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05-18-06 ‘Da Vinci’ debate at a theater near you

By Shelley Grieshop
sgrieshop@dailystandard.com

  A group of local residents -- mainly Catholics -- are planning a peaceful protest near the Celina theater Friday night when the controversial movie "The Da Vinci Code" makes its debut.



  Janet Ramsey of Celina says she is organizing a "nonconfrontational" prayer vigil. Her hope is to deter would-be moviegoers from attending the Sony Pictures film that she and other religious leaders say is filled with grossly inaccurate accounts of Jesus' life and the history of the Catholic church.

  "This isn't a banner-waving protest. It's just a show of support for Christ," Ramsey says about the prayer vigil to begin a half hour before the 7 p.m. show.

  Ramsey says she has not read the book on which the movie is based "and doesn't plan to."

  The group, which by Wednesday had grown to about 30 people, plans to recite aloud the rosary and other prayers from a spot directly across the street. They will not yell or physically prevent anyone from seeing the film, Ramsey says.  Catholics and other religious denominations across the country have taken offense to the blockbuster production directed by Ron Howard, which is based on Dan Brown's suspense-filled novel. Perhaps the most controversial story line in the book -- and likely to be presented in the movie -- is that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and sired a child with her.

  The fact that the movie questions the traditional understanding of Christ's life on earth is enough to fuel the religious fire. Following the release of the book in 2003, Brown said the fictional book was based on ancient history, secret documents and rituals that were factual. He reportedly admitted he wrote the novel to explore his interest in Christian history and stir debate among readers.

  The plot begins with a murder inside the Louvre. Clues left in Da Vinci paintings lead to the discovery of a religious mystery.

  Hollywood star Tom Hanks co-stars with Audrey Tautou in the PG-13 film.

  On Wednesday the movie was given an overall cool reception by critics who viewed it at the Cannes Film Festival in France. At least one critic used the word "plodding," saying the flick was slow to the point and anti-climatic.

  The film's producers were previously asked by religious leaders to provide a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie stating the contents are fictional, but they've refused explaining it's not standard practice in other fictional films.

  Catholics who've spoken out against the book and film fear some viewers who aren't well educated about the Roman Catholic faith may believe what they see and hear.

  "Maybe people won't realize they are being taken in," Ramsey says. "It (the story) has things in it that can be spiritually poison to someone not totally informed of Christianity."

  Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczk of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati says he doesn't believe the faith of "solid Catholic Christians" will be undermined by the storyline, however "those who see the film or read the book may find that they are left with questions that they cannot answer."

  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have created a Web site at www.jesusdecoded.com to "present the facts behind the fiction," they state.

  Ramsey, a member of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Celina, says she's never led any type of rally before and is even a bit embarrassed about the attention she's drawn. But she is steadfast in her belief that the makers of the film are spreading lies about Christ's divinity.

  "The thing with movies is if you see something in picture form it seems to be more long lasting, more believable," she says.

  Celina Police Chief Dave Slusser says he gave Ramsey the OK to assemble the peaceful protest when she contacted him earlier this week. Safety is his only concern, he says.

  "We may block off a few parking spaces or assign an officer to stay in the area," Slusser says. "I have no problem with anybody who wants to use the concept of public assembly as long as they stay within the law."

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