(Photo: Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)
While most will remember Roger Ebert as an influential and witty film critic, one Washington, D.C.- based national church-state watchdog has hailed him as an ally.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State recently posted an entry on their blog "The Wall of Separation" detailing Ebert's stated support for church-state separatism.
Rob Boston, author and senior policy analyst at Americans United, posted the entry on Friday, dubbing Ebert "a great defender of the separation of church and state."
"Ebert, who died [Thursday] at age 70 after a battle with cancer, was, thanks to his frequent TV appearances, one of the most famous film critics in the nation," wrote Boston.
"But here's something you might not have known about him: He was a staunch defender of church-state separation."
Boston pointed to assorted columns by Ebert on social issues, wherein the film critic took issue with politicians wanting to introduce creationism into public school curricula and limit abortion access.
"If I believe my church's teachings are correct, my obvious course should be to convert you to my church, not pass laws forcing you to follow its beliefs," wrote Ebert.
"I'm going to miss Ebert's film reviews – the positive ones and the scathing ones – and I'm going to miss his insightful commentary on church-state issues. To that, I say, 'Two thumbs up!'" concluded Boston.
Born in Urbana, Ill., in 1942, Ebert would gain notoriety as the no-nonsense movie critic who wrote countless columns for the Chicago Sun-Times.
From 1986 until 1999, Ebert teamed with Gene Siskel for a television series that reviewed movies, with the duo creating the much coveted honor of getting "two thumbs up."
During his longstanding battle with cancer, Ebert had to have his lower jaw removed and went through radiation treatment in 2004. Despite the health issues, Ebert continued to review movies.
While periodically espousing liberal political viewpoints, Ebert was not without his own critics. Among these was the conservative site newsbusters.org, which is part of the Media Research Center.
In a 2009 entry by Rusty Weiss, a column by Ebert denouncing the criticism of President Barack Obama by Republicans was critiqued on many points, including Ebert's claim that when liberals attacked President George W. Bush, they "played by the rules."
"Come again? Apparently Mr. Ebert isn't aware of the term Bush Derangement Syndrome. Examples of which are so glaring and numerous, that they need not be mentioned," wrote Weiss.
"Playing by the rules means that when liberals do this to George Bush, it's funny – When conservatives do it to Obama, not only is it unfair, it's racist. For an uninspired, factually incorrect, and insulting piece of pseudo-intellectual drivel, I have to give Roger Ebert's editorial – two thumbs down."