Sunday, February 02, 2014

The 3 - February 2, 2014

This week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, includes some faith elements incorporated into the week preceding the Super Bowl in New York.  Also, a surprise Oscar nomination for a song from a little-known Christian film has been rescinded.  And, a flurry of briefs were filed supporting two companies in their quest to have the contraception mandate from the Federal government declared unconstitutional.

3 - Faith component visible in week leading up to Super Bowl

In addition to the examination and coverage of the faith of various players in the Big Game, including quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson, at least 2 significant events related to the game took place in the week preceding the event.

Because Super Bowl is a trademarked name by the NFL, very few events that occur during the week prior to the game actually carry the "Super Bowl" name, according to the website,  One of them is the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, which took place at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. reported on the event, which was headlined by Patti Labelle, but it said that the star of the night was Donnie McClurkin. Any time his name was even mentioned, the crowd would reportedly roar in anticipation of his arrival.

Melanie Few-Harrison, founder & Executive Producer of the event, said, "“The NFL players refer to him as Uncle Donnie. They’ve adopted him in their heart...Donnie’s here every year and has always been a big support. We all just love him.”

McClurkin takes pride in the endearment bestowed upon him by the athletes. “We have the God connection between us,” he said backstage. “Ninety-nine percent of these players are from church background like me.”

The event featured a 40-man strong NFL Players Choir.  One member, Jason Avant of the Philadelphia Eagles and Second Tenor in the choir, said, "I sing gospel songs and scriptures going up to the line of scrimmage. I need that constant reminder because we are playing a dangerous game...If I can keep God’s word on my mind, it makes me full of faith in times of fear when the game is on the line.”

“American Idol” season 12 winner Candice Glover performed two duets with LaBelle, “If Only You Knew” and “Somebody Loves You Baby (You Know Who It Is).” LaBelle then spoke about the importance of passing on God’s blessings, closing her set with “When You’ve Been Blessed.”

Other featured artists included Mary Mary, Natalie Grant and Tamela Mann.  Award-winning artist Tasha Cobbs was part of a special pre-show, according to, which quoted some of the players at a pre-event press conference:

Victor Aiyewa, linebacker with the Green Bay Packers, said that thanks to his spirituality, he has kept his head above water in the NFL.

"I was able to press through some of the hardest times with football," he said. The league's locker rooms, said players, are far from godless.

"His presence is felt through the NFL," said Josh Cribbs, wide receiver for the Jets.  Keith Hamilton, a former for the Giants, is also in the players' choir. He said the locker room shows often act as a prayer closet for spiritual players.

"I like to listen to gospel driving down the highway, and not just on a Sunday," said Terrence Stephens, a rookie defensive tackle with the Cincinnati Bengals. "I encourage everybody to get a gospel playlist."

Friday morning, the Bart Starr Award was presented by Athletes in Action.  The award is given annually to a player, selected by his peers, who represents exemplary character and leadership on and off the field. The award was given to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who received the award from former Packers great Bart Starr at the annual Athletes in Action Super Bowl Breakfast.

Rodgers said, "“Bart is one of the most decorated players in the NFL, but the first thing you hear of him is about the kind of person he is...It is with extreme humility, admiration, respect and love for you, Bart, that I accept this award."

Previous award winners include Jason Witten, London Fletcher, Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, LaDainian Tomlinson, Reggie White and Mike Singletary.

In his nine years in the NFL, Rodgers has advocated for numerous charitable efforts including Raise Hope for Congo and the Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer (MACC) fund. He created a website, to build awareness for organizations and people who are making a difference in their communities. The quarterback has also been involved with Young Life and Make-A-Wish.

Those who attended the event heard narratives of faith and football from NFL players past and present including Drew Brees, George Martin, Justin Tuck, David Tyree, and Brent Jones. The program also included former NFL coach and NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs, critically acclaimed actor Jim Caviezel, and speaker on the Breakpoint radio commentary, Eric Metaxas.

2 - Oscar nomination for song from faith-based film rescinded

It was just a couple of weeks ago when the Oscar nominations were announced and a song included in the soundtrack of a little-known Christian film called, "Alone Yet Not Alone", was nominated for Best Original Song, alongside of songs from films such as "Despicable Me 2", "Frozen", and the Mandela biopic, which won a Golden Globe for U2.   The song was composed by Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel, and featured the vocals of Joni Eareckson Tada.

