers then. Seminary seems to lead to quite a few atheists.

  • cryofly

    This posting should be titled – Play based on the ‘Monkey trial’ blocked by those with less than simian intelligence.
    PS: Can we send PZ Myers to bash them up? He lives close by.

  • tracy two crows

    Now I’ve seen it all.A church so batshi* crazy that even Bachmann quit?MAN,WHAT level of derp do you have to be to get THERE?I’d venture to say they need to re-name said place to”Christian Taliban Terrorist Training Camp”..their slogan could be”Just as nutty and dangerous as the Muslim Taliban ,but with better Uniforms!”

  • Fred

    “How messed up do you have to be if Bachmann is calling you crazy…?”

    She doesn’t have to think the church was crazy, just inconvenient to her political goals. Calling millions of voters followers of the antichrist won’t get her elected.

  • C Peterson

    By most accounts, Martin Luther was a real piece of human scum. A good choice of namesake for a school like this, it would seem.

    • Art_Vandelay

      In his fundamentalism, Luther was right about one thing though…trying to reconcile science with religious faith is bound to fail every single time.

      • ShoeUnited

        Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

        • C Peterson

          I was thinking along the lines that it is possible to come up with a correct answer using flawed thinking.

  • Dave

    Let’s put on a play about an important historical event, the Scopes Trial.
    Nah too many hard questions.
    What about The history of beer, with tastings?
    Unanimous!
    Some one has a sense of humour.

  • Beth

    Yes because art is supposed to be nice and friendly to everyone.

  • Anna

    Incidentally, MLC is affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, a denomination so fundamentalist that Rep. Michele Bachmann quit it so the church’s belief that the Pope is the anti-Christ wouldn’t hurt her when campaigning for President in 2011.

    I was shocked when I found out that two of the Lutheran schools nearby are affiliated with WELS. I had no idea anything extreme was going on there. I assumed their brand of religion was the much milder ELCA. Now I can’t help but feel sad for the children whenever I drive by.

    • Marie

      Written from this point of view, of course the views seem extremist. This writer is clearly far from impartial. If you read a more objective article, the whole event would seem much more rational. As for their beliefs about the anti-Christ, wouldn’t it make more sense to go to the source rather than accepting the words of someone who is clearly antagonistic towards them? I’m not saying I am for or against the WELS. However, this writer is so clearly biased that I would hesitate to accept anything they say without examining the facts.

      • Anna

        Marie, I’m not sure if you meant to reply to me, but there’s no need to take anyone’s word for it. Read up on what members of WELS believe about creationism and gender roles, and the extremism is there for anyone to see.

  • Don Gwinn

    You scared me for a minute there. I just asked my wife to go to the production of Inherit the Wind being put on in Springfield, IL at the Hoogland Center, and I thought maybe . . . . well, not today, I guess. :)

  • DoctorDJ

    WELSers are of the persuasion that women must be subservient to men, and women may not speak in church. Women may not be pastors or leaders of the church.

    Not very good credentials for President Bachmann…..SHUDDERS… DID I JUST TYPE THAT???? I just urped up lunch.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Just wait until they figure out that Hansel and Gretel has a witch!!!

  • A3Kr0n

    “This is a ministerial witchcraft school. People employing our students need confidence about their views [regarding witchcraft].”.
    Sounds funny when you write it that way, but is there a difference?

    • islandbrewer

      Well, if I’m seeking an employee to engage in witchcraft, I don’t want to go and hire a fake witch!

      • ShoeUnited

        I have to agree, too many “Leviosa” spouting kids these days. Whatever happened to 3 candles lit with an invocation over a boiling pot? In my day they knew what a ram’s skull was used for!

  • UWIR

    “This is a ministerial school. People employing our students need confidence about their views.”

    I love that final line. As if what potential employers seek from these students is not a weakly-held truth but a confidently-held lie.

    I think that you misread that. It’s not that employers want their employees to be confident in their beliefs, it’s that employers want to be confident in their employees’ beliefs. That is, employers want to be sure that the employees are “good Christians”.

    • eric

      Even your way, its still a crazy, stupid thought. Are you going to be more confident in an employee who has seen the play and other challenges to their belief, and remains fundie, or one who has never seen the play or anything else that challenges his/her beliefs?

  • DougI

    Perhaps they could have a show based upon the subject of irony. No doubt creationists were offended because the play makes creationists look like the idiots they are. In order to not offend creationists by displaying anything offensive to creationists I suggest we ban anything by Ken Ham, Kirk Cameron or Ray Comfort.

  • busterggi

    Apparently not attending the horribly offensive play was not an option.

  • eric

    Well, they obviously won’t take your last suggestion. But I bet they could get away with The Crucible.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Do Godspell. That should thoroughly piss the fundies off.

    And it’s a really good play.

  • MKW

    Teach the Controversy. Isn’t that what all good schools are supposed to do according to the evangelicals.


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