Allah Is Not Dead 2 is reporting that a well-known actress is experience significant persecution ever since her latest film came out. Or at least, I think they’re reporting that. The headline very clearly states:

Melissa Joan Hart: ‘I’m Getting Grief for Playing the Good Christian Woman Who is Persecuted!’

Somehow, though, the article itself completely fails to mention any persecution actually being inflicted. In fact, it looks like carelessly dashed-off marketing material for the film. But I wonder how that ad copy would sound if we made just one small change in the premises?

Let’s start by changing the headline: Helena Joan Mart: ‘I’m Getting Grief for Playing the Good Muslim Woman Who is Persecuted!’  Ok, headline done, now let’s give the article a makeover:

“Allah’s Not Dead 2,” the faith-based film that opened April 1st, is “about taking the conversation about Islam in the public forum to a new level.”

That’s according to Helena Joan Mart, the actress who stars in “Allah’s Not Dead 2.” The film is the sequel to 2014’s “Allah’s Not Dead,” which was budgeted at $2 million and grossed over $60 million.

In “Allah’s Not Dead 2” Mart plays teacher Grace Wesley, who gets into trouble in her history class when she responds to a student’s question and compares the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed with those of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The school demands she apologize for violating the separation of church and state, and when Grace refuses a civil rights group convinces the student’s parents to sue Wesley.

In a recent interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Mart described the film and her role:

“For the longest time, while I played a witch on television [on ‘Sabrina, The Teenage Witch’], the Muslim community attacked me for popularizing the magic aspects on that secular TV show,” Mart said.

“Now it’s the opposite. I’m getting grief for playing the good Muslim woman who is being persecuted by the outside world!”

The actress, who makes no secret of her strong commitment to Islam, said she felt a calling to make this film. “Today, there are a lot of Muslims being persecuted for their faith,” said Mart, maintaining the strict separation of church and state has been taken to a new level, “far beyond the freedoms this country was founded on.”

In the process of making this movie, she was made aware of a couple of ironies. “In the past, mainstream Muslims were members of what we could call the big powerhouse religion at the time — and may have been doing a fair amount of persecuting minority religions. But now those Muslims feel their faith is something that is trampled on or ignored. Now the tables have turned.”

Funny, that article reads about the same to me either way, except for the fact that Muslims in America really are the targets of genuine persecution. As far as the role of religion in the “public square” is concerned, though, the two are about equal: teachers should be able to mention Jesus or Mohammed without fear of retaliation, but should not be free to preach either one in the public schools. Seems to me that’s only fair. But then again maybe that’s because I have a reality-based view of what religious freedom is.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    This looks like a pretty common affliction of “news” websites: the lazy or incompetent sub-editor. The headline was likely not written by the writer of the piece, but by a sub, who probably only skim read the article. Note also that the sub’s job is, among other things, to write headlines that are optimised for search engines so the article can be easily seen online, add keywords to make sure it appears in the right places on the website, create packages to direct readers to related articles, embed links, attach pictures. Amongst all that, the fact the headline even relates to the article at all is sometimes a bonus. See item 12 here:

  2. brucegee1962 says

    Ehh, I’m not seeing a problem with the headline, since it’s an actual quote from the actress. Sure, she could have given a bit more detail about exactly how she’s been “given grief,” but I’m sure it’s accurate, in that she’s had acquaintances in Hollywood give her a hard time for appearing in such a dumb picture.

    What we mainly see in the article, I think, is the underlying narrative these days that, for Christians, criticism=persecution. The character in the movie is actually persecuted (in a pretty unrealistic way), whereas Melissa Joan Hart was merely criticized. But in her eyes they’re the same thing.

    • jh says

      And there’s something slightly weird with how Christians handle criticism. There is the implication that only somebody who is “approved” has the right to criticize the religion. Unlike other fields, where one can be absolutely ignorant and yet criticize somebody or something, with certain Christians, you need to be on the approved list of arbiters. A Franklin Graham may have the right to criticize but a brucegee1962 doesn’t. This naturally cuts down on the list of valid criticisms and means the invalid criticisms must be persecution.

  3. Menyambal says

    I just saw the trailer for that movie, and I’d give her grief for appearing in it. (And if I were an old-fashioned Christian, I’d give her grief for being an actress at all. (When did actors go from being like prostitutes to being idols?))

    The trailer imagines a level of persecution that does not happen to American Christians, that will never happen to Christians in America, and that often comes from Christians in America. It’s paranoid projection.

    But, and here’s my point, there’s a line where the speaker fears being judged by God. There is no hope, no love, no antici . . . . pation, there is only fear. They are afraid of God and everybody.

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