Church of God Sues 'Salvation Boulevard' Distributors Over Cross Logo

A Pentecostal and evangelical church group based in Tennessee has filed a lawsuit against the distributors of Salvation Boulevard, an independent film centered on a megachurch and its pastor's unholy acts, for allegedly violating a trademark on their copyrighted cross logo.

The Church of God claims in the lawsuit filed last week that Mandalay Pictures, IFC, Sony, and Comcast are using a mirrored version of their logo and that the symbol is protected by copyright. The "Cross Mark," as it is called, features a cross with a semi-circular flame.

The group claims the four companies are responsible for copyright infringement, trademark infringement and unfair competition and demands that all screenings of "Salvation Boulevard" come to a halt until the matter is resolved.

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The symbol allegedly used in the film and the one used by the Church of God do appear somewhat similar, but some question anyone's right to copyright the 2,000-year-old symbol of Christianity. The U.S. Copyright Office holds registrations for thousands of symbols that make use of the cross.

The church group claims they have been using their unique "Cross Mark" cross design for business-related purposes in the United States since 1986. The Church of God registered their variation of the cross for copyright protection in January 2010.

"Salvation Boulevard," recently released after a successful run at the Sundance Film Festival, is about a born-again Christian man who discovers that the pastor of a megachurch is up to no good. He finds himself faced with faithful followers willing to go to any length to keep things quiet.

The movie, based on a novel of the same name, is directed and co-written by George Ratcliff, and stars Greg Kinnear, Pierce Brosnan and Marisa Tomei.

Ratcliff, who grew up in an evangelical Christian home, is also responsible for the 2001 documentary "Hell House," in which a mega-church tries to scare kids into the faith through a haunted house.

When asked about his view on religion, Ratcliff told The Wall Street Journal that he is not trying to “debunk Christianity” or make a faith-based movie.

"There’s so much comedy to be had in this world, but everyone’s afraid to touch it because it’s thought of as an explosive issue or something," he said. "But this is not an issue movie, it’s a comedy."

The Church of God claims to have hundreds of member churches in the U.S. and around the world. In their lawsuit, the group is asking for an undisclosed amount in financial compensation and to cover attorney fees.

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