This week, it was announced that the nomination had been rescinded.  The Christian Post reports that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science had dismissed his song from eligibility because he sent 70 personal e-mails to members of the Academy asking them to "boldly direct your attention to entry #57...This is merely a request for your consideration."

Broughton served two nine-year terms as a Governor in the Academy and is currently a member of the executive committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said in the e-mails that, "I'm sending this note only because it is extremely unlikely that this small, independent, faith-based film will be seen by any music branch member; it's the only way I can think of to have anyone be aware of the song."

When she broke the news on Wednesday, Academy President Cheryl Isaacs quoted from the organization's policy, which reads, "It is the Academy's goal to ensure that the Awards competition is conducted in a fair and ethical manner. If any campaign activity is determined by the Board of Governors to work in opposition to that goal, whether or not anticipated by these regulations, the Board of Governors may take any corrective actions or assess any penalties that in its discretion it deems necessary to protect the reputation and integrity of the awards process."

The Christian Post interviewed Broughton, who said, "My take on it is that it's a personal attack in order to discredit a nomination that disappointed the people who had spent a lot of money for something else. He added, "In that way they have been very successful. I have been discredited. My character has been besmirched and sullied," he added.

Responding to allegations that Hollywood's actions were motivated by a larger, culture war angle, Broughton said he would not "discount that there are other issues at work." Although the film was produced by a Christian group and Tada is an evangelical Christian, neither he nor Spiegel identify as such. (Broughton, who was raised in a family that was significantly involved in the Salvation Army said he "wouldn't put a name" on his faith. Spiegel is Jewish.)

Broughton pointed to an industry where thousands of dollars are spent on special screenings of the film and lavish parties in the hopes that studios can persuade Academy members to nominate their film. As the composer sees it, most attached with a particular film would not have to resort to sending out personal emails to jockey for votes.

He said, "My campaign, which I guess was the production company's campaign, was limited to writing some emails….just asking them to listen to the song. I didn't ask to vote for the song. I didn't call anyone up, I didn't promote the movie. I didn't do anything. I just pointed out the song on a list of 75 songs on the DVD that the Academy is sending."

Joni Eareckson Tada was gracious in her response.   She is quoted in a press release:  
“I was grateful for the attention the nomination brought to this worthy song and the
inspirational film behind it, as well as to the ongoing work of Joni and Friends to people
affected by disabilities. The decision by the Academy to rescind the nomination may
well bring even further attention, and I only hope it helps to further extend the message
and impact of the song.
“Regarding the reasons for the nomination being rescinded, it is not my place to
speculate as I have no insights into the workings of the entertainment industry. I was
honored to be invited to sing the song and it will always be a treasured experience.”
1 - Dozens of Christian organizations stand with plaintiffs in contraception mandate case before the Supreme Court

This week, with eyes on Washington fixed on the circumstances surrounding the President's State of the Union address, there was pro-life activity taking place in the U.S. House of Representatives, where a bill to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion passed that chamber, as well as at the U.S. Supreme Court, where a stream of friend-of-the-court, or amicus briefs were received, concerning a case involving the Administration's mandate that employers provide drugs that could cause abortion, as well as to provide contraception and sterilization, in their health insurance plans.  Oral arguments will be heard on March 25 in a combined hearing involving two plaintiffs:  Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, for-profit companies who desire to operate by Christian principles and who find this mandate objectionable in light of their Christian beliefs.

According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the Hahn family, owners of Conestoga, 59 briefs were filed with the U.S. Supreme Court this week to encourage the high court to declare the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate illegal in those two major legal challenges. The briefs outnumber the ones filed in favor of the mandate by nearly three to one.  The briefs include the attorneys general from 20 states, a diversity of organizations ranging from pro-life Democrats to libertarians, and a broad spectrum of both Catholic and Protestant religious groups.

ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman is quoted as saying, “Unjust laws are not valid laws. Americans must be free to exercise their constitutionally protected liberties without punishment from the government...As the numerous briefs filed with the Supreme Court affirm, the administration has no business forcing citizens to choose between making a living and living free.”

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