An advocacy law firm has announced the National Football League has changed its rules to allow churches to stage Super Bowl events and parties without fear of violating copyright laws.

WND has reported in the past on the NFL’s attempts to shut down special events churches have staged around the televising of the annual football championship, and how it previously issued statements that the events were allowed only if the television screen was smaller than a certain size, or if other requirements were met.

But the Rutherford Institute today confirmed that the NFL “has finally acceded to demands that it change its policies in order to accommodate churches who wish to show the Super Bowl on big-screen televisions.”

The organization said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the league will not “object to live showings of the Super Bowl by religious organizations, regardless of the screen size, as long as the viewings are free and are on premises that the church uses on a routine and customary basis.”

The Rutherford Institute, which has been working on the situation since before the 2007 game, said the NFL plans to implement the new policy starting with the 2009 classic.

“I’m glad to see the NFL change its policy. Unfortunately, it took a year and a half of persistence on the part of The Rutherford Institute to get it done,” said Institute president John W. Whitehead. “It all goes to show that ordinary people can effect change, but you can’t back down.”

It was prior to the 2007 game when the NFL warned churches viewing the Super Bowl on large-screen televisions at church-sponsored gatherings infringed on the league’s copyright. That was when Rutherford Institute attorneys began their work on the issue.

At that time, NFL lawyers warned officials at Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis they would have to cancel their advertised “Super Bowl Bash” to which church members and guests had been invited.

According to reports, the NFL told Fall Creek Pastor John D. Newland and others churches couldn’t use the words “Super Bowl” in promotion, couldn’t charge a fee to cover the costs of snacks, couldn’t use a projector to show the game on 12-foot-wide screen, and couldn’t link the game to the Christian testimonies of Colts coach Tony Dungy and Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello at the time defended the crackdown because of the league’s longstanding policy banning “mass out-of-home viewings.” He said the league would limit the size of screens used in such situations to no more than 55 inches.

However, Institute lawyers pointed out that sports bars are granted an exemption to such limits, “but the league refused to disavow any intent to take action against churches,” the group said.

The lawyers continue to work on the situation, and more recently, have been involved with several members of Congress who are assembling legislation that would create an exemption in the copyright law for religious organizations. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., has suggested a plan to amend copyright rules to provide an exemption to churches for such events.


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