Christian Film Stirs Controversy Over Columbine Massacre
'I'm Not Ashamed' tells the story of the first person killed by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
A Christian movie opening Friday that re-creates a portion of the Columbine massacre has taken some criticism from atheists, sight unseen, objecting to the premise that Rachel Joy Scott, the first student killed that day, is deemed a Christian martyr.
In the film, killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold approach Scott as she’s lunching with a friend, Richard Costaldo, on a school lawn. After the pair are shot multiple times, they chastise Scott for her faith in God before finishing her off.
The filmmakers provided the scene, embedded below, to The Hollywood Reporter. The movie, I’m Not Ashamed, is based on Scott, who became an outspoken Christian before she was murdered.
What some are objecting to most is the conversation she had with her killers that day, given there’s no mention of it in official police reports.
But the conversation is based in large measure on testimony from the only surviving witness: Costaldo, who was in a coma while police collected evidence. When he awoke, he told his mother what he heard before the killers took the shot that killed Scott.
“They were yelling at her about God and do you believe in God. That was literally the last minute of her life,“ Costaldo’s mother told Rachel Scott’s brother, Craig, in a conversation captured by NBC for a Dateline special.
On that fateful day, April, 20, 1999, Craig Scott, a sophomore, was in the library, where most of the shooting at Columbine High School took place.
“I heard the shot that took my sister's life. I thought it was a prank — that some seniors brought fireworks to school,” Craig told THR. “When I escaped the library, I actually ran right past her body and didn’t realize it.”
In the movie, which Pure Flix opens on Friday, Harris asks: “Well, Rachel, where’s your god now?”
“What would Jesus do?” says Klebold.
“Do you still believe in God?” asks Harris.
“You know I do,” Rachel answers.
“Then go be with him,” Harris says before firing the fatal shot.
But the conversation is complete fiction, some counter. ThatAtheistShow.com, for example, says of the filmmakers: “It is shameful that they are framing the entire premise of this movie around allegations that do not have any evidence to support them. The accounts of that day, actually, directly contradict them.”
In fact, though, Costaldo told a newspaper that not only did the killers ask Rachel about her faith but that he, too, was asked if he believed in God, and he answered truthfully that he did not, and his life was spared.
Craig Scott says the conversation between the killers and his sister rings true to him because he witnessed a similar exchange in the library.
“I know from the library how brave it was for my sister to say yes, because, what happened there, was a girl simply said, ‘Oh God,’ and that’s what caught their attention,” Craig recalled.
“She was crying and begging for her life. They asked her four times if she believed in God, and finally she said yes, and that’s when I heard gunshots. Her name was Val Schnur.”
Adding to the confusion over what was and was not said that day is that the words spoken by Schnur, who survived her wounds, were initially attributed to Cassie Bernall, who was killed in the library. Bernall was the sixth of 13 people Klebold and Harris murdered before they committed suicide.
Most of the victims were in the library, where two of Craig’s friends were shot, one after the killers hurled racial slurs his way, then Harris and Klebold left the area.
“I think they figured they did enough damage in that area. They were kind of playing God, deciding who should live and who should die. They killed this person, then that person, then moved on," said Craig Scott.
“I thought I was going to die. One of them said, 'I wonder what it would be like to use a knife on somebody,’ then they threw a little bomb toward me. It bounced off a table. I pretended to be dead," he said.
Those who object to the movie lobbied YouTube to take down the official trailer posted by the filmmakers, and the Google-owned company complied for 11 months before acknowledging it was wrong to do so.
“With the massive volume of videos on our platform, sometimes we make the wrong call on content that is flagged by our community," YouTube told THR. “When this is brought to our attention, we review the content and take appropriate action, including restoring videos or channels that were mistakenly removed.”
Atheism-is-Unstoppable, a YouTube channel with 71,000 subscribers, also objects to I'm Not Ashamed, and posted a 24-minute scathing review of the film’s trailer. The review belittles Christians, and some complain it also demeans minorities and special-needs kids. See the video here.
“This is a real event and they want it told the way it happened, and I can respect that,” said Craig Scott. “But they’re not privy to the information we have. All they have are police reports and news articles.”
Craig Scott and his mother are also attacked online for profiting from the death of Rachel Scott, given they tour schools nationwide telling her story.
“We’ve stopped a dozen school shootings and 500 kids said we helped prevent their suicides. Money has never been our motivation. It’s a mission,” said Craig Scott. "I have friends from Columbine who ask, ‘How can you still talk about this?’ If they go on one trip with me, they’d understand.”
Craig Scott said he met Harris and Klebold only once, at the home of a mutual friend. "I felt really intimidated by them. They were in a dark basement, and Eric took me to a computer and said, 'Hey, check this out.' They were looking up how to build a pipe bomb. I thought it was for Fourth of July, so I said, 'cool.' I had a really bad vibe when I walked out."
Of the controversial scene in the film, Craig Scott maintains it is true to life, even if the dialog isn't verbatim.
"Eric and Dylan knew her, and that conversation happened," said Craig Scott. "There is audio tape of them calling her a 'stuck-up Christian bitch.' She may have died anyway, but in that moment, she was killed for her faith."