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Carolina Theatre hosts anti-gay performance

Venue's rental policy protects free speech

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Given that next weekend is N.C. Pride, and that the Carolina Theatre chose the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival as the occasion for reopening after a summer-long renovation project, it's ironic the theater will host a show that suggests gayness is a malady.

On Saturday, Sept. 22, You're Not the Only One hits the boards. According to its producer, APOC Ministries, it deals with "testimonies from people who have overcome drug addition, homosexuality, suicide attempts and abuse." (APOC stands for "Another Perspective of Christ.")

Unsurprisingly, this raised a red flag with some fans of the Carolina Theatre.

Aaron Bare, the theater's marketing and communications director, says that the play had come to the Carolina Theatre through "normal rental channels." He says that space for shows is rented on a case-by-case basis, and that APOC's show had not raised any alarms with the rental department.

"This is a speech issue, and speech issues have 360 degrees," Bare says, adding that the theater is used to showing controversial programs: "We even had a lone protester at the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival this year."

Bare provided excerpts from the theater's contract with the City of Durham dealing with its policies on rentals and discrimination. The language makes it clear that the theater cannot make any policies involving discrimination or segregation. The theater's rental policy also makes it clear that it cannot discriminate against renting to anyone for reasons that include religion.

Dan Ellison, a Durham arts attorney, agrees that it boils down to a free speech issue. "By the same notion, arguably, you could have a speaker come in like the folks who claim the Holocaust never happened," Ellison says. "They're fools, but they still have the right to speak. If they have a non-discrimination policy, it's important for them to follow this policy, even if it's speech they might find abhorrent in some way."

Using Ellison's Holocaust example, we asked Bare how far would be too far. Bare says that he's not comfortable judging a hypothetical example. "We judge these shows on a case-by-case basis, and we felt that [APOC's] material fell within reasonable guidelines of what we would permit."

For his part, APOC's Pastor Michael Carr denies that the play has a negative depiction of homosexuality, though it does depict the "deliverance of how one sees him or herself because of their sexual orientation. We're not looking to bash anyone," Carr says.

Bare points out that renting to APOC sets the best precedent. "What if we'd said no? Where would that put us?" Bare asks. "For me, that puts us down a more dangerous road than allowing what might be controversial content."

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