IFAS | Freedom Writer | June 1994 | schindler.html

Religious Right responds to 'Schindler's List'

Great Barrington, Massachusetts -- At a special screening of Schindler's List for high school students, anti-abortion radicals handed out literature about "America's Holocaust." The misguided protestors, members of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, attempted to exploit the emotions of students as they exited Steven Spielberg's acclaimed film about the Holocaust.

To date, the hard right has been almost silent about Schindler's List. The Freedom Writer, however, did find references to the film in the publications of three leading conservative Christian groups.

The Rev. Donald Wildmon is the Methodist minister whose AFA Journal "documents" how sex and violence on television and in movies leads to violence in real life. The April 1994 AFA Journal carried a short article about Schindler's List under the headline: "Movie influences shooting."

The article in its entirety reads: "A man who recently converted to Judaism shot a woman in the back during a San Diego showing of the holocaust [sic] movie Schindler's List. The local prosecutor said the man was trying to protect Jews. James Kirby, 45, has admitted pulling the trigger, but claims he did not expect the gun to fire."

Pat Robertson's Christian American, in nine paragraphs, tells the whole story of Schindler's List so none of its readers need to see it. "Regrettably," the article concludes, "the erotic nudity, graphic sex and explicit violence detract from what could have been an important and a great epic film and will put the movie off-limits to too many moral moviegoers."

Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family ministry publishes a weekly newsletter by fax called The Pastor's Weekly Briefing. Its issue of March 25, 1994 noted that Spielberg planned to donate some of the profits from the movie to provide free screenings for high school students.

The Colorado Springs-based group takes exception to this plan, saying that the film, "in its present form...features a sex scene showing frontal nudity, numerous uses of explicit profanity and violence unnecessary to the plot." It adds, "High schoolers exposed to this movie are likely to come away with more than just an understanding of the injustices of World War II." The group urges pastors to call Universal Pictures and demand a censored version for high school students.

Great Barrington resident Lorna M. Strassler funded special screenings of Schindler's List for thousands of Massachusetts high school students. After one showing, a front-page headline in The Berkshire Eagle read: "'Schindler's List' stuns area students into silence."

"These were high school kids being quiet," said senior Marc Samale. "Big tough football players and even obnoxious kids who make fun of the teacher. All of their heads were tilted down. It gave me a sense of awe."

"I'm just heartsick to think that could have happened to people," said Ashleigh Barry, a junior at Pittsfield's Taconic High School. "I hadn't really thought about the things [the Jews] had to do to survive, how they hid in toilets and sewers. I'd never gotten that before."

A classmate, Ryan Keegan, said, "I knew the Jews were treated cruelly, but the film showed just how cruel it really was. How if they didn't like you, bam, you were dead."

One teen, Lauren Cawse, won the gold medal at the state Academic Decathlon for her extemporaneous talk on Schindler's List. In a follow-up article she penned for The Berkshire Eagle, Cawse said of the three-hour-plus movie, "Every moment is vital."

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.