Reported from Fort Lauderdale, March 27, 2005

No passion for Easter Bunny at church show

Children in audience watch as actor in rabbit costume whipped


The Associated Press

GLASSPORT, Pa. - First, the Passion of the Christ. Now, the torment of the Easter Bunny?

It may not have been as gruesome as Mel Gibsonís movie, but many parents and children got upset when a church trying to teach about Jesusí crucifixion performed an Easter show with actors whipping the Easter bunny and breaking eggs.

People who attended Saturdayís show at Glassportís memorial stadium quoted performers as saying, "There is no Easter bunny," and described the show as being a demonstration of how Jesus was crucified.

Melissa Salzmann, who brought her 4-year-old son J.T., said the program was inappropriate for young children. "He was crying and asking me why the bunny was being whipped," Salzmann said.

Patty Bickerton, the youth minister at Glassport Assembly of God, said the performance wasnít meant to be offensive. Bickerton portrayed the Easter rabbit and said she tried to act with a tone of irreverence.

"The program was for all ages, not just the kids. We wanted to convey that Easter is not just about the Easter bunny, it is about Jesus Christ," Bickerton said.

Performers broke eggs meant for an Easter egg hunt and also portrayed a drunken man and a self-mutilating woman, said Jennifer Norelli-Burke, another parent who saw the show in Glassport, a community about 10 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

"It was very disturbing," Norelli-Burke said. "I could not believe what I saw. It wasnít anything I was expecting."

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