Parents aghast as show whips Easter Bunny

GLASSPORT, Pa. — First, "The Passion of The Christ." Now, the torment of the Easter Bunny?

It may not have been as gruesome as Mel Gibson's movie, but many parents and children were angered when a church trying to teach about the crucifixion of Jesus performed an Easter show with actors whipping a costumed Easter Bunny and breaking eggs.

People who attended the April 3 show at Glassport's 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 son, J.T., 4, said the program was inappropriate for small 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 wasn't meant to be offensive. Bickerton portrayed the Easter Bunny.

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

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," she said. "I could not believe what I saw. It wasn't anything I was expecting."