And no one - except sports bars, restaurants and other places that show games all year, of course - is allowed to use the words "Super Bowl" in promoting such a gathering or to charge admission.
And no one - except sports bars, restaurants and other places that show games all year, of course - is allowed to broadcast the game in connection with an event that promotes a message.
The Star got quite a response to its story on the controversy. Churches, as you might imagine, didn't really put up a fight, promising to abide by the law. The NFL, even in the face of all the bad publicity, refused to budge. Church parties across the country have been either seriously revised or canceled altogether.
The Rutherford Institute, a national organization that looks out for the religious liberty provided in the First Amendment, even failed to persuade the league, which insists this is not the first time it has warned a church and that all the hubbub is the fault of the media.
That's probably true. The media does pride itself in standing up for what is right.
Well, this year is lost. But barring some change in NFL policy or the copyright laws, here are a few suggestions for skirting them next year:
- Bill your party as an "Extra Large Deep Dish" gathering. Serve soup or chili in giant bowls, just to be safe, and charge a buck. Invite everyone to come and watch your giant screen television. Pick any program you like, but majority rules. Hang the Ten Commandments on the wall.
- Between now and then, churches could set up TVs in their cafeterias and show games all year long. Sell soda pops and snacks. Create Fantasy Sports leagues. Surely that would exempt them from copyright laws come Super Bowl time, and it would bring together members and their guests to watch football every weekend, every Monday and sometimes on Thursdays.
- Churches could hold their parties at the local sports bar or restaurant. Members could just order soft drinks and mingle. What a great way to witness. Everybody could wear a T-shirt with a Christian message. The kids could hang out at Fellowship Hall watching a screen smaller than 55 inches.
As you can see, there are still ways for David to slay Goliath.
Seriously, it is beyond ridiculous that the National Football League, the World Series, the Final Four or even the University of Kentucky can stretch "copyright" to these lengths. The sale and distribution of paraphernalia is one thing. Even the replay of a taped game is an understandable violation of copyright if it is used for financial gain.
But to suggest the live broadcast of the event will somehow be seen by fewer people if shown in large groups - or that the league will somehow lose money or reputation in the message - is a personal foul: "Roughing the fan."
John Nelson is the managing editor of the Advocate-Messenger in Danville, a sister newspaper of The Winchester Sun.