PBS Kicks Hole In Wall of Separation of Church and State

PBS is determined to prove that those who claim it has a liberal bias are wrong by airing a revisionist look at separation of church and state in America. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State has taken a close look at those behind the film:

So Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and others among the nation’s founders didn’t intend a “religiously pluralistic culture guided by a secular government”? That’s totally wrong and very much in keeping with the Religious Right’s spin on America’s founding.

We at Americans United did a little research on Boulevard Pictures, and here’s what we found. Although the Web site for the film company mentions no religious or political agenda, its president is Jack Hafer, an evangelical Christian who told one interviewer that Christians have an obligation to “shape the culture” and “spread the faith.” He urged Christian young people to go into the arts as “kingdom-spreaders” and as “a form of missionary service.”

That doesn’t sound too bad. Christians have a right to proselytize. But I don’t usually expect to see proselytism on PBS.

And then there’s Brian Godawa, the writer and director of “The Wall of Separation,” who is an even more interesting character. Godawa did movie reviews for a time for the Chalcedon Foundation’s Web site. Those of you who follow religion and politics will recognize Chalcedon as the nerve center of Christian Reconstructionism, the most militant wing of the Religious Right. Godawa also was a featured speaker at the American Vision’s “2006 Worldview Super Conference,” a Reconstructionist event.

Reconstructionists detest democracy and hope to usher in a fundamentalist Christian theocracy in America based on their reading of biblical law. They are best known for seeking to impose the harshest penalties of the Old Testament penal code: the death penalty, for example, for gays, adulterers, fornicators, witches, incorrigible teenagers and those who spread false religions.

I don’t know if Godawa calls himself a Reconstructionist – his reviews have been removed from Chalcedon’s Web site — but his perspective is definitely pretty far out.

His Chalcedon review of the critically acclaimed movie, “Brokeback Mountain,” calls it “a brilliant piece of subversive homosexual propaganda.” By depicting gay men as “manly” instead of “fey queens,” he said, “It’s the normalization of the freakish minority.” He charged that “homosexualism” is “an ideology and religion whose goal is to overthrow the Christian paradigm of morality.”

Godawa added, “Society SHOULD suppress immoral behavior and it does so on many fronts. So if homosexualism is immoral, then yes, it should be suppressed, just like child molesting, its ugly step-brother hidden in the closet, just like adultery, just like promiscuity.”

Tell us what you really think, Brian!

Godawa praised Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” and urged Christians to see the movie in droves in the first two weeks – “Don’t go by yourself, get a group of friends. And don’t go just once, go twice.”– so other studios would “sit up and take notice.”

He dismissed criticism of the film’s anti-Semitic undercurrent. “[T]he accusations are vacuous,” he said. “In fact, they are more revealing of the attackers’ state of the heart than the filmaker’s work of art.” He blasted as “slanderous” the criticism from Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League that the film unambiguously portrays Jewish authorities and the Jewish mob as responsible for the decision to crucify of Jesus.

Gee, I wasn’t the only one to criticize Mel Gibson, and we see more of the type of people who defend him and deny the anti-Semitism in his work.

Barry Lynn has an update on his post following PBS’s ombudsman Michael Getler’s defense of showing this film:

What Getler fails to grasp is that the perspective offered in this film has been debunked. Getler notes that during the film, the narrator says, “The United States is a society based on the rule of law. And our Founding Fathers believed that if they did not base their laws on a higher authority, then whoever was in power would determine what the law said. They called this ‘tyranny.’ Their higher authority was the Law of God – the Ten Commandments.”

Legal historians have researched this issue time and again. They found no references to the Ten Commandments during the debate over the Constitution. Furthermore, there is no reference to “higher authority” or “the Law of God” in the Constitution, a wholly secular document…

Godawa’s PBS film – I will not dignify it with the term “documentary” – is part of the Religious Right’s ongoing strategy to rewrite American history and portray church-state separation, a principle that is one of our nation’s greatest contributions to governance and liberty, as somehow unhistorical and dangerous.

Godawa is free to make whatever films he likes. But it is a shame that PBS, which has a reputation for broadcasting many fine programs, has allowed itself to be used as a channel for the distribution of material designed not to educate but misinform. This program fell way short of the high standards normally adhered to by PBS. What’s next – giving the creationists equal time on “Nova”?

At a bare minimum, PBS should label Godawa’s program as viewpoint and let stations and viewers know the radical religious-political perspective he’s pushing.

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