This case involved efforts by some taxpayers and Indiana state legislators to compel a state university--the Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne (IPFW)--to halt the campus production of a controversial play (Terrence McNally's "Corpus Christi"). The plaintiffs alleged that the play is an "undisguised attack on Christianity and the Founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ," and therefore the performance of the play on a public university campus violated the separation of church and state under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. In July 2001 the Indiana district court denied the request by the plaintiffs to issue a preliminary injunction to stop the production of the play, ruling that the university's on-campus production of the play did not violate the Establishment Clause. A copy of the federal district court opinion is available at http://laws.findlaw.com/7th/013002.html. AAUP prepared an amicus brief (pdf) in August 2001, arguing that allowing the plaintiffs to interfere with the faculty's approval of a student-selected play to fulfill academic graduation requirements would have violated the First Amendment protections of free expression, including the First Amendment right of individual professors to academic freedom. Furthermore, the Association argued in its brief that the performance in a state university theater of play with a religious theme, even one that may offend religious beliefs, would not violate the Establishment Clause.
Status: In August 2001 the Seventh Circuit denied the plaintiffs request for a stay pending their appeal from the district court's refusal to grant a preliminary injunction. The majority opinion (2-1) was penned by Judge Posner. He opined: "Classrooms are not public forums; but the school authorities and the teachers, not the courts, decide whether classroom instruction shall include work by blasphemers." Judge Posner reasoned: "The contention that the First Amendment forbids a state university to provide a venue for the expression of views antagonistic to conventional Christian beliefs is absurd. It would imply that teachers in state universities could not teach important works by Voltaire, Hobbes, Hume, Darwin, Mill, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Yeats, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, John Dewey, and countless other staples of Western culture." He concluded that "[a]cademic freedom and states' rights, alike demand deference to educational judgments that are not invidious . . . ." In September 2001 the Seventh Circuit granted the university's motion to dismiss the case as "moot." Read the decision (.pdf)