The Catholic Question | Open: 04/12/13 Close: 04/12/13
How a jewelry theft in 1813 New York City became a legal argument about religious freedom in America by escalating into an argument for religious freedom, when the local priest was subpoenaed to testify what he had heard in confession. The play, written by Steve DiUbaldo, is based on William Sampson's account of People v. Philips, The Catholic Question in America (1813). This landmark case is the earliest known constitutional test of freedom of religion and the priest-penitent evidentiary privilege in American law. This staged reading is produced by Glucksman Ireland House, New York University and directed by Stephen CedarsIn People v. Philips, William Sampson — a banished political exile from Ireland and a Protestant — argued on behalf of the Trustees of St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church on Barclay Street before the presiding judge, Mayor DeWitt Clinton. William Sampson's experience of religious-based intolerance in Ireland propelled him to persuade the court that America should not look to British common law for legal precedent when dealing with Catholics, then a small but growing minority in New York City. Hear the original and historic arguments on the issue of religious freedom adapted from William Sampson's own published account of the case. The Catholic Question has been adapted for a staged reading by Steve DiUbaldo, the recipient of a Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Scholarship and the Rita Goldberg Playwright Foundation Scholarship at New York University.