Sunday, March 02, 2014

The 3 - March 2, 2014

On this week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, a report on yet another Federal judge that has taken a state marriage law to task.  And, news from the movies, where a depiction of the life of Jesus came in a strong second for the opening weekend.  Also, the studio responsible for another movie based on a Biblical story has agreed to place a disclaimer on its marketing materials.  The top story involves a religious freedom bill that came under fire in Arizona and was eventually vetoed by the governor there.

3 - Federal judge rules Texas marriage amendment unconstitutional

The parade of largely conservative states who have had their marriage amendments struck down by aggressive Federal judges continued to march on this week, as Federal Judge Orlando Garcia ruled against the Texas constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The ruling will not go into effect while the case is appealed.

CitizenLink quotes Texas Values President Jonathan Saenz as saying that the ruling by Judge Garcia is “the most egregious form of judicial activism of our generation...This hollow victory and clear attack on morality and the rule of law will not stand in Texas.”

Saenz is quoted as saying that, “This is just the beginning of an epic battle that the Texas people will ultimately win in name of the only true and lawful definition of marriage: one man, one woman.”

And this week, a Federal judge issued an order supporting his declaration over 2 weeks ago that the state of Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.  Judge John G. Heyburn refused to put his ruling on hold pending an appeal

2 - Faith at the movies: "Son of God" soars, studio adds disclaimer for "Noah"

The initial movie box office indicators are in, and after a close head-to-head race on Friday, the film featuring excerpts from the enormously successful miniseries, "The Bible," on the History Channel, has apparently vaulted over the $25 million mark - "Son of God" will likely finish second for the weekend, a few million dollars behind the new Liam Neeson film, "Non-Stop", according to  At the time of this posting, it appears that "Son of God" will take the #1 slot at the box office for Sunday.  "Non-Stop" opened up the tight box office race with a significantly stronger performance on Saturday.  

"Son of God," produced by reality show producer Mark Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey, who portrays Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the film, was aided by churches who stepped up to buy out entire theaters for showings of the film.   The film opened on well over 3,200 screens across the nation.

Meanwhile, NRB - National Religious Broadcasters - has reached an agreement with Paramount Pictures, the studio responsible for the new "Noah" film, to place an explanatory message in marketing materials.

According to the website, the move follows an appeal by Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, to help audiences better understand that the feature film is a dramatization of the major scriptural themes and not a line-by-line retelling of the Bible story.

Future marketing materials, including a soon-to-be released online trailer, the film’s official website, and 100% of print and radio, as well as a percentage of the film’s online and broadcast, will contain the following explanatory message:
"The film is inspired by the story of Noah.
While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide.
The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis."
Paramount Pictures' Vice Chairman, Rob Moore, is quoted as saying that, "We are deeply appreciative of Dr. Johnson’s efforts to bring this idea to us...Our goal has been to take every measure we can to ensure moviegoers have the information they need before deciding to buy a ticket to see the film. We are very proud of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. We think audiences all over the world will enjoy this epic film.”

Adding to that, Dr. Johnson said, "It is a significant and welcome development when a leading Hollywood studio like Paramount makes a major film about a story from the Bible."

1 - Arizona religious freedom bill goes down with governor's veto

On Wednesday this week, at the end of a media firestorm that included alleged misrepresentations of a religious freedom bill that was intended to prevent discrimination against people of faith, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the bill, citing, among other things, the possibility of unintended consequences.  The bill was intended to extend protections under Arizona's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed in 1999, to businesses.

Alliance Defending Freedom had a hand in drafting the bill, and ADF's Kellie Fiodorek, in a piece on the website, stated that the bill, SB 1062, "merely clarifies Arizona’s existing law to protect Arizonans from any attempt by the government to force them to speak or act in ways that violate their religious beliefs. It safeguards freedom by closing loopholes that have allowed other state governments to punish private citizens for living and working according to their convictions."

She points out that, "Despite the simple, commonsense purpose of the bill, its opponents have turned it into something it is not. It would not allow a business owner to refuse someone a meal or a taxi ride. There’s a key distinction between selling someone paint and allowing the government to force you to paint a mural with a message that violates your deepest beliefs. This bill prevents the government from violating people’s dignity by forcing them to act or speak contrary to their religious convictions. It does not grant license for just anything at all."

ADF Senior Counsel Doug Napier said that, “Freedom loses when fear overwhelms facts and a good bill is vetoed. Today’s veto enables the foes of faith to more easily suppress the freedom of the people of Arizona. Even though the battle has become more difficult, Alliance Defending Freedom stands ready to defend any Arizonan who suffers the indignity of religious discrimination.”

The veto came after eleven prominent law professors from a wide variety of backgrounds sent a letter to Governor Brewer in support of the bill. The group included both Republicans and Democrats and those who both oppose and support redefining marriage, but all of them believe the bill “has been egregiously misrepresented by many of its critics,” their letter says.

Napier explained, “As these legal scholars rightly point out, the misrepresentations about the bill have been egregious...It has nothing to with refusing someone a sandwich. It has everything to do with making Arizona a safe place for people to freely live out their faith. The falsehoods need to be exposed for what they are.”

Some excellent comments about the Arizona religious freedom bill situation can be found in my conversation with Stuart Shepard, of CitizenLink, a public policy partner of Focus on the Family.

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