YouTube, home of everything from cat videos to college pranks, is accused of acting on an anti-Christian bias and blocking the promotion of the faith-based movie I’m Not Ashamed, which opens in theaters on October 21. For 11 months, producers from Pure Flix Entertainment have repeatedly asked YouTube to reinstate their video channel and explain why the company felt that the movie trailer was offensive, reports the Hollywood Reporter.
“It’s 11 months we’ve been fighting this battle. They actually took down the trailer and would not permit it to be put up.” says Bodie Thoene, co-writer of I’m Not Ashamed.
Thoene told FOX411 that YouTube “would not give any explanation, no explanation whatsoever… we’ve lost 11 months of being able to use social media freely. We feel it’s an interference with our freedom of expression.”
I’m Not Ashamed is based on the true story of Rachel Joy Scott, who was the first student shot by Dylan Kelbold and Eric Harris during the horrific Columbine school shooting in 1999. The film is from the same group who surprised movie critics with the successful release of God’s Not Dead in 2014.
This past week, the I’m Not Ashamed channel has been brought back up, but only after YouTube was questioned by the Hollywood Reporter, say the filmmakers.
Yesterday, YouTube released the following statement about the incident.
“With the massive volume of videos on our platform, sometimes we make the wrong call on content that is flagged by our community. When this is brought to our attention, we review the content and take appropriate action, including restoring videos or channels that were mistakenly removed.”
That’s not enough to satisfy film producer Chuck Howard, who created the channel a year ago with the movie’s trailer and behind-the-scenes footage. Last October, Howard was notified by YouTube that the movie trailer violated the website’s standards but declined to mention which standards had been violated.
When Howard appealed the suspension of his channel, he received another message from YouTube stating, “We have decided to keep your account suspended based on our Community Guidelines and Terms of Service.”
Even with the help of legal council from Massey, Stotser & Nichols in Alabama, Pure Flix tried unsuccessfully to get the channel reinstated.
“At the time the movie trailer for I’m Not Ashamed was removed from YouTube in October of last year, it had over 5 million views. Since its reinstatement, there are virtually no views,” says a letter to YouTube from attorney Garrick Stotser. “My client was never provided with any clear explanation or substantiation of why the movie trailer was removed. YouTube’s removal of the movie trailer has interfered with promotional activities of the film.”
Stotser is also asking for “compensation for the 11 months of lost online marketing for the movie.”
Even though YouTube has relented, the website has also given Pure Flix a “temporary penalty” warning that if the filmmakers continue to post further videos that are deemed offensive, it “could prevent you from posting content to YouTube or even lead to your account being terminated.”
Pure Flix still does not know for certain why the film’s trailer is deemed offensive — the video hasn’t been altered since it was brought down — but the filmmakers do have a clue. A Change.org petition against the movie trailer was signed by 1,868 people and was delivered to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper stating that the trailer “evokes a sense of glorification and entertainment” toward the Columbine shooting. However, the trailer doesn’t show the actual shooting, and the film’s focus is less on the actual shooting and more of a testimony of the film’s main character’s Christian faith. Howard suspects that is the real reason why the video was taken down.
“YouTube is an information monopoly that controls what people see. Google should be forced to sell it because they are skewing what people can see and do. This is ridiculous. If you look at all the objectionable videos on YouTube — beheadings, recruitment videos for ISIS — and they take ours down because it has the name ‘Jesus’ in it? It’s the only reason they’d take it down. Then, magically, it’s back up the moment the press calls them on it.”
I’m Not Ashamed is largely built from the personal journals of Rachel Joy Scott, who openly questioned her personal relationship with God.
In her journal, she states, “I don’t understand why having a walk with God is so hard for me. I’m so weak. At school, with friends, at work.”
Before the devastation happens, the audience can see the impact that Scott made on her friends.
The movie stars Masey McLain, Ben Davies, Sadie Robertson, Korie Robertson, Jaci Velasquez, and Jennifer O’Neill.
[Featured Image by Pure Flix]