Congressman Launches Inquiry Into 'God's Not Dead 2' Billboard Controversy

God's Not Dead 2 Still - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of Pure Flix

God's Not Dead 2 Still - Publicity - H 2016

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher wants to know why filmmakers were given the runaround for so long that they had to abandon their quest for a sign at the Republican National Convention.

Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher said Friday he will conduct an inquiry into why a sign advertising the Aug. 16 DVD release of God's Not Dead 2 was deemed too "incendiary" for the Republican National Convention, which kicks off Monday in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Hollywood Reporter first reported Wednesday that the sign was nixed after several emails back-and-forth between the sign company, Orange Barrel Media, and the filmmakers, ended with so many delays that it had to be nixed entirely.

"I think it's up to the Republicans to explain why something so significant to a vital part of its constituency was treated this way. There's no excuse to be taking the Christian vote for granted," said Rohrabacher.

The sign was to feature the image of Melissa Joan Hart, the star of the film, with the text: "I'd rather stand with God and be judged by the world, than stand with the world and be judged by God."

One of the emails to the filmmakers said the sign would never be approved because it is "too political" and "way too incendiary." Orange Barrel, though, was vague about who was objecting to the text, one time citing the GOP, other times the city of Cleveland. The city confirmed it had a problem with the size and location, but not the content of the sign.

The RNC was unavailable for comment on Friday, but the filmmakers say they doubt anyone there would have objected, considering the party is co-sponsoring a screening of the film in Cleveland on Sunday.

"I don't know who is to blame, but I will be asking. I will be tracking this down," said Rohrabacher. "This didn't play out well, and it could cost the Republicans."

Orange Barrel said there was "no bias" intended, blaming the snafu on city ordinances.

But Orange Barrel "picked the building and the size, and advertised that it was available," said Steve Fedyski, the COO of Pure Flix, which distributed the film. 

Fedyski said he agreed to pay $64,100 for the sign two months ago, then the emails complaining about the content of the sign started coming. "They dragged us along for weeks. Now, right up against the convention date, they say we aren't approved," he said. "My speculation is that someone, somewhere didn't want our message out."

The congressman from California's 48th District said he wants to find that someone.

"This has nothing to do with Congress but with the party, and it shouldn't be tolerated. I'll be going to the people responsible for the convention, and find out if there was any discrimination," said Rohrabacher.

He added: "The sign company has every right to make whatever decision it wants, but the Republican party should make demands that the views of Christians are welcome. We should ensure this sort of snobbery doesn't happen at our convention."

While the God's Not Dead 2 sign won't appear near the convention, one from a pro-atheist group called the Freedom From Religion Foundation will. It has a picture of President Ronald Reagan on it with the text, "We establish no religion in this country ... Church and state are, and must remain, separate."

That sign appears on a billboard owned by Clear Channel. The Freedom From Religion Foundation plans more than 30 pro-atheist signs at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia later this month.