A now former Harvard employee who rented the university's Sanders Theatre for a play about what he considers the evils of Jewish circumcision is suing the school and the Harvard Crimson for everything from civil-rights violations to libel because of the way a Harvard official stopped the performance.
In his suit, filed yesterday in US District Court in Boston, then Harvard IT worker Eric Clopper says Harvard knew what his play was about and that it would include some nudity when it rented the theater to him for $4,020 in 2018.
Also, he states in the complaint, he is himself a Jew - and he denies that excoriating the Jewish religious practice of male circumcision is antisemitic, even as he allows that one of his arguments is that "through the consistent efforts of a dedicated minority, the practice had expanded to all of America."
Clopper is a Jewish man. He is anti-circumcision; not anti-Semitic. Clopper has many Jewish friends and Jewish allies on the anti-circumcision front. Whether Clopper was Jewish or not, he would still have the right to freely express his critical opinions of the Jewish religious ritual of circumcision. As evidenced by the standing ovation from hundreds of progressive Harvard audience members, and a 97% "like" rating online from many thousands of YouTube viewers, the "anti-Semitic" label the Crimson has doggedly tried to brand Clopper with cannot be true, unless the great majority of Harvard's population and YouTube's viewer base (as evidenced by the significant sample size in the feedback from both these groups) is also "anti-Semitic."
His complaint alleges various allegations against Harvard for essentially breaking its contract with him to rent the theater and says the school ruined his life, because he was on track to joint a Harvard graduate program - at 10% the normal tuition - but that he lost his job and so his chance at the graduate program over the play.
Clopper invested his life's savings, went into debt, and solicited charitable contributions from opponents of circumcision to create, advertise, stage, and perform the Play. The Play cost Clopper and his donors approximately $40,000. Clopper relied on the promises of Harvard officials and Harvard's Free Speech Policy that his free speech rights were comprehensive and that they would be respected when he delivered his anti-circumcision Play as a private individual to a willing adult audience. Clopper's manager Hammond even urged Clopper to take full advantage of his protected speech by including a nude dance and an educational slideshow relating to masturbation.
His allegation against the Crimson is that it maliciously posted statements it knew were wrong about him and his play - all under the orders of Harvard officials. One example he cites: A Crimson article headlined Harvard ‘Reviewing’ Employee’s Nude, Anti-Semitic Rant in Sanders Theatre - which included one of Clopper's posters, showing him nude and pointing to his genitals, covered by some text.
In fact, Copper alleges, only a few minutes of the performance involved him being nude - the final five minutes, during which he danced nude with an unclothed sex doll named "Britney" - and, as he stated earlier in the complaint, he's Jewish and therefore can't be anti-Semitic.
Copper is seeking all the profits he says Harvard may have made by stealing a video copy of the play off a laptop, damages, attorney's fees in general and in particular if Harvard and the Crimson "mount a defense that is wholly insubstantial, frivolous, and not advanced in good faith" and any other punishments a judge may feel are appropriate.