Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
A federal court has decided against a claim by Yoko Ono that Ben Stein’s intelligent design film, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” illegally used her husband John Lennon’s song, “Imagine.”
“Expelled” is a documentary that highlights perceived academic persecution of scientists that espouse intelligent design, a theory that the universe is too complex to be ordered by chance and random evolutionary forces alone. The movie was an immediate hit, debuting in the national top 10 and becoming history’s No. 12 biggest box office documentary film.
Ono’s lawsuit, however, producers say, sapped the film of its momentum and dissuaded many people from seeing it.
“We heard from many people who wanted to see the film but were put off by the lawsuit and weren’t sure if they wanted to support a film that was under a legal cloud,” noted the film’s producer John Sullivan in a statement.
Now freed from the Ono suit’s legal entanglements, the filmmakers of “Expelled” plan to re-release it to the big screen for those that may have missed its first run. The film’s distributor has chosen to make it available for private screenings, offering “Expelled” to groups of 300 or more that want to bring it to their local theater, for a ticket cost less than most cinemas charge.
“I’m extremely gratified to hear that Yoko Ono’s attempts to silence our little film have not succeeded and that free speech is still alive and well in America,” said Stein, the actor, comedian and economist who developed the film and stars in it. “I hope this movement will grow and viewers across the country will be able to enjoy my film on the big screen and not be intimidated by secularists or elitists who don’t want this film to be seen.”
Ono’s lawsuit alleged the film used her husband’s song “Imagine” without permission, but a spokesman for Premise Media explained to WND that as a documentary, the movie is permitted to use a portion of the song without permission for commentary purposes under fair use laws.
“If you really listen to the lyrics of ‘Imagine’ then you realize that it represents everything that the neo-Darwinists want. ‘Imagine there’s no Heaven … No hell below us … Nothing to kill or die for And no religion too…’ That’s exactly what the Darwinist establishment wants to do: get rid of religion,” said Walt Ruloff, CEO of Premise Media. “And that’s what we point out when we play less than 15 seconds of the song and show some of the lyrics on screen.”
Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, a temporary restraining order was put in place, preventing producers from making additional copies of the film. But anticipating eventual victory for the makers of “Expelled,” a U.S. District Court judge lifted the restriction less than a month later.
And while the filmmakers believe the lawsuit and restraining order hampered the movie’s first run, they think there are many groups that would like to bring “Expelled” back for private event screenings.
“We have 1,000 prints ready to be shipped out to any group that would like to bring the movie to their local theater,” Premise Media’s Executive Vice President Tripp Thornton told Fox News.