Streep, who plays an uncompromising nun zeroed in on a priest suspected of molesting children, told the Boston Herald that the church isn't the main point.
"It's about someone who thinks you can control evildoers with force and a firm hand and an unrelenting, 'We will not negotiate (with terrorists),'" she told the newspaper. "Or there's another approach, one with all these layers of humanity who think you have to have innocence so it doesn't go bad and get corrupted."
Streep told the Herald she prepped for the role by visiting the Sisters of Charity, the order that her character belongs to in the 1960s-circa film that opens in U.S. theaters Friday.
Streep's character, school principal Sister Aloysius, locks horns with a popular Bronx parish priest played by Philip Seymour Hoffman whom she believes is molesting a student at her school.