Onward Christian Lawsuit

, Malcolm A. Kline, 1 Comment

Five years after the incident that inspired the action, a federal judge in Philadelphia, Pa. gave the green light to a lawsuit brought by a Christian activist against two Temple University officials.

As Campus Report revealed at the time, a Christian student named Michael Marcavage alleged that he was forcibly detained and committed to a mental hospital as a result of his attempts to stage the religious play Final Destiny. Marcavage contended that he hoped to stage the production as an alternative to the Temple-sponsored play Corpus Christi, according to Dan Flynn, then the editor of Campus Report.

Corpus Christi, by Terence McNally, depicts a lead character meant to represent Christ, who, in the play’s interpretation, is a gay man in Texas in the 1950s. School officials initially approved Final Destiny and agreed to provide technical and logistical support but backed out of supplying a stage and lighting equipment on the day of its scheduled performance, Marcavage contends in his lawsuit.

The two officials whom Marcavage sought cooperation from—William Bergman and Carl Bittenbender—physically put Marcavage in a Temple police squad car and sent him off to the psychiatric ward at the university hospital when he went to meet with them, the lawsuit alleges. Bergman serves as Temple’s Vice President of Operations and Bittenbender as managing director of Campus Safety Services.

The psychiatrist at Temple University Hospital, not too surprisingly, found nothing wrong with Marcavage, the lawsuit claims. The Lansdowne, Pa. native was an honors student and a former intern in the Clinton White House.

As a White House intern in 1998, Marcavage earned a security clearance, a distinction that many Clinton Administration officials could not claim. In the time that it has taken a federal judge to acknowledge Marcavage’s right to sue the Temple University officials, the young man has gone into business while continuing his evangelical work.

In the latter pursuit, Marcavage regularly runs afoul of public officials. He has gone to court over his right to evangelize in front of the Gay Pride festival on City Island in Harrisburg, Pa., for example.

As of this date, Bergman and Bittenbender are still on the Temple University payroll, as is Bruce Rind, the psychologist who became a national cause célèbre when the American Psychological Association published his study of pedophilia, which was sympathetic to pedophiles.

Temple University has indeed come a long way from its founding by a Baptist preacher. Oh, and Terence McNally, whose play offended the Christian community at Temple, was slated to give the keynote address at “Creating Connections, Moving Forward: A Conference for and about Long Island’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community” at the Huntington Town House on June 2.

Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.