Churches can now show the Super Bowl on big screens, the National Football League said this week.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter dated Tuesday the league would not object to "live showings regardless of screen size of the Super Bowl" by religious organizations, according to The Washington Post.
The letter was address to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah).
Controversy arose when the NFL gave warning last year to an Indianapolis church not to hold a Super Bowl viewing party. Fall Creek Baptist Church had planned a gathering at church for about 100 young adults to watch the Super Bowl on a big screen and was going to charge admission to cover snack costs. It also promoted its Super Bowl party on the church Web site.
While the NFL allows churches to screen the big game, the Indianapolis church had violated the league's policy and copyright law which bans mass out-of-home viewing except at sports bars and other businesses that televise sports as part of their everyday operations, prohibits charging admission to watch the game, and restricts the TV screen to 55 inches.
This year, churches across the country canceled their annual Super Bowl fellowships in fear of getting flagged for copyright violations.
The restriction against churches showing the game upset some conservative leaders, including Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) who introduced a bill following the Giants vs. Patriots game that would allow churches to be declared exempt from the league's policy.
This week, the NFL said it would allow big-screen viewings in churches as long as admission is not charged and the showings are on premises that the church uses on a "routine and customary" basis.
Praising the NFL's action, Hatch said, "Many families want to enjoy the Super Bowl in a group atmosphere but obviously aren't going to take their kids to a sports bar."
Goodell said in the letter the NFL will implement the policy starting with next year's Super Bowl.