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NEWS (SAGINAW) — Legislators "Appalled" by SVSU Nude Play, Police Report Filed

April 27, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, April 27, 2007
CONTACT: Gary Glenn 989-835-7978

Bipartisan Protest: 43 State Legislators Tell SVSU President They’re “Appalled” by Controversial Play

Family group files formal police complaint, plans to videotape illegal full-frontal nudity scenes as evidence

SAGINAW — A bipartisan group of 43 members of the Michigan House of Representatives this week wrote Saginaw Valley State University President Eric Gilbertson to protest the school theater department’s controversial play “Angels in America,” which the Saginaw News reported “includes full-frontal male nudity and the use of the F word in every way possible.” The play is scheduled to run at SVSU’s on-campus theater three times this weekend.

The play’s own director, SVSU faculty member Richard Roberts, Jr., described the play as “eerie, disgusting, and sexually perverted” and bragged that SVSU’s is “the only theater in mid-Michigan that can get away with it because…we’re not tied to ticket sales to survive.”

Roberts’ boast that tax-funding of the university’s theater department allows him to “get away with” such a production has drawn the ire of a statewide family values organization and, in response, a large and growing number of lawmakers who in the weeks ahead will determine the level of SVSU’s continued funding by state tax dollars.

“According to (news reports), this play will have young students performing a play that allows for full-frontal nudity and vulgar language,” a bipartisan group of House members wrote Gilbert. “It is the purpose of this letter to inform you of our disappointment that the university would sponsor a play with this content. The undersigned representatives, and many of our constituents, are appalled that our tax dollars would have any part in funding such a display.”

Among the 43 Democratic and Republican lawmakers who signed the letter are two members of the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee: Rep. Bill Caul, R-Mt. Pleasant, minority vice-chairman of the subcommittee, and Rep. Dave Agema, R-Grandville, as well as House Appropriations Committee minority vice-chairman Rep. Daniel Acciavatti, R-Chesterfield Twp., and half a dozen other members of the full appropriations committee.

The letter is also signed by Rep. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, and Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, both of whom represent portions of Saginaw County in the state House of Representatives.

Friday, the Detroit News reported that another signer, Rep. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township, characterized the play as “garbage” and “degeneracy” and has called for a legislative hearing on the issue as well as a hold on SVSU’s annual state funding of $27.5 million in tax dollars.

“Our government cannot stop anyone from spitting on our culture or our values, but the taxpayers of the state of Michigan do not owe these people a subsidy to do it,” Brandenburg said.

Lawmakers reportedly have also asked SVSU for a videotape of the play’s presentation, but the university reportedly has refused to commit to provide it.

The American Family Association of Michigan Friday said that since SVSU has not agreed to lawmakers’ request for a videotape, his organization has hired a video production company to tape a performance of the play this weekend “so legislative budget-writers and taxpayers alike can see what SVSU is paying for with our tax dollars. The group has notified SVSU police in advance of plans for the videotaping.

Also Friday, AFA-Michigan President Gary Glenn filed a formal criminal complaint with SVSU police charging that the play’s four-minute-long scene featuring full-frontal male nudity is clearly in violation of Michigan’s plainly-worded indecent exposure law, which states simply: “A person shall not knowingly make any open or indecent exposure of his or her person or of the person of another.”

Violation of the statute is punishable “by imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both.”

The Michigan Court of Appeals in 2005 unanimously ruled that the state indecent exposure law does not infringe on any First Amendment right to “artistic expression.”

“Public indecency statutes such as the one before us reflect moral disapproval of people appearing in the nude among strangers in public places. …This and other public indecency statutes were designed to protect morals and public order. …Public nudity is the evil the State seeks to prevent, whether or not it is combined with expressive activity. Similarly, the ‘perceived evil’ that Michigan seeks to address through its indecent exposure statute is not the communication of some message associated with indecent exposure; it is the indecent exposure itself. …Thus, Michigan’s indecent exposure statute does not prevent the conveyance of any message. It merely requires that messages must be conveyed within minimal bounds of proscribed conduct having nothing to do with expression.”

Glenn wrote Gilbertson last week: “A state institution that receives millions of dollars in public revenue, then uses those tax dollars to violate and undermine laws ‘designed to protect morals and public order,’ must be held accountable, both legally and in terms of its continued receipt of taxpayers’ dollars. If SVSU refuses to obey the laws duly enacted by the Legislature, signed into law by the governor, and upheld by the courts, on what legitimate basis can you ask that same Legislature to continue to fund your activities as before?”

Between the Lines, a homosexual advocacy newsmagazine published in metro Detroit, Thursday reported that SVSU “has gotten over 1,000, mostly negative, emails” protesting presentation of the play at taxpayers’ expense on the campus of a tax-funded state institution.

Ten days ago, AFA-Michigan’s national affiliate organization e-mailed its list of supporters, urging them to contact lawmakers and SVSU to protest the play.

“Michigan is facing a severe state budget deficit, and the Michigan Legislature is desperately looking for ways to cut unnecessary state spending. Our state affiliate, the American Family Association of Michigan, passed on to us what we agree would be a great place to start,” AFA’s alert message said.

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