Famed actor and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson says Americans need be “mindful” of a government that undermines religious freedoms, and on July 18, he has a new movie coming out in theaters illustrating just how dangerous an overzealous government can be.
“Persecuted” is a dramatic, fictional thriller about a popular preacher who dares resist a new “religious unity” bill being pushed by powerful players in Congress. The preacher soon finds himself toppled from the pulpit and a fugitive on the run for his life, all for refusing to compromise his freedoms of speech and religion.
The film stars several recognizable faces, including Thompson, James Remar of TV’s “Dexter,” Bruce Davison of the “X-Men” films, Dean Stockwell of “Quantum Leap” fame and Fox News star Gretchen Carlson, to name a few.
“The movie is not a documentary,” Thompson told WND in an exclusive interview. “It is a takeoff on governmental power and those in government who legislate what they feel like is a good idea – on how people ought to conduct themselves, promote their religion and the message they should be delivering.
“Whether you’re talking about on the airwaves and ‘equal time’ or Obamacare or things of that nature, we’re in that territory now,” Thompson warned. “So again, this is not a documentary; it shows what can happen.
“That’s what all good art does: If it’s not possible, it’s not entertaining,” Thompson concluded. “But there’s an awful lot out there that is possible.”
“‘Persecuted’ is about freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and if anyone has watched me on Fox News over the last nine years, they will know that those are issues I speak about and am very open about,” Carlson told WND. “This film is really emblematic of these issues that are being discussed in many circles across the country right now. One of the draws of this film is it’s supposed to be thought-provoking in the sense that when you leave the theater you say to yourself, ‘Maybe I should be thinking more about these rights that were given to me centuries ago by the people who fought so hard for these freedoms.'”
Watch the trailer for “Persecuted” below:
With a provocative title like “Persecuted,” WND asked Thompson and Carlson just how realistic is the film and the concept of “persecution” of Christians in America?
“More realistic than some of the space movies that get popular,” Thompson joked. “But it’s realistic certainly to the extent that these things are possible. The idea of those in government and powerful positions being able to carry out nefarious activities is more than possible, and in this particular case, though we haven’t seen anybody go to the extent they go to in this movie, the notion of a religious person preaching the gospel running up against the government and governmental policies – or those who want to carry out a business and running up against governmental regulations and rules – is not far-fetched at all. In fact, we’re seeing that happen as we speak in the Hobby Lobby case and in some other cases coming down the pike.”
“Over the last decade, I do believe there has been more emphasis on trying to strip our society of certain things that have been in existence for a long time,” added Carlson, “such as lawsuits to take crosses down in the western part of our country, lawsuits to take out the word ‘God’ from our money or not allowing our kids to say it in their valedictorian speeches, forces pushing for atheists to lead campus Christian groups and petitions at state governors’ offices during the Christmas season to put up a ‘Festivus pole’ – from the made-up holiday of ‘Festivus’ from the ‘Seinfeld’ TV show – next to a Christian crèche on public lands.
“As a journalist, I see these stories frequently,” she said, “and I just want to make sure Americans realize if you don’t stand up and take notice of some of these things happening, before you know it, our heritage starts to erode.
“For me, during the Christmas season, I don’t want to take my kids around in the car to see all the crèches in the town where I live in and hear them say, ‘Mom, where are they? I don’t see them anymore,'” Carlson said.
Her concerns are widely shared, but do those stories actually rise to the level of “persecution”?
“In most countries in the world, we’re seeing persecution [against Christians] in the extreme – people are losing their lives,” Thompson told WND. “While that sort of thing is not happening in the United States, we have the potential. Sooner or later, it can be done.
“As long as we have people in power, there will never be a dearth of things to be concerned about, because power corrupts,” he continued. “There’s a reason why our Founding Fathers wanted to address this in the Bill of Rights. It wasn’t just because of things happening in their day and time; they were talking about the future. So it’s not a question of what’s happening today or the things you can foresee, but the things you can’t foresee and the ways you can’t necessarily predict that you have to be mindful of.”
“The movie carries a message,” Thompson told WND, “and that is the need to protect our First Amendment rights, the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and how sometimes it’s tough to do that when you have the government coming down on you.”
“This film is incredibly thought provoking,” Carlson added. “It’s not compelling people who see it to believe in Christianity or believe in any faith for that matter; it’s about the rights people fought and died for to make this nation arguably the greatest on earth.
“Often times, those rights can be taken for granted,” Carlson said, before sharing a story she thought was particularly timely.
“When I was in Washington, D.C., just recently with my children, seeing the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights, we had an interesting experience,” Carlson related. “Our tour guide noted security guards standing next to the Declaration and Constitution, and that’s where the long lines of people were, but when you go over to the Bill of Rights, there are no security guards and the lines start to diminish.
“Our guide, who was an Afghani national who became a naturalized U.S. citizen years ago – and I have never met a more proud American – said this is where guards should stand, [at the Bill of Rights], and this is where long lines of people should be, because these are the rights that people fought and died for,” she said. “He had an amazing point, so poignant for me, to hear right before ‘Persecuted’ comes out, because this is the message of the movie: Do not take for granted the rights we have in this country.”