Christians in Brazil are reportedly calling on the government to ban a controversial play that depicts Jesus Christ as a transgender woman.
The play, titled "The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven," has been performed more than 60 times in a tour throughout Brazil. The author of the play, Jo Clifford, said that it was intended to be a reflection on how Jesus embraced the marginalized and persecuted.
One such petition reportedly described the play as a "horrific spectacle" that is "equal to the persecution suffered by Christians in the first centuries when they were thrown to wild animals in the arenas of Rome as a form of entertainment."
A Brazilian judge has shut down a performance of the play, saying it was in "extreme bad taste" and of a "very low intellectual level." However, the decision was overturned following an appeal and other requests for injunctions have been rejected.
Clifford, an award-winning trans playwright from Edinburgh, has denounced the attempts to ban her work, but she noted that the hostility towards her work has only generated more interest, with subsequent performances selling out and receiving standing ovations.
"The judge had no knowledge or understanding of the play's content, which promotes Christian values, love, and forgiveness," said Clifford, according to The London Economic.
While the play has drawn protests since receiving its premiere in Scotland in 2009, it was the first time that it had been banned by a judge.
The playwright further noted that the cast and crew of the Brazilian production had been receiving death threats because of her work.
"I have experienced protests before, but what's sinister about Brazil is that the production has received some very nasty death threats and Natalia [Mallo, the director] has had the tyres on her car slashed. It sets a dangerous precedent," she added.
Tomé Ferreira da Silva, the Bishop of São José do Rio Preto, has called for a total ban on the play, saying it is "insulting" to Christianity.
Clifford, who identifies as a Christian, has written to the Catholic leader to explain that her work explored how Jesus comforted the "rejected and despised."
The British Council in Brazil also condemned the attempts to ban the play, noting that it was a study of the "the oppression and intolerance" suffered by transgender people, which has opened up a dialogue around gender issues.
Christians in other countries have also made attempts to ban the controversial play. In 2009, nearly 300 people gathered to protest a performance of the play in Glasgow, Scotland. The protesters sang hymns and carried signs with messages reading: "Jesus, King of Kings, Not Queen of Heaven" and "God: My Son Is Not a Pervert."