The GOP convention hits Cleveland next week, and if faith-based film distributor Pure Flix had its way, attendees would’ve been greeted by a billboard advertising the DVD release of God’s Not Dead 2 (my review). The sign would’ve featured GND2 star Melissa Joan Hart (who converted to Christianity after dabbling in teenage witchcraft) along with the message: “I’d rather stand with God and be judged by the world than stand with the world and be judged by God.”
But according to emails obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, the owner of the billboard, Orange Barrel Media, nixed the billboard for being “incendiary.”
Orange Barrel told Pure Flix, the distributor, it didn’t like the “judged by God” message, calling it “too political” and “way too incendiary,” according to emails obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. On another occasion, insiders said the billboard company complained that even the title of the film was considered problematic.
This despite the fact that convention goers will see a (Clear Channel) billboard from the Freedom From Religion Foundation promoting atheism. The billboard will feature a quote from Ronald Reagan saying, “Church and state are, and must remain, separate.”
The Hollywood Reporter story includes statements from Pure Flix CEO Steve Fedyski, who presumably provided emails of all his dealings with Orange Barrel Media. Those must’ve been like manna from Heaven for Pure Flix, considering the entire premise of God’s Not Dead 2 is Christians being unfairly persecuted at the hands of a discriminatory secular world.
This billboard kerfuffle makes a tidy case for that, as long as you ignore… well, pretty much everything else about the convention. Where the Republican party is actually holding a sponsored screening of the very same movie, along with a worship service. Essentially equating Pure Flix’s particular brand of Christianity with the party’s.
Early on, Orange Barrel cited Republican National Committee rules barring “scandalous” signage, though Pure Flix argued that the RNC would have no problem with their message, especially since former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is in the movie. In fact, the GOP has partnered with Pure Flix for a worship service the night prior to the start of the convention, followed by a screening of the movie (with food provided by Chick-fil-A).
Which makes you wonder if the billboard ban really went down the way Pure Flix says. Meanwhile, Orange Barrel Media CEO Pete Scantland said in a statement provided to Uproxx, “We worked with Pure Flix Entertainment in good faith, but ultimately were unable to move forward with the campaign. Following Pure Flix and Orange Barrel Media’s mutual determination not to move forward at the originally discussed venue, we offered to work with them on placement at an alternative venue, but Pure Flix declined to engage in these discussions.”
This, of course, leaves out some important information. Like, why Pure Flix and Orange Barrel “mutually” determined not to move forward at the original venue. Was it the content or something else?
So maybe Orange Barrel really did deem an expression of (a particular kind of) faith “scandalous.” Which would not only be unfair and silly, but play right into Pure Flix’s persecution complex. Details aside, Pure Flix is clearly trying to make a big deal out of this for political (or promotional) purposes. That’s the problem with politics in the age of social media, it’s never too hard to find a real version of your straw man. Hell, just do a Twitter search.
Sometimes you find resistance where you least expect it, like at the GOP convention. But the opposite is also true, like God’s Not Dead 2‘s product placement deal with the Toyota Prius.
And if this billboard story is going to be used as evidence for the mainstream’s supposed embrace of secular values, there is copious evidence to the contrary, especially at the Republican National Convention. That’s where the party is expected to ratify a platform that urges politicians to “use religion as a guide,” advocates teaching the Bible in public schools, and says porn is a public health crisis, among other things.
From New York Times:
Social conservatives in the party exerted significant influence over the drafting and amending of the platform this week, succeeding in almost all of their efforts to add language that pushed the document more to the right. […]
The platform demands that lawmakers use religion as a guide when legislating, stipulating “that man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights.”
It also encourages the teaching of the Bible in public schools because, the amendment said, a good understanding of its contents is “indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry.”
The pornography provision was not in an initial draft that the Republican National Committee drew up and released on Sunday. But delegates added it on Monday at the same time they were inserting many of the amendments opposing gay and transgender rights. It calls pornography “a public menace” that is especially harmful to children. [New York Times]
But yeah, okay, sure, maybe Pure Flix was discriminated against by not being allowed to put their God’s Not Dead 2 billboard where they wanted it. Also, and this is neither here nor there, but every time I read “God’s Not Dead” I can’t help singing it, to the tune of “Girls On Film.” God’s not dead… God’s not dead…
Vince Mancini is a writer, comedian, and podcaster. A graduate of Columbia’s non-fiction MFA program, his work has appeared on FilmDrunk, the UPROXX network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.