Bill to Put Super Bowl Parties Back into Churches

Following the Giants upset on Super Bowl Sunday, a top Republican official introduced a bill this week that would allow churches to show the big game on big screens.

Under the legislation by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) of the Senate Judiciary Committee, religious organizations that want to show professional football games would be declared exempt, as reported by The Washington Post.

"The legislation simply provides churches with a limited yet justifiable exemption to allow them to bring their congregation together to watch the Super Bowl," said Specter on Monday. "In a time when our country is divided by war and anxious about a fluctuating economy, these types of events give people a reason to come together in the spirit of camaraderie."

The bill comes as several churches across the country canceled their annual Super Bowl fellowships this past Sunday in fear of lawsuits for copyright violations.
The National Football League has warned churches that showing the Super Bowl game on TV screens larger than 55 inches and in a space more than 2,000 square feet violates the league's copyright. Only sports bars and other businesses that televise sports regularly are allowed mass viewing of the games.

While many church congregations are against the NFL policy, arguing they want to provide a family-friendly alternative to watching the game surrounded by alcohol, many chose to abide by the law and break up into smaller groups to view the big game in homes or cancel Super Bowl parties altogether.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league has no objection to churches hosting Super Bowl parties as long as they abide by the rules. He also noted that thousands of mass showings at churches would significantly reduce network TV ratings, and thus cut the ad revenue.

This past Sunday, the game drew the largest Super Bowl TV audience in history, according to Nielsen Media Research. The New York Giants 17-14 upset of the New England Patriots was watched by 97.5 million viewers, which breaks the 1996 record of 94.08 million.

McCarthy said the league is reviewing Specter's bill.

Other legislators are also planning similar moves to back churches. Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), a former Redskins quarterback and evangelical Christian who has spoken at church Super Bowl parties, plans to introduce similar legislation by the end of the week, a Shuler spokesman said, according to The Washington Post.

Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) is also looking to come up with a solution and is talking with the NFL, he said.

"We just want to make sure that churches are not being unfairly discriminated against," said Broun spokesman Derek V. Baker. "We want them to be treated fairly."

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