Super Bowl Goes to Church

Churches got the blessing to throw Super Bowl parties this year. The National Football League said churches could show a telecast of the Feb. 1 match-up between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals, as long as they didn’t charge admission or use the words, “Super Bowl” in advertisements.

In years past, the NFL kyboshed screenings on anything larger than 55 inches, meaning no big projector set-ups were allowed. The policy gained attention in 2007 after the League went after the Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis for showing Super Bowl XLI with a wall projector. NFL attorneys claimed copyright violation, but backed off on the policy for this year’s game. The Rutherford Institute, a conservative think tank in Charlottesville, Va., sent a reminder to churches Jan. 15.

“In a Feb. 19, 2008 letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated that the League would not object to live showings of the Super Bowl by religious organizations, regardless of screen size, as long as the viewings are free and are on premises that the church uses on a routine and customary basis,” it said. “The NFL stated its intention to implement the policy starting with this year’s Super Bowl.”

Churches can’t charge admission, but they can accept donations to defray costs. And rather than refer to the event as a “Super Bowl” party, the Rutherford suggests something along the lines of “Big Game Party.”