Poster for ‘Facing the Giants’

The movie ratings board run by Hollywood’s six top studios is back-pedaling from a process that reportedly used to target movies for PG ratings if they carried an evangelical Christian message, WorldNetDaily has learned.

The move by the Motion Picture Association of America followed controversy over a rating for Sony Provident Films’ “Facing the Giants,” which was given the PG tag after officials told the movie’s makers it was because it was so Christian.

“The scene that caught the association’s attention was an exchange between a coach and a player,” said Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission in an op-ed piece published this week. “The coach assures the player that following Jesus Christ is a decision everyone makes for himself, but, if he accepts Christ, it will change his life.”

The PG decision prompted 15,000 e-mails of protest, and now things have changed.

“The chairman of the MPAA’s ratings board, Joan Graves, announced the association would no longer consider statements of faith or religious content as ‘thematic element’ that could trigger a rating of PG or higher,” Baehr confirmed.

Graves, through spokeswoman Kori Bernards at the MPAA, insisted she only was clarifying that using Christian statements for a rating never happened, and the movie’s rating actually was based on a conversation within the movie that refers to infertility.

But those involved with the film believe they understand.

“They’re going to say they never consider a religious reference (in setting ratings),” said Tom Snyder, editor of MovieGuide, a publication that reviews and rates movies for their family values and quality content.

Baehr said that after the flood of protests over “Giants,” many times the number of protests for any previous dispute, Hollywood was worried, and the result was a meeting among the power brokers where Graves provided her assurance a similar decision wouldn’t be made again.

Bernards said Graves attended the meeting and simply “clarified” that religious content was not used for the rating.

But Nancy Lovell, a spokeswoman for the film company, said it was clear at the outset that was what had happened.

Kris Fuhr is vice president of marketing at Provident, which plans to release the film in the fall in hundreds of theaters nationwide. He told reporters the MPAA had decided the film carried too many messages from one religion and that might be offensive to those from other religions. He said the MPAA described the movie, which contains no profanity, no violence and no sex, as “proselytizing.”

“That’s exactly what happened,” Lovell told WorldNetDaily.

Even Congress jumped aboard when the complaints were rolling in. U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said it was “disquieting” to consider that the MPAA “considers exposure to Christian themes more dangerous for children than exposure to gratuitous sex and mindless violence.”

The movie is a story about a burned-out football coach and the miracles that change his life for the better. It was written and produced by Alex and Stephen Kendrick, both associate pastors of media at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga.

The $100,000 project used local volunteers as actors and hired a crew of professionals to do the filming.

The disagreement apparently will remain, with Graves telling Daily Variety promoters were mistaken in believing the film’s religious content was a factor and Lovell insisting the MPAA’s position has changed.

“Our attitude is to work with the industry and try to say, ‘Look, it doesn’t make any sense to offend all the Christians in the country when you can make movies that everybody can enjoy,'” said Snyder.

In his op-ed, printed in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Monday, Baehr said the rating controversy was just one of the indicators that Christians are having an impact in Hollywood.

He also cited Disney’s decision to drop R-rated projects in favor of family-friendly fare.

“Year after year, films containing morally uplifting, redemptive and even Christian content, earn at least three to seven times more than movies with explicit, potentially offensive elements,” Baehr noted.

The MPAA’s guidelines say PG-rated films may include profanity, violence and even brief nudity. “The theme of a PG-rated film may itself call for parental guidance,” the group said.

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