The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) in June began promoting a program on church-state separation produced by a film company with close ties to the most extreme elements of the Religious Right.
The program, called “The Wall of Separation,” is a production of Boulevard Pictures, a California company run by a man named Jack Hafer. Hafer is a fundamentalist Christian who told one interviewer that Christians have an obligation to “shape the culture” and “spread the faith.” He urged Christian young people to go into the arts as “kingdom-spreaders” and as “a form of missionary service.”
The writer and director of the piece is Brian Godawa, also a fundamentalist Christian with far-right views. Godawa has called the acclaimed film “Brokeback Mountain” a “brilliant piece of subversive homosexual propaganda” and asserted that gay people are seeking “to overthrow the Christian paradigm of morality.”
Research by Americans United shows that Godawa is linked to the most extreme wing of the Religious Right. he penned movie reviews for a time for the Chalcedon Foundation’s Web site. Chalcedon espouses “Christian Reconstructionism,” a religious-political viewpoint that regards secular democracy as antithetical to the Bible and seeks to turn America into a fundamentalist Christian theocracy. Godawa also was a featured speaker at American Vision’s “2006 Worldview Super Conference,” a Reconstructionist event.
Godawa wrote and directed the documentary, which questions the concepts of religious pluralism, secular government and the church-state wall. Promotional materials for the program state, “[W]hat would surprise most Americans is the discovery that this is not what the Founding Fathers of our country intended when they established our nation and wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights. They in fact had a radically different definition of establishment and the role of religion in state and federal governments than we do today. So radical, in fact, that some say the modern understanding of the role of religion in the public square is exactly the opposite of what the Founders intended.”
Americans United got wind of this program last year and wrote to PBS officials to express its concerns on March 16, 2006. In its response, PBS disavowed any connection with the program.
When Godawa continued to tell his supporters that PBS was going to distribute the program, AU wrote to PBS again. In an April 18, 2007, response, PBS Vice President John F. Wilson conceded that the program “was submitted, reviewed and accepted for distribution through PBS Plus, a service that provides stations with programs they may schedule locally to supplement the PBS primetime national schedule.”
Wilson defended the decision to promote the program as serving “our mandate to present a diversity of viewpoints on issues of public importance.”
AU argues that a mandate to include a diversity of views does not mean distributing programming produced by far-right activists pushing a theocratic agenda.
Ironically, the program includes clips of AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn. It is unclear how Godawa got the clip, but Lynn wanted to make it clear that neither he nor Americans United supports the distorted view put forth in “The Wall of Separation.”