Politically associated media buys are ramping up in Cleveland, Ohio, where the Republican National Convention will take place next week. But one potential sponsor, representing the "God's Not Dead 2" new Christian drama movie, was nixed, which prompted an accusation of religious persecution.
Billboard company Orange Barrel Media told the film's distributor Pure Flix the proposed advertisement would have been "too political and way too incendiary," according to The Hollywood Reporter. The two groups reportedly discussed and negotiated with each other for the past two months. The film's representatives were hoping to boost the DVD launch of the movie by Cleveland-based billboards.
On the flip side, attendees of this year's Republican National Convention will be greeted by a giant billboard with President Ronald Reagan's image, quoting him saying, "We establish no religion in this country." The sign was purchased by an atheist group called the Freedom From Religion Foundation. This billboard stands next to the "Welcome to Cleveland" sign by the airport.
According to US magazine, the poster in question features Melissa Joan Hart and the words, "I'd rather stand with God and be judged by the world, than stand with the world and be judged by God," as well as images of the film's DVD packaging.
In the emails between the two entities, Orange Barrel told Pure Flix the Republican National Committee had barred "scandalous" signage, which they considered the movie advertisement to be. A rep for Pure Flix stated in emails the argument didn't make any sense, especially since former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is in the film; the RNC wouldn't likely have a problem with the billboard.
Orange Barrel reps also pointed to Cleveland as a potential demographic that would be offended by the religious message. A spokesperson for the mayor of Cleveland told The Hollywood Reporter the city didn't have any objections.
"I'm perplexed. They dragged us along for weeks," Pure Flix CEO Steve Fedyski told The Hollywood Reporter. "My speculation is that someone, somewhere, didn't want our message out. It's hard to understand considering we've used the same marketing on CNN and other national networks."
Orange Barrel CEO Pete Scantland told The Hollywood Reporter there was "no bias" intended.
Pat Boone, who is in the film, told FOX the billboard issue comes at an interesting time in American history.
"I think it's very ironically appropriate that this thing should arise right while the American people are trying to come up with and reexamine how we are going to be governed," he said. "Are we going to be governed by people that have no place for God in their lives, or are we going to be governed by people, who recognize like Thomas Jefferson did, that we receive our rights and liberties by endowment by the creator."