For the past two years, "The Godmakers," a polemical film critical of the Mormon Church, has been playing in conservative Protestant churches.
The Mormon Church, however, has not sued the evangelical Christian film makers.
Instead, the Utah-based church and two other organizations were sued by the film makers for criticizing the movie.
The makers of "The Godmakers" filed a $25-million suit in Los Angeles Superior Court last month against the Mormon Church, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League and certain individuals. The plaintiff, Cult Conspiracy Film Associates, the film's distributor, claims that these groups made false statements about the movie and thus discouraged rentals.
The suit cited a report by the Arizona regional board of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, which said the film "makes extensive use of 'half-truths,' faulty generalizations, erroneous interpretations and sensationalism. . . . We find particularly offensive the emphasis in the film that Mormonism is some sort of subversive plot."
The 56-minute film, produced by Jeremiah Films of Burbank, has stirred some local protests by Mormon individuals over the last two years but the Mormon Church for the most part has maintained an official silence.
The film's main writer and promoter is ex-Mormon J. Edward Decker of Issaquah, Wash., whose ministry, Saints Alive, tries to confront Mormons about church teachings.
One of the individuals named in the suit is Robert D. Starling, president of the Mormon Stake (diocese) based in Van Nuys. Starling, who has circulated a written personal rebuttal to points in "The Godmakers," said in an interview that he believes the suit was filed to gain publicity.
By charging that the film has caused them economic harm, he said, the film makers have demonstrated that they have "turned religious persecution into a business."