INDIANAPOLIS - The Indianapolis Colts’ first Super Bowl appearance made Calvary Temple want to party like it never had before.
The church planned a Sunday shindig for about 100 young adults, complete with snacks and a big screen TV to watch the game.
“It’s just a good opportunity to get everybody together, have some fellowship and fun and watch the Super Bowl,” business manager Bill Kaler said.
But temple leaders scrapped the idea after learning the NFL stopped a similar get-together at another Indianapolis church, saying it would violate copyright laws.
“I didn’t realize the Super Bowl was a copyrighted thing,” Kaler said.
Neither did several congregations around the country that have since curtailed or abandoned party plans to avoid ending up on the wrong side of the law.
Church leaders say the Super Bowl has turned into an annual way to connect with their community.
In suburban Chicago, Poplar Creek Church plans to host about 100 people to watch the game on a big-screen TV in the sanctuary. Pines Baptist Church north of Miami plans to host flag football games before guests gather to eat and watch Sunday’s Colts-Bears game, Pastor Luis Acosta said.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said these gatherings are fine, as long as the churches stay within certain guidelines. That’s where Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis went wrong.
The church planned to charge admission to cover the food tab for its party and show the game on a big screen using a projector. It also promoted its “Super Bowl bash” on the church Web site.
Those are some copyright no-no’s. The league’s long-standing policy is to ban “mass out-of-home viewing” of the Super Bowl except at sports bars and other businesses that televise sports as part of their everyday operations, Aiello said.
Places are prohibited from charging admission to watch the Super Bowl, and the law prevents them from showing the game on a TV bigger than 55 inches.
The idea is to honor the NFL’s contract with networks that provide free broadcasts of the game and to protect the Super Bowl trademark, Aiello said.
Major League Baseball and the NCAA have similar policies.
Aiello said the NFL has had to inform theaters, schools, museums, casinos and hotels about these limits. Officials also have talked to hundreds of churches in the past.
“They say ’Thanks’ and they have their Super Bowl viewing parties within the rules,” he said.
Others have spiked their plans.
In suburban Houston, members of the Cypress United Methodist Church decided Thursday to cancel their Super Bowl party after being told the gathering would violate the league’s copyright.
The church planned to charge a small admission fee to raise money for its youth mission activities.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
In Indianapolis, Fall Creek Baptist Church Pastor John Newland said he’s received about 200 e-mails since The Indianapolis Star first reported about the NFL’s letter. Some told him to hold the party anyway and dare the league to sue him.
“We think the law is wrong, and it discriminates against people of faith while opening up an exception to certain businesses who stand to make millions,” he said.
Even so, he has no intention of breaking the law. Instead, he wants to tell people about it to motivate change.
“We have to teach our kids that just because you don’t like a law, that doesn’t mean you have to break a law.”
Calvary Temple’s Kaler also preaches respect.
“If that’s the way it is, that’s the way it is,” he said. “I think being a church and a Christian organization, you’ve got to do what’s right.”
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