Friday, February 1, 2008

Speaking of gods, what about the Super Bowl Super Bowl Super Bowl

Yes, it's that time of the year that I absolutely hate when the National Football League limits freedom of speech by forcing people who haven't paid the NFL to refrain from using the words "Super Bowl."

See my 2005 and 2004 posts on this restriction of freedom of expression.

And now the NFL is getting into the churches. While True Discernment sees the following story as a victory to keep non-Christian influences out of the sanctuary, I see it as a heavy-handed attempt by the NFL to prohibit freedom of assembly.

From the Washington Post:

For years, as many as 200 members of Immanuel Bible Church and their friends have gathered in the church's fellowship hall to watch the Super Bowl on its six-foot screen. The party featured hard hitting on the TV, plenty of food -- and prayer.

But this year, Immanuel's Super Bowl party is no more. After a crackdown by the National Football League on big-screen Super Bowl gatherings by churches, the Springfield church has sacked its event. Instead, church members will host parties in their homes.

Immanuel is among a number of churches in the Washington area and elsewhere that have been forced to use a new playbook to satisfy the NFL, which said that airing games at churches on large-screen TV sets violates the NFL copyright....

The Super Bowl, the most secular of American holidays, has long been popular among churches. With parties, prayer and Christian DVDs replacing the occasionally racy halftime shows, churches use the event as a way to reach members, and potential new members, in a non-churchlike atmosphere....

The NFL said, however, that the copyright law on its games is long-standing and the language read at the end of each game is well known: "This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast or any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL's consent is prohibited."

The league bans public exhibitions of its games on TV sets or screens larger than 55 inches because smaller sets limit the audience size. The section of federal copyright law giving the NFL protection over the content of its programming exempts sports bars, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

And why is the NFL doing this? Money.

Large Super Bowl gatherings around big-screen sets outside of homes shrink TV ratings and can affect advertising revenue, McCarthy said. "We have no objection to churches and others hosting Super Bowl parties as long as they . . . show the game on a television of the type commonly used at home," he said. "It is a matter of copyright law."

And now the churches are scared into submission, even about what they say:

To avoid attracting the ire of the NFL, some churches are even giving Super Bowl parties a more generic name. Broadfording Bible Brethren Church in Hagerstown will call its annual event the "Big Game Party."

So who's on the front lines, defending churches against these archaic copyright laws? None other than the Rutherford Institute:

John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, a Charlottesville civil liberties group that focuses on religious freedom issues, is threatening to sue the NFL on behalf of an Alabama church that wants to host a big-screen Super Bowl party. He is also seeking sponsors for federal legislation to exempt churches from the ban.

"It's ridiculous," Whitehead said. "You can go into these stores now and buy 100-inch screens. The law is just outdated."

Frankly, I don't agree with exempting churches from the 55 inch ban without exempting other people. I think the whole thing is stupid. It's not my church's problem if the NFL is unable to count viewers correctly.

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