CAMP HILL, Pa. (WHTM) — A Christian church on the West Shore is facing criticism for allowing a movie premiere that featured Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor Doug Mastriano.
Christ Community Church, which is located just off Route 15 near Camp Hill, says their phone lines and social media blew up after they decided to allow the film to be shown in their facility.
abc27’s Dennis Owens, who was the only reporter at the premiere Tuesday night, spoke with church leadership the following morning.
During their conversation, leadership noted that they agreed to let the film producer, “The Return of the American Patriot: The Rise of Pennsylvania,” lease their facilities to show the movie. They did not, however, endorse the film or Mastriano as a candidate.
In fact, church leaders said they saw the movie ahead of time and not only requested editing out several overtly political scenes, but also consulted with lawyers.
Though people have voiced concerns and criticism for their premiere showing, church leadership says they still believe it was the right one to make because they support the theme of the movie — grassroots folks need to speak up and get off the sidelines.
“We want to be engaged. The church ought to be engaged. A lot of individuals want to shut down the church. That’s not quite us. We’re saying, ‘No we want to be engaged, we want to step out, we want to do it right,'” said Pastor John March with the Christ Community Church. “We tried to do it right, we believe we did it right. We believe we’re within our rights as far as the law is concerned. We don’t believe we stepped out of bounds, quite honestly, in any way.”
The film focused on mask mandates and shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some theaters canceled their screenings despite hundreds buying tickets, movie producer Ralph Cochran told a Lancaster newspaper.
Before and after the premiere, there were plenty of complaints from some and praise from others. However, the church leaders say they have not yet received any official reprimand of any type and they likely won’t. Legal experts tell Owens that it’s an area the government does not like to tread.
“I think they assumed the risk at this church and they probably know that in the end nothing is going to come of it,” said Dickinson College President John Jones, a former federal judge.
“If I had been their counsel I would’ve cautioned them against doing that because it’s not just the showing of the video but it’s the video accompanied by the candidate.”
Church leaders say they’ve gotten praise and complaints, but thus far have not been sanctioned by any governmental agency.