- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 24, 2002

The director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State is being sued in federal court in Alexandria for not allowing distribution of a tape in which he discusses homosexuality's compatibility with Christianity.
In a suit filed April 16, the Phoenix-based Alpha and Omega Ministries says Barry Lynn, a free-speech advocate and director for Americans United, does not want a debate in which he took part televised.
Recorded in May in Huntington, N.Y., the contested video contains a debate between James White, director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, and Mr. Lynn. The two discussed the question "Is homosexuality compatible with authentic Christianity?"
Alpha and Omega says it has "substantial" records showing that Mr. Lynn consented before the debate to the production and distribution of the videotape.
"There are no relevant copyright issues to contest. The videotape was recorded with full knowledge by all parties that it would be reproduced and distributed," says Benjamin Bull, who is representing Alpha and Omega.
"The irony here is palpable. Lynn has argued that even child pornography is protected by the First Amendment. But now he wants to censor a videotape in which he discusses the question of homosexuality and Christianity. Does that strike anyone else as a little unusual?"
After the debate, Mr. Lynn told Alpha and Omega he did not want the tape to be distributed despite his prior consent. Contacted at his Washington office, Mr. Lynn declined comment because he had not received a formal copy of the lawsuit. He has 20 days to respond.
Meanwhile, the ministry has a cease-and-desist letter from Larry Washor, Mr. Lynn's attorney, saying Mr. Lynn has a proprietary interest in the remarks made and use of his name. He said distribution would infringe upon this interest. He also said he would sue if Alpha and Omega Ministries distributes the videotape, reports Chuck Allen, a Richmond-based attorney also working on the case.
Mr. Bull notes that Mr. Lynn, who as a former American Civil Liberties Union lawyer argued that child pornography is protected by the Constitution, is trying to censor the videotape. Mr. Lynn is known for taking on his opponents, such as retired Marine and one-time political candidate Oliver North, in frequent debates on talk radio.
"In cases such as this one, the First Amendment protects the right to distribute the videotape as a newsworthy event," Mr. Bull says. "We will stand to protect the rights of those who want to see the videotape."
Profit is not the interest at stake, Mr. Bull added, because the ministry plans to distribute the video at cost. The debate was sponsored by the Great Debate Inc. of New York.

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