The Great Victorian Sacrilege: Preachers, Politics and The Passion, 1879-1884
What happens when freedom of artistic expression offends freedom of religion? A great controversy arose when America's first professional Passion play, staged in San Francisco in 1879, was pronounced a "sacrilege" by Protestant ministers (Salmi Morse's play, The Passion, was in reality a pious description of the Gospel story). This work shows that Morse and his play were victims of the Protestant church's struggle to maintain power during the late 1800s, a time when America was changing into a more urban nation. This saga of a society's attempt to control "immoral"art by government intervention is also a disconcerting look at how easily artistic freedom can be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.