Thursday, April 27, 2006

LDS Almost March To Protest Religious Bigotry

From today's Daily Herald, a story about a group of LDS protestors about to march in opposition to religious bigotry over questioning of movie goers outside a showing of Richard Dutcher's States of Grace. If you can believe this the theater owners instructed employees to caution movie viewers that the film was not a "Christian" film; but, it was a "Mormon" film--further evidence of continuing religious bigotry and hatred by our so-called "Christian" brothers and sisters:

Signs on sticks, marching, chanting.

"Grace is for Mormons, too."

"Mormons (heart) Jesus, too."

"Mormons are Christians, too."

About two dozen members of the LDS faith, some from as far away as Utah and Texas, had planned to spend their Wednesday evening protesting outside the Horton Plaza 14 Theater in San Diego. The protest targeted what the members say is discrimination against the LDS Church and the movie "States of Grace," which is playing at the theater.

The story started on Monday. Armand Mauss and his wife drove 85 miles to see "States of Grace" at the theater because it wasn't playing where they lived.

Mauss walked up to the ticket counter and asked for two tickets.

"Are you Christian?" the girl at the ticket counter asked.

Mauss was surprised but responded in the affirmative. It was her next statement that surprised him.

"She responded, 'Well you need to know that this film, it's being advertised as a Christian film, but it's really a Mormon film.' "

From further questions, Mauss learned that the theater's supervisors had told their employees to "warn" ticket buyers about the film. They had complaints from people upset because the movie wasn't what they expected.

"I asked (movie theater employees) if it was a Catholic film, would you say, this isn't a Christian film, it's a Catholic film?" Mauss said.

Can you imagine the outcry from the gay community if theater owners instructed employees to ask movie goers what they thought of gay cowboys, prior to a showing of Brokeback Mountain? People thought it outrageous when Larry Miller made the decision he wouldn't show the film at all; but, at least he didn't pull what went on here in San Diego.

Apparently Richard Dutcher stepped in at the last minute asking the LDS protesters not to picket the theater:

It was a phone call from Dutcher on Wednesday telling them to not make a scene and to put the brakes on the protest outside the theater.

"I was kind of riled up and everyone else was kind of riled up," said Steven Greenstreet of "This Divided State" fame. "But I guess that's kind of the point of the protest -- I guess the way we were approaching it wasn't the most Christian way. We decided it would look better to turn the other cheek."

They still went to the theater, but with fewer signs and a smaller group to talk to California media . . .

A big fan of Dutcher, Greenstreet took off to San Diego immediately after hearing the story to protest with others who were upset over the separation between Mormons and Christianity.

He spent his Wednesday calling people and making the signs. He was excited, and ready to be peaceful, saying before the protest that if anyone asked the group to leave, they would.

However, at 6 p.m., thirty minutes before the protest, Dutcher called. The filmmaker told protesters that he would handle business with the theater privately.

Dutcher's approach was likely the more "Christian" approach to diffuse this situation; but, I am irritated by the religious bigotry and intolerance of many of our so called "Chrisitan" brothers and sisters when it comes to LDS views and practices. We need the equivalent of a Mormon Anti-Defamation League.


Blogger Tom said...

Holy cow, that's almost too ridiculous to believe. Especially in California. I might not be as shocked if that happened in Alabama or something.

I sold tickets at a movie theater for a couple years. I can't imagine warning moviegoers about what's in a movie. Even for violent or sexual R-rated movies all we did was check ID.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 8:56:00 AM  
Blogger Eric Nielson said...

Wow. Thanks for passing this along.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger Bookslinger said...

This whole things sounds like it was more a case of "Don't ascribe to malice that which stupidity or a plain snafu can better explain."

What the theater management was probably reacting to was complaints, and demands for refunds, from "mainstream" Christian patrons who felt they were duped by a thinly veiled Mormon proselyting attempt.

The question and response on the part of the theater employees was not so much a reflection of their own views, but an attempt to provide disclosure to those they thought might be prone to take offense at a feeling of being duped or cheated.

There's a good chance that the theater manager was just taking the complainers' word that "Mormon's aren't Christian", and it was not his/their own opinion. The fact that the employee first asked "Are you Christian?" before saying "The movie is Mormon not Christian", strongly hints at that.

Dutcher was right to handle it privtely.

The LDS protesters really shouldn't have had a beef with theater management. Their beef should have been with the "mainstream" Christian patrons who complained to, and possibly misled, the theater's managament.

I feel very sorry for the theater management. They got caught in the middle. They're just trying to make a living showing movies, and keep as many customers happy as possible.

Their misguided "warning" was their attempt at being considerate to mainstream Christian patrons, and provide a warning so they wouldn't storm out of the theater and demand a refund. And in so doing, they ticked off the Mormon patrons. They were caught between a rock and a hard place.

The theater owners/management are the ones that Dutcher wants to cater to and be nice to, because they have to take a chance on him when showing his indie movie.

Controversy can be good, it sells, it makes newspaper headlines, and gets free publicity. But the members out there need to be non-confrontational about it.

Let the mainstream Christians speak all they want against the movie. Because the more you have people saying "DON'T GO SEE THAT MOVIE!" then the more people will go see it.

