Bungling pen-pushers blocked the performance of a play re-enacting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ after mistaking it for a live sex show.
Bosses refused to grant the traditional Good Friday production a licence over fears that it could be "committing an offence."
The Passion Play is a dramatic performance of the Passion of the Christ, from the Latin meaning "suffering", and follows his trial, crucifixion and death.
Performers take the roles of Jesus, his disciples, Mary Magdalen, and Roman prefect Pontius Pilate, who ordered the crucifixion of Jesus.
Oxford City Council's blunder was blasted by organisers who were forced to cancel the religious play at the last minute.
"Unfortunately, one of the city council’s licensing officers didn’t recognise that a Passion play on Good Friday was a religious event," said Oxford City Councillor and United Reform Church pastor Dick Wolff
"I think he thought it was a sex show, so he said it may be committing an offence.
"This is a case of the system tripping over its own shoelaces."
The Oxford performance, organised by St Stephen’s House Theological college and SS Mary and John Church on Cowley Road, was first held in 2012, without a licence.
SS Mary and John vicar Adam Romanis said: "It’s very upsetting because so many people were looking forward to it.
"Someone said to me ‘you can’t hold a crucifixion these days without a licence’."
Rev Romanis said the church contacted the police earlier this month to inform them it was going ahead but were told they would be committing an offence without a licence to hold a public event.
"The health and safety culture can interfere with things people have always done and never thought would be a problem."
He said the first event was stewarded and had not disrupted traffic.
The bungling staff member whose error led to the cancellation of the Passion Play apologised for her "deeply regrettable" mistake.
Julian Alison, Licensing Team Leader at Oxford City Council, said: "I would like to apologise for a wrong decision that I made late on Friday afternoon in relation to the planned Passion Play on Cowley Road.
"At the time of processing the application, I did not appreciate that this was a religious event. I made a mistake and by the time I realised my mistake, the organisers had cancelled the event.
"I apologise to the organisers of the event and those members of the public who had been looking forward to the event. The Council encourages community events to take place and it is deeply regrettable that this has occurred. Such a mistake will not happen again."
A spokesman for the council added: "As far as we are aware the organisers did not question the decision at a higher level within the organisation."Suggest a correction