Federal copyright law allows sports bars to show NFL games on screens larger than 55″, but churches are not extended the same luxury, says the Washington Post:
“There is a part of me that says, ‘Gee, doesn’t the NFL have enough money already?'” said Steve Holley, Immanuel’s executive pastor. He pointed out that bars are still allowed to air the game on big-screens TV sets. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
The Super Bowl, the most secular of American holidays, has long been popular among churches. With parties, prayer and Christian DVDs replacing the occasionally racy halftime shows, churches use the event as a way to reach members, and potential new members, in a non-churchlike atmosphere.
“It takes people who are not coming frequently, or who have fallen away, and shows them that the church can still have some fun,” said the Rev. Thomas Omholt, senior pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in the District. Omholt has hosted a Super Bowl party for young adults in his home for 20 years. “We can be a little less formal.”
The NFL said, however, that the copyright law on its games is long-standing and the language read at the end of each game is well known: “This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast or any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL’s consent is prohibited.”
The league bans public exhibitions of its games on TV sets or screens larger than 55 inches because smaller sets limit the audience size. The section of federal copyright law giving the NFL protection over the content of its programming exempts sports bars, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.
The issue came to a head last year after the NFL sent a letter to Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis, warning the church not show the Super Bowl on a giant video screen. For years, the church had held a Super Bowl party in its auditorium, attracting about 400 people and showing the game on a big screen usually reserved for hymn lyrics.
The letter “was really a disturbing thing,” said Marlene Broome, a spokeswoman for the church.
Hmmm. Anyone know how to legally transform a church into a sports bar?
NFL Pulls Plug On Big-Screen Church Parties For Super Bowl [Washington Post]
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)