There Are Several Good Reasons To End Entertainment Industry Subsidies, But Blasphemy Isn't One Of Them
from the free-speech-doesn't-work-that-way dept
There are a lot of arguments to be made against subsidizing movie/TV studios. The best argument is this: the payouts to visiting studios rarely pay off for local taxpayers. Politicians love the side benefits — rubbing elbows with producers, actors, and other studio personnel — but there’s nothing to be gained financially by paying a studio to film in your town. In one case, a city was promised 3,600 additional jobs. In reality, only 200 jobs materialized, all but 14 of those temporary construction work.
Then there’s the argument against using public funding to prop up an out-of-town industry. If there are extra tax dollars around, they’re better spent locally, where they’ll do the most good. Subsidizing businesses is always problematic. It skews incentives and allows governments to play favorites using the public’s money.
But the worst argument someone can make against subsidies is this one: subsidies should be content-based. Two members of the clergy and a state politician are bent out of shape because a subsidized TV series shoot resulted in the depiction of a historical figure in compromising positions.
The AMC series “Preacher” has portrayed Christ in a graphic sex scene that combines blasphemy with pornography.
The August 21 episode titled, “Dirty Little Secret,” showed an actor playing the role of Jesus having sex with a married woman in an extended, graphic scene with explicit vocals. The director used shadows and silhouettes to soften the two figures as they engaged in various sexual positions, but these cinematic techniques did not disguise the pornography.
We have laws governing porn which are mostly hands-off, provided producers follow several regulations. We certainly don’t have blasphemy laws, thanks to a separation of church and state. But never mind the legal details. This small collective of pearl-clutchers wants legislators to pull funding solely because the imagery in this episode may have offended some members of one religion.
We respectfully request that the Administration, and the Office of Louisiana Economic Development, reject all efforts by AMC to obtain tax credits for the series “Preacher” and the episode which blasphemed Christ. We call upon the Administration and the Louisiana Office of Economic Development to flatly reject this request for a $16.2 million tax refund check.
The op-ed notes the state of Louisiana has a law prohibiting the use of public money to fund pornography. That’s all well and good, but just because the writers call the images that offended them porn doesn’t make them porn. To buttress this argument with talk of blasphemy only adds to the problem, ensuring that any state legislators attempting to follow through on this dubious suggestion will engage in multiple constitutional violations.
Thus, the larger truth is that there is never a good time to reward production companies that trash our Louisiana values, mock our beliefs– and dishonor Christ.
The state should definitely reject the request for a $16.2 million subsidy by AMC. If AMC is so keen on shooting scenes in Louisiana (or any other state), it should pay its own way. But it shouldn’t do it for any of the reasons suggested here. It should end the subsidy program completely, rather than risk looking like it’s making content-based decisions about what type of speech it’s willing to fund.