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Controversy Over 'Temptation' Film

July 30, 1988

Universal Pictures' ad regarding its film (Part I, July 21) attempts to paint the controversy surrounding the film as a contest between freedom of expression and censorship. The real issue here is one of sensitivity and social responsibility--and Universal's lack thereof.

Universal has the constitutional right to release this film. No one is questioning that. But when it chooses to put out a movie that so blatantly attacks the most cherished beliefs of one of the world's great religions, it should be prepared to accept the subsequent backlash and whatever economic hardships that might entail.

Most major film studios in this country are sensitive enough and socially responsible enough that they do not even consider releasing a film that offends such a large segment of society. Certain topics and ideas are never made into films because they are just too abhorrent to the sensibilities of most citizens.

All decent Americans would be outraged if Universal, for example, released a film portraying Mother Theresa as a harlot or Jesse Jackson as a Stepin Fetchit-like character. If critics and objective press reports are correct, Martin Scorsese's film does an even greater disservice to Jesus Christ, making him out to be "sick in the head," confused and lust driven.

There is a time for righteous anger. And Christians have every right to follow their conscience regarding this film. Christians believe our world is desperate for the kind of hope that Jesus Christ offers. (Gangs, drug abuse and prostitution all feed on despair and hopelessness.) They are concerned that this film, which is based almost entirely on the imagination of a 20th Century writer, may lead certain impressionable people away from considering the Jesus of history.

For Universal to so recklessly muddy the reputation of the individual most associated with the altruistic, self-sacrificing love our society so desperately needs is a crime against humanity.

Any admirer of Christ--be he Christian, Muslim or Jew--must speak out against this atrocity.

ROBERT NEWMAN

Long Beach

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