By John-Henry Westen and Gudrun Schultz
CHICAGO, November 30, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The city of Chicago is coming under intense criticism for its decision to ban clips of the new Hollywood film “The Nativity Story” from the city’s annual Christmas festival in Daley Plaza. Liberty Counsel and and the American Center for Law and Justice have both asked Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daly to stop the religious discrimination and reverse the ban on the film clips.
City officials told organizers of the annual Christkindlmarket – Christ Child Market – festival not to allow the showing of clips of The Nativity Story, a new film produced and distributed by New Line Cinema, a Time Warner Company. Festival organizers, the German American Chamber of Commerce, complied with the city’s request and returned the $12,000 sponsorship cost to the filmmaker.
Liberty Counsel faxed a letter to Mayor Daly, informing him that the city must not discriminate against religious viewpoints about Christmas nor interfere with the business relationship between the filmmaker and the festival organizers. Liberty Counsel also urged the festival organizers to accept The Nativity Story as a sponsor.
American Center for Law and Justice Chief counsel Jay Sekula said the city’s decision was “one of the most blatant forms of religious discrimination imaginable…This transcends political correctness and centers squarely on religious bigotry,” according to a report by Cybercast News Service.
“To suggest that a move [movie] about the birth of Jesus Christ should not be included in a Christmas festival is absurd.”
“The City of Chicago and festival organizers are exhibiting an intolerance that is offensive to Christians who celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The city and festival organizers must respect the First Amendment and put an end to the discriminatory practices,” Sekulow said.
City officials initially defended the ban by arguing the clips would be offensive to non-Christians attending the month long display, the Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier today. The city did not comment on whether the mayor was concerned that ousting the film from the popular festival would offend Christians and the vast majority of Americans who celebrate Christmas.
Officials quickly changed their argument, saying including the clips would be too much commercialism with New Line Cinema “aggressively…trying to sell tickets to that movie,” as a sponsor of the event.
As Sun-Times commentary pointed out, however, anti-commercialism was a difficult argument to defend at an event organized by the German American Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Mercedes-Benz and Lufthansa.
The Nativity Story will start playing tomorrow in theaters nationwide and is expected to be popular with viewers of all ages.
The film begins with paranoid King Herod and moves through the story of Mary’s visitation by the angel, Mary’s visit with Elizabeth, Joseph’s visitation by an angel and their trip to Bethlehem where Jesus is born. The film contains realistic depictions of everyday Jewish life and exceptional cinematography. Most of the scenes were filmed in Matera, Italy, the same location used for The Passion of the Christ.
See impressive The Nativity Story website and preview clips
See coverage by the Chicago Sun-Times: