The real story behind why Universal Pictures promoted a blasphemous movie.

On the morning of August 11, 1988, more than 25,000 people gathered at Universal City, California, in the largest protest ever mounted against the release of a motion picture. The huge crowd assembled from every direction, filling all streets and sidewalks surrounding the legendary “Black Tower” that housed the corporate command center of the vast conglomerate, MCA/Universal. The demonstrators carried hand-lettered signs proclaiming “Please Show Respect for My God,” “The Lie Costs $6.50; the Truth Is Free,” and “Father, Forgive Them.”

An acquaintance who worked at Universal at the time recalled the nervousness that prevailed through the day inside the company’s main office building. “That was one time it was really scary to be in the Black Tower,” she said. “There were just so many of them! When you looked down, 15 stories down, they were everywhere. We felt like we were trapped. My boss kept expecting them to charge. He thought they were going to try to kill people. Everybody was expecting a fight.”

The huge throng failed to live up to these dramatic expectations. Despite the feeling of hurt and rage that many of the demonstrators expressed to members of the press, the police reported no incidents of either violence or vandalism. The protesters assembled in order to show their passionate opposition to the next day’s scheduled release of Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, not to exact vengeance from the studio that produced it. They sang a few hymns, cheered lustily for more than a dozen occasionally emotional speakers, and then peaceably dispersed. By midafternoon, the terrified honchos in the Black Tower breathed a collective sigh of ...

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