Airing of Evangelistic Film at Alabama Public School Sparks AU Complaint

Article excerpt

Officials with the Tuscaloosa, Ala., public school system have agreed to temporarily stop showing a church-produced evangelistic movie to students after receiving a legal complaint from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

AU attorneys acted after Tuscaloosa residents raised concerns. Parents complained that the film "Facing the Giants" was shown in classrooms last semester at Paul W. Bryant High School.

The movie is a work of fiction depicting the story of a losing high school football coach who turns his struggling team around by embracing Christianity. The film was produced by Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., and features members of the congregation in starring roles.

The church is upfront about the film's evangelistic purpose. Senior Pastor Michael Cart told a gathering at the 2007 Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., that 3,000 people have been converted to evangelical Christianity by the movie.

"We never got into it [film-making] to make money," Cart told the Summit pastors' breakfast. "We got into it to spread the gospel."

TV preacher Pat Robertson has praised the movie as a perfect tool of evangelism. Robertson's "700 Club" reported last summer that Catt spoke at a Southern Baptist Pastors Conference in San Antonio and declared that all aspects of the movie were "bathed in prayer." (Robertson called the movie "magnificent.")

Given the clear evangelistic focus, AU attorneys urged school officials to stop showing the film. …