Wednesday, December 20, 2006

CHICAGO (AP) — A religious group set up a DVD player and TV set at a downtown Christmas bazaar to show a trailer for a movie depicting the birth of Jesus after the city dropped an objection to the display.

The city initially disapproved of the showing of promotional clips from “The Nativity Story” at the traditional German Christkindlmarket because the paid advertising for a Christmas movie could offend non-Christians.

The TV was in a padlocked wooden booth between a menorah and the Islamic crescent symbol yesterday morning, but the bazaar was closed.

Kevin Greenwood, a lawyer who in the late 1980s clerked for a judge who ruled the menorah could be displayed in the plaza, stopped by to see whether the menorah was still there. He said the movie trailer was out of place.

“If you want to express your religious beliefs with some kind of symbol, that’s one thing. But if you want to promote a movie, that’s commercial,” said Mr. Greenwood, 50, of New Lenox.

New Line Cinema had agreed to pay $12,000 to Christkindlmarket organizers to continuously play the movie trailer at the bazaar. Responding to warnings from the city, the organizers and movie studio canceled their deal.

But an organization called Civil Liberties for Urban Believers, representing a group of Chicago churches, obtained a city permit Tuesday to show the movie trailer at its own display at the bazaar, said the group’s spokesman, Thomas Ciesielka.

Mr. Ciesielka said his group was able to get a permit because its display isn’t commercial. The city risked violating religious speech statutes if they denied the request, he said.

Cindy Gatziolis, a spokeswoman for the city’s office of special events, said she could provide no information on the decision.

New Line Cinema, a unit of Time Warner Inc., has provided no money to the church group or the bazaar, said Christina Kounelias, executive vice president of the film company.

She said the original decision to cancel the trailer was “probably well-intentioned.”

“In an effort to be politically correct they behaved incorrectly,” she said Tuesday.

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