Beliefwatch: Profane

Some stories are best told straight. On Sept. 8, Kathy Griffin, a bawdy, foulmouthed comedian, accepted an Emmy Award for her reality show, "My Life on the D-List," and in her acceptance speech she explained that while other actors might thank Jesus for such an honor, she wouldn't consider it. "Suck it, Jesus," she exuberantly added, waving her statuette in the air. "This award is my God, now."

Outrage from Christian groups predictably followed, led (also predictably) by William Donohue of the Catholic League, who went on CNN to complain that "Hollywood laughs when she says 'Suck it, Jesus,' but if she'd said 'Suck it, Jews,' or 'Suck it, Muhammad' … they wouldn't be laughing, would they?" Then, newspapers reported that E! Television would scrub the speech before airing it the following weekend, which triggered an equal and opposite outcry from liberal groups accusing E! of censorship. Around that same time, a group of college students in Hawaii, sitting around voraciously reading the news, "got a giggle," as 20-year-old Carlos Uretta puts it, out of the controversy. So they did what any atheist-minded group of 21st-century college students would do: they registered as a domain name and, a few days later, put up a petition in support of Kathy Griffin, which now has more than 2,500 signatures. "We got an e-mail from someone in Italy, and we thought—really? People are concerned about this in Italy?"

You might think that when the awards show aired the next weekend, edited but not completely airbrushed, the controversy would die. But you would be wrong. Last week a small Christian theater company based in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., took out two full-page ads in USA Today at $90,000 a pop, decrying Griffin's remarks and pleading for a new civility. Griffin, meanwhile, went on Larry King, who played the unedited clip and ignited the entire thing all over again. And who stands to benefit from this tempest? Well, Griffin, who's playing sold-out shows all over the country this fall. And Tennessee's Miracle Theater, just down the road from Dolly Parton's theme park and in its second year of staging a Broadway-type play about the life of Christ. "The phones have definitely picked up, and that's great," says manager Russ Hollingsworth. Now that they've scored the domain name, Uretta and his friends think it might be fun to expand their site, but "not to be too profound or anything," he says. No worries, Carlos. You're in good company.