If the movie comes to my town, I'd like to make a secret contribution to a local christian church council to help pay for a big newspaper ad telling people not to go see it.

Or maybe I'll write anonymous letters to local pastors "warning" about the movie, and advising them to tell their parishoners to stay away from it. That would almost guarantee that teens from those churchs would go see it.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

True, Bookslinger, this might not have been a case of bigotry on the part of the theater management. Certainly poor judgment and ignorance, though. Ignorance is excusable, and poor judgment is just poor judment. The idea of warning people beforehand about the religious bent of a film, no matter what it is, is ridiculous.

And yeah, if it is the case that moviegoers were complaining about the film's Mormon elements, that's completely ridiculous.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger Bookslinger said...

Warning people beforehand of controversial elements of a movie make sense. That's what the whole MPAA rating system, and the alphabet soup of the TV rating system is about. That's the thing nowadays for studios and critics to warn moviegoers whether the rating is due to sex, nudity, language, violence, drugs, or profanity. It sounds to me like that local theater manager was just trying to help the audience be prepared, and most likely it was due to some previous customers' complaint from fundamentalist type anti-mormons.

We did basically the same thing about "Big Love" didn't we? Didn't the church approach the producers and request the disclaimer that the characters "weren't really Mormon" ?

I see a parallel of (mainstream) Christians going to the theater manager and saying "hey, we want a disclaimer in there that the movie really isn't (mainstream) Christian.

And to pick a nit, by the definition of "mainstream-Christianity", the LDS church is NOT "mainstream-Christianity."

We try to have it both ways. "Yes, we're Christians, but we're not their brand of Christianity."

What's unusual is that the warning was a verbal one, and that it was preceded by a qualifying question.

As for a moviegoer complaining about the elements, that's totally in line. Every customer has a right to complain about what they purchased. I've walked out of more than one movie. And I wanted a refund in some of those cases, but I was just too timid to ask for one. However, if I had felt I was purposely mislead by the movie's title or it's advertising poster, that would have given me courage to complain and ask for a refund.

Aside from a customer's right to complain (or give "feedback" :) complaining about a movie is also a free speech issue.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 5:03:00 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Naw, man. That's not the job of the theater. Their job is to exhibit the movies and sell popcorn. They have to right to do whatever they want to promote or, uh, anti-promote a movie. But no manager I ever worked for would consider doing something like that. People can find on the internet whatever info they want on a movie. If they get something different from what they wanted or expected, then they wasted their 9 bucks. They can go tell their friends not to see it. But buying a ticket doesn't entitle you to enjoy the movie. Just to see it. That people would complain because a movie was "Mormon" and not "Christian" just seems silly to me. They have the right to do it, but it's not something I would ever do.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 6:32:00 PM  
Blogger Bookslinger said...

One never gets all the facts from the first news report of an event. There are always things left unsaid.

So let's reserve judgement until we find out what the manager's or employee's motives were.

Sure, offering editorial comment at the ticket booth is out of the ordinary. But we don't know what led up to it that made it seem to the manager or employee that it was a proper thing to do.

And I disagree with you about the theater's right to promote or anti-promote a movie. Theaters spend a lot of money (some of it subsidized by the movie distributors) to buy advertising.

Producers, distributors, theaters, critics, and reviewers also go to great lengths to describe movies so that people know if it is appropriate for them. That's what the MPAA rating system is for. The MPAA rating system has also been extended to tell why something is rated PG-13 or R, whether for sex, nudity, violence, language, drugs, etc.

This being an independent movie, the theater could have thought that the lack of major reviews could have been a problem for those alleged mainstream christians who might have complained.

Bottom line: I'm kind of grateful for the controversy. It creates buzz. And that sells.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 7:58:00 PM  
Anonymous john scherer said...

This whole thing sounds suspicious to me. Was there really this large group of evangelicals who saw this movie because of the title only. It seems that most people would like to read something about a movie before spending their money on it. I wonder if this is a response to anti's protesting the existence of an LDS film and the theater owner getting a headache.

Friday, April 28, 2006 5:22:00 AM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Hey Gang, Great comments all. I've been otherwise occupied the last several days with a local scout camporee. I guess my thoughts, after reading the comments are not to come down too hard on the theater management, at least without further information on just what promted the editorializing at the box office. I don't go out to movies too much anymore, but from what I recall; such warnings from the ticket vendors are a bit unsual.

What really irks me the most is any group, evangelicals included who deign to decide who are or who are not Christians.

Dutcher's approach was probably the most practical; on the other hand one wonders when it is time to stand up for our beliefs and point out that in fact we are Christian, and we aren't going to allow defamatory comments go without some response.

Sunday, April 30, 2006 9:58:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

I actually think they were right to tell people it was a Mormon film. I don't see it as bigotry or anything negative, I think it's information.

I might go into a movie called the same thing about Baptists and not really be interested and want my money back. Not offended, just want my money back.

I think it's no big deal.

Monday, May 01, 2006 12:09:00 AM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...


It's not so much people were told it was a Mormon movie. It was the context in which they were told, i.e., it's a Mormon movie, not a Christian movie. In that context, I believe it was innapropriate.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006 9:15:00 PM  

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