The Cowley Road Passion Play, a religious event re-enacting the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, was cancelled last week after a council mix-up.
An officer of the city council refused to sanction the event because he thought it was a live sex show.
Damian Feeney, director of the play, commented in his blog post, Chinese Whispers, “It’s an object lesson to everyone in the way in which the media plays chinese whispers with facts, choosing the most salacious half-truth and magnifying it until the original story is unrecognisable.”
In its report of the story the Daily Mail used the headline, “Gormless Labour council bans Good Friday Passion of the Christ play because they thought it was a live SEX show”.
The play was cancelled because a council officer told the organisers that some parts of the play may need a license to be performed and at that time it was too late to procure one.
He did not realise that it was a religious event and as such did not need a license.
The play was cancelled before the misunderstanding could be resolved.
The organisers of the Cowley Road Passion Play told Cherwell, “An unfortunate mistake from a council officer doing his best to help us meant that the Passion Play was cancelled this year. We are naturally disappointed, but look forward to working with the council to bring the play back to the streets of East Oxford in 2016.”
Oxford City Councillor and United Reform Church pastor Dick Wolff said, “Unfortunately, one of the city council’s licensing officers didn’t recognise that a Passion play on Good Friday was a religious event. I think he thought it was a sex show, so he said it may be committing an offence. This is a case of the system tripping over its own shoe laces.”
A spokeswoman from the Oxford City Council added that the application to the council arrived, “Too late, with limited information to enable the event to take place.”
Passion Plays, performed on Good Friday around the world, re-enact of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ as a way of celebrating the holiday. The Cowley Road Passion Play was first performed in 2012 without a license.
Councillor Tony Brett, chair of the licensing committee, said, “It pains me greatly to see this activity cancelled.
“The Jesus I know and live by is one whose ministry was radical and disruptive and the Cowley Road Passion play is / was a fantastic example of that.”
The council official responsible, Julian Alison, has since apologised, admitting that he didn’t know a passion play was a religious event.