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Christians March Against Studio to Block ‘Insulting’ Movie About Savior

July 17, 1988

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. (AP) _ Fundamentalist Christians intensified their protest over the movie ″The Last Temptation of Christ″ Saturday by warning the chairman of a company involved in its distribution that the film threatens to harm Jewish-Christian relations.

″The film is demeaning to the figure of Jesus,″ said protest organizer R.L. Hymers Jr., pastor of the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles. ″It presents Jesus as a demented figure.″

About 200 demonstrators outside Universal Studios called on Lew Wasserman, chairman of Universal’s parent firm MCA, to withdraw the film, calling it an affront to Christians the world over.

″These Jewish producers with a lot of money are taking a swipe at our religion. Of course it’s going to cause a backlash,″ Hymers said.

The demonstrators marched quietly on Lankershim Boulevard in front of MCA headquarters and carried a banner reading: ″Wasserman Fans Hatred Toward the Jews With ‘Temptation’ Movie.″

A small plane also towed a banner overhead with an abbreviated version of the same message.

Hymers said Universal should accept an offer made Friday by Bill Bright, founder-president of San Bernardino-based Campus Crusade for Christ, to reimburse the studio’s estimated $10 million expenditure on the movie if Universal turns over all copies of the film so they can be destroyed.

″We’re simply saying Mr. Wasserman should take the $10 million from Mr. Bright and dismiss it as a bad investment,″ said Hymers. ″It’s bad for Jewish-Christian relations.″

″The movie places him in the position of appearing to be against orthodox Christianity,″ said Hymers, who added that he has not seen the film.

There was no answer Saturday at Wasserman’s office and no spokesman was available at Universal.

Universal has vowed to release the film in September and has accused the religious leaders of advocating censorship without having seen the film.

The studio has billed the movie as a look at the human side of Jesus and has defended director Martin Scorsese, who once studied for the priesthood. Scorsese ″deeply believes that this film is a religious affirmation of faith,″ Universal said earlier this week.

The movie adaptation of Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis’ 1955 book stars Willem Dafoe as Jesus, Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene and Harvey Keitel as Judas Iscariot. The Greek Orthodox Church condemned the book as heretical.

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