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Hundreds Protest “Last Temptation” Showing

November 19, 1989

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ Hundreds of people protested the showing of ″The Last Temptation of Christ″ at a downtown theater Saturday, but they were outnumbered by those who paid to see the movie.

About 350 protesters gathered in front of the Capitol Plaza Theater at noon, singing, chanting and holding signs urging a boycott the movie at the West Virginia International Film Festival.

It was the first showing in a commercial theater in the state, although the film is widely available on videocasette and has been shown on cable television.

Festival organizers said about 470 people bought tickets and crossed a block-long picket line without incident to see the movie.

The showing ignited controversy for more than a week in Charleston, similar to protests that broke out elsewhere when the movie was first released in this country last year.

Critics have complained about the film’s depiction of Jesus as having doubts about his divine role and about a scene in which Christ hallucinates on the cross about having sex with Mary Magdalene.

″You don’t have to fall into a septic tank to know what it is,″ said the Rev. Avis Hill, a local minister who led the protest. He said he had watched portions of the movie on videocassette last year, fast-forwarding during offensive scenes.

The protests attracted some viewers, though.

″It just makes me want to come more,″ said Pat Cowdery of Charleston. ″They’re doing what they want to do and I’m doing what I want to do.″

A $10,000 grant from the state Division of Culture and History provided about a third of the festval’s funding, but no state money was used to rent ″Last Temptation,″ festival organizers said.

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