'Nativity' Ban Called 'Most Blatant' Form of 'Religious Discrimination'

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Chicago officials and organizers of a Christmas festival should reverse a decision to drop a movie studio as a sponsor because it planned to show the movie "The Nativity Story" on televisions at the event, a conservative legal group said Tuesday.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which specializes in constitutional law, said the decision to drop New Line Cinema from the city's German Christkindlmarket festival was "one of the most blatant forms of religious discrimination imaginable."

"To suggest that a movie about the birth of Jesus Christ should not be included in a Christmas festival is absurd," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ. "This transcends political correctness and centers squarely on religious bigotry.

"The City of Chicago and festival organizers are exhibiting an intolerance that is offensive to Christians who celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The city and festival organizers must respect the First Amendment and put an end to the discriminatory practices," Sekulow said.

Cindy Gatziolis, a spokeswoman for the Mayor's Office of Special Events, said the city did not want to appear to endorse one religion over another, according to an Associated Press report.

"Our guidance was that this very prominently placed advertisement would not only be insensitive to the many people of different faiths who come to enjoy the market for its food and unique gifts, but also it would be contrary to acceptable advertising standards suggested to the many festivals holding events on Daley Plaza," Jim Law, executive director of the office, was quoted as saying in a statement.

The ACLJ said the First Amendment, and local and state ordinances, protect freedom of religion and expression and prohibits religious discrimination.

The group plans to provide legal assistance during the Christmas season to make sure the Christian message is not excluded.

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