Like the camera-toting tourists who flock by ferry to Tangier Island on balmy summer days, the movie-makers from Warner Bros. were drawn by the picture-postcard quaintness of the crescent-shaped speck of land in the middle of the lower Chesapeake Bay, 14 miles off the Virginia mainland.

A few months ago, location scouts for the California movie studio checked out Tangier by land, sea and helicopter, deciding that it was the ideal setting for filming a few scenes of an upcoming Kevin Costner-Paul Newman movie titled "Message in a Bottle."

But when the six members of the Tangier Town Council got their first look at the movie script last week, they had a message of their own for Hollywood: Thanks, but no thanks.

Citing objectionable language and a few sex and drinking scenes, the Town Council voted 6 to 0 this week to ask Warner Bros. to revise its script or take it elsewhere.

"Our Town Council is made up of Christian people. We just couldn't accept it," said Dewey Crockett, mayor of Tangier, a dry and largely churchgoing community of 700. Crockett cited a love scene involving Costner and the female lead -- "he was sort of stripping the girl" -- and said that allowing other scenes in which beer and wine are served to be filmed on Tangier would hamper the island's efforts to warn children about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse.

"The picture is not a raunchy movie at all," council member Betty Dail Parks said yesterday. "It's very well done, in fact. But there were some things in there, like using the Lord's name in vain -- something our community doesn't condone -- that didn't add to the script."

The council's decision has split the island community roughly down the middle. Many residents were upset that they did not learn about the council's discussions until after Monday's vote.

"I think it's horrible," said Linda Wheatley, a hairdresser who has lived on Tangier for 17 years, calling the council "narrow-minded" and hypocritical.

"It's okay to sin on Tangier as long as you don't do it in public," she said. "They {council members} want to make us out to be something we aren't. We have unwed mothers here. We have alcohol problems. We have drug problems. We have theft. We are like any other community. . . .

"I believe in the Lord, but I also believe in giving opportunity to those that would benefit from this," said Wheatley, whose daughter, a single mother of two, drives a tour cart on the island.

Crabbing, fishing and tourism form the economic backbone of Tangier, which bills itself (along with nearby Crisfield, Md.) as the Soft-Shell Crab Capital of the World. With a median household income of $19,861 and nearly a quarter of its households receiving public assistance, according to 1990 Census data, Tangier would have welcomed the money from a Hollywood movie deal.

Warner Bros. had proposed giving the town $5,000 for use of public property during the filming, which was to have begun in late April, Crockett said. The owners of Tangier's restaurants, its two bed-and-breakfasts, grocery store, dock areas and cart and scooter rentals -- visitors are not allowed to bring cars onto the island -- stood to gain even more.

"They said it would show Tangier in a bad light, and I don't agree with that at all," said Beth Thomas, a lifelong islander whose husband's family owns waterfront property and some boats that would have been used to transport movie equipment and personnel. "We weren't going to get rich by any means, but it was going to be a help."

Thomas was among 200 island residents who signed a petition Tuesday asking the council to reconsider.

According to a Warner Bros. spokesman, the movie is a "poignant romantic drama," set in New England, about the relationship that develops between a fisherman (Costner) and a divorced single mother (played by Robin Wright Penn) who finds a bottle containing a love letter from the fisherman to his wife. Newman plays the fisherman's father.

The movie studio has scouted film locations up and down the East Coast and is known to be looking at Martha's Vineyard for much of the outdoor work. Tangier, with its picturesque harbor, was being considered for a few location shots.

Lisa Rawlins, a Warner Bros. vice president, said yesterday that the studio accepts Tangier's verdict. "As far as we're concerned, if the Town Council has made this decision, we'll respect and live with it."

But Crockett and others on the island remained hopeful the studio might take an editing pencil to the script and delete the parts deemed questionable.

"They'd get a lot of positive publicity out of this if they changed it," said Parks, the council member. "I think a lot of small-town America and religious groups would like to be able to go see a movie that's been cleaned up for the moral-minded family."

But even if the unlikely should happen, they will not be viewing "Message in a Bottle" on Tangier any time soon. The island has no movie theater. CAPTION: "Message in a Bottle," starring Kevin Costner, won't be filmed on Tangier after the Town Council objected to the script. CAPTION: Tangier Island, with its picturesque harbor, was being considered for a few location shots for "Message in a Bottle."