Quid Pro Crow

ASU's president puts the squeeze on freedom of speech to please his biggest donor

"The church hasn't decided on it yet," Hulbert says. "There was some publicity on the expansion, and some negative comments. And that's kind of embarrassing when the proposal hasn't even been approved."

A Phoenix-based spokeswoman for the church later called New Times and provided the church's official statement:

"Discussions with the university and city officials remain at the conceptual stage. No final decision has been reached."

Cameron Eickmeyer, editor of ASU's State Press, says he won't back down to Michael Crow.
Emily Piraino
Cameron Eickmeyer, editor of ASU's State Press, says he won't back down to Michael Crow.
Ira Fulton
Ira Fulton

Dusty Goltz had been rehearsing his one-man play Banging the Bishop: A Latter-Day Prophecy since August, preparing for opening night on October 15 at ASU's Empty Space Theatre on campus.

Goltz, a 30-year-old Ph.D. candidate at ASU's Hugh Downs School of Communication and a former member of the Mormon church (he joined up for just a year and a half beginning his senior year of high school), wrote the play three years ago, and originally performed it at the Paper Heart gallery in Phoenix in 2002. The play, says Goltz, is his autobiographical tale of coming to terms with his homosexuality, coming out in the LDS faith, then having to hide his sexual preference, and eventually going back to his original faith, Judaism.

"It's basically about the process of coming out, of self-hatred, and angst," Goltz says.

In June, Goltz added new material to the play -- which Goltz says is related to his studies in performance and ritual -- and submitted it to professor Jennifer Linde to have the play placed on the fall performance calendar. After looking at the script, and discussing the performance with Goltz, Linde put the play on the calendar for an October 15 opening.

But on October 6, a little more than a week before opening night, the curtain had already closed on Banging the Bishop.

After seeing promotional material for the play -- an e-mail Linde insists was originally intended only for the eyes of grad students in the department -- ASU professors Layne Gneiting and Kevin Ellsworth, both members of the Mormon church, expressed concerns they had with the play, although both admit they had never seen or read the play, only the e-mail.

"There were symbols -- both language and non-linguistic -- in the ad I saw that spoke against things I hold dear as a lifelong LDS," Gneiting says in his office in the bachelor of interdisciplinary studies program at ASU. "Banging the Bishop conjures up violent sexual assault, for one thing."

The e-mail, sent out to dozens of grad students on campus, said:

"Tell one, tell all, and tell especially your STUDENTS to join us because this man will make it to heaven," the message stated. "All he has to do is honor his temple covenants, serve a two-year mission, marry a good Mormon girl, have a ton of kids and keep smiling till it hurts. . . . But he's Jewish . . . and gay . . . and he masturbates A LOT! . . ."

Other issues raised by LDS students and faculty who contested the staging of the show included "the issue of nudity, and my right to speak about the Mormon church," Goltz told his colleagues in a mass e-mail to School of Communication grad students on October 12. "As for the issue of nudity, I was informed that I was within ASU policy," Goltz continued. "As for my right to speak about the Mormon church, the show is my scholarship and is directly about my life. It's the journey of my own body. I am part of a program which looks critically at social issues, and aesthetic performance events are one portion of my research."

Gneiting, however, perceived the play to be more of an attack on his faith than a critical look at social issues.

"What bothered me most was that we were using university space for just one person's experiences," Gneiting tells New Times. "[The promo] so completely violated things that I hold sacred. My faith is as much a part of my identity as anything else."

In an October 4 letter to Linde (who was also the director of the show), Bud Goodall, director of the school of communication, and school administrator Belle Edson, Gneiting wrote:

"Banging the Bishop. Its very title revolts me, and reeks of Hate Speech aimed not to elucidate one's personal experience, but to incite hatred and fear against a religion and a people who have suffered hatred, persecution, and oppression all its days," Gneiting wrote.

"Banging the Bishop, in all its connotations, is an aggressive sexual act of violence akin to rape. It not only dehumanizes and objectifies the men called to serve as Bishops of my faith, but ignites violence against them. On a campus that boldly asserts: HATE -- NOT IN THIS HOUSE, how can we turn about-face and condone, even promote, such a hate-filled show? Were another, in a fit of vengeance, to propose a show entitled Banging the Professor: Making the Grade, or Banging the Sorority Chick: She Deserved It, or Banging the . . . (insert any number of groups: Homosexuals . . . Jews . . . Muslims) I am confident the humane Hugh Downs School would censure, and prohibit, the request. As well they should! . . ."

"Others have urged me to speak decidedly, encouraging a direct address to President Crow. . . . Yet I hesitate," Gneiting continued. "I entreat you with the energy of my soul. Cancel the show. Cancel the show. Show your compassion, and cancel that show."

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