The filmmakers of "2016: Obama's America" are questioning why some Christian media and even some Christian leaders are reluctant to give movie reviews or place ads of their documentary-style film. Although not financed by any political group, the movie critically questions President Obama's worldview and paints a dire future under a second-term should he be re-elected.
"Christians can be weirdly defensive and timid about standing up for what we believe. Maybe this is why we have let the culture slip away from us," co-producer Dinesh D'Souza told The Christian Post on Thursday. "This film is one that would passionately interest many conservative Christians, so it is downright strange that some Christian editors and Christian leaders would deny their audiences a chance to hear about it."
Christian news magazine WORLD did publish a review of "2016," but decided against selling ad space for the movie.
"We chose not to accept an ad for the movie. We did make a decision early on that we would not accept the ad and it wasn't because we disagreed with the movie or agreed with it," Warren Cole Smith, associate publisher of WORLD, told CP.
"The rejection of the ad had more to do with timing than anything. We've never accepted political advertising in the 26-year history of WORLD Magazine and while this ad was not explicitly from a campaign, the fact that they were coming to us within 90 days of election day and it was explicitly anti-Obama we felt that it violated our own policy of trying to be honest brokers when it comes to the political process," Smith explained.
"We want our readers to be able to trust our point of view and one of the ways that we have guarded that trust for our readers is to not accept political advertising and for us, out of an abundance of caution we decided to reject that ad," he said.
Still, the movie's filmmakers are perplexed as to why their banner ads, some that include an image of Obama and the text: "Love Him/Hate Him, You Don't Know Him," and the film's teasers, are viewed by some Christian media owners as implying their political endorsement.
"I may have a horoscope hotline Google ad come up on my website, but that doesn't mean I endorse astrology," a media observer told CP. "I don't understand why selling an ad on your site implies endorsement."
Christianity Today has not made a decision on running any "2016" ads, according to the movie's producers, but did decide against doing a review. However, the movie's success at the box office did catch the editorial team by surprise and the Christian news organization may do a "news story" on the film's unexpected popularity, said its senior associate editor.
"We generally avoid highly inflammatory political coverage. We often pass on political hot potatoes," Mark Moring told The Christian Post. "CT has never endorsed candidates or anything like that. I'll admit that when we decided to pass on it a few weeks ago we thought it was just going to be a blip on the radar screen.
"We are reconsidering doing something about it – not a review, but maybe just, 'wow, look at this movie that just flew in on its own and look, it has jumped into the top ten at the box office.' So, we may do a news story, maybe even talk to Dinesh," Moring said.
Dan Wooding, founder and chief editor of the ASSIST News Service explained that his news service has a board policy not to run any stories related to the U.S. presidential campaign, or domestic politics in general. ASSIST has no plans to run a movie review or news story about "2016" and does not normally publish advertisements of any kind on its online newswire-style service.
"We believe that we have a unique calling to just feature stories that relate to the persecuted church, world missions, popular culture and how it affects Christians and also about Christians from around the world who are making a huge difference in their communities," said Wooding.
"There are many other sources that run political stories and so we want to especially concentrate on the needs of our persecuted brothers and sisters," he said.
Last May, the religious freedom legal group, Pacific Justice Institute, decided against running any advertisements for the film when approached by marketers asking about placement at its annual banquet.
"I personally highly recommend people to see it. It's done in a way that respects the intelligence of the viewer," PJI President Brad Dacus told CP. "However, as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization we have constraints in an election year that do not allow us to promote one candidate through materials or film and not promote another candidate. Unfortunately we are limited by this tax law."
Despite his decision not to promote the movie at the PJI banquet, Dacus said he endorses the movie in a "personal capacity" and encourages other leaders of nonprofits, including leaders of churches and ministries, to do the same. He said PJI has been working with Congress to change the existing church and nonprofit group endorsement laws to include more freedom of expression.
"501(c)(3)s, particularly churches, have long been the conscience of the nation and such restrictions don't just restrict political expression, they restrict effectively the conscience of the nation," he said. "I encourage leaders in a personal capacity, and not representing their church or group, to do as I have done."