ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. — Hawkins County school officials, stung by a suit over alleged "anti-Christian" textbooks, has refused to allow a stage production of "The Diary of Anne Frank" for fear it would create a controversy.
Robert Mellette, director of Allowance Theater in Raleigh, N.C., asked for permission to stage the play at Volunteer High School. Mellette said he wanted to bring the play to east Tennessee to make a statement about what he considers to be a growing national trend toward censorship.
But Hawkins County school superintendent Robert Cooper said school officials refused to allow the play for fear the "other side" would want equal time.
"Because of the possibility of a controversy, we said, 'No,' " Cooper said. "If we allowed this play, the other side could have demanded equal time, especially since proceeds are to go to People for the American Way."
People for the American Way, a civil liberties group co-founded by television producer Norman Lear, supported school officials in the suit filed by seven fundamentalist Christian families from Hawkins County over the use of alleged "anti-Christian" reading books in grades one through eight.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Hull in Greeneville ruled for the parents, saying school officials violated the Constitution by suspending students who refused to read the books for religious reasons.
The story of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl whose family hid from Nazis during World War II, was among those objected to by the parents in the suit.
Vicki Frost, the housewife who led the parents' fight, testified during the July trial that she was offended by part of the story in which Anne tells her friend, Peter, that a person should believe in some religion, but it does not matter which one.
Mellette said he still plans to stage the production and has discussed the matter with school officials in nearby Kingsport.