LOS ANGELES (Christian Examiner) – When a billboard company blocked a God's Not Dead 2 sign from going up in Cleveland last month, few could have predicted that the controversy would result in the movie getting more coverage – not less.
But that is exactly what happened, as the story was picked up by the Hollywood Reporter and other outlets nationwide — inspiring the owners of billboards in other states to donate their signs to the film company, PureFlix, that made God's Not Dead 2.
All total, more than 20 billboards have been donated for free to promote the DVD release of the faith-based film, which is now on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital platforms.
"Billboard companies have stood up and said, 'We support you and your message, and we want to gift you with a billboard," PureFlix co-founder David A.R. White told the Christian Examiner. "We accepted them and thanked them."
The irony of the controversy, White said, is that it affirmed the movie's message: that Christianity is being marginalized and targeted.
The 32-feet-by-60-feet prominent sign would have been seen by attendees of the Republican National Convention, but the billboard company, Orange Barrel Media, refused to put it up, according to the Hollywood Reporter. It showed a picture of Melissa Joan Hart – the movie's star – along with the message, "I'd rather stand with God and be judged by the world than stand with the world and be judged by God."
"Basically it all came down to they denied it because of their own belief system," White said.
Soon after the controversy, other companies began contacting PureFlix, wanting to donate space on their signs. Asked for his thoughts on why the companies did what they did, White said it was likely due to "freedom of speech."
"Whether or not somebody is a Christian or not, the bigger issue is that our country was founded on freedom of religion and freedom of speech," White said. "Whether they're Christians or not, they still hold to those principles that our country was founded on, and they want to support that. God bless them. We need more of those folks."
God's Not Dead 2 tells the story of a public school teacher who gets in trouble when – answering a question from a student – she explains the nonviolent teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus. She is sued, sparking an on-screen court case.
"People thought that we were crazy for even bringing up the issues," White said. "And [the billboard controversy] is a perfect example of how it exists and how it's happening in our society today."
The movie's final minutes teased a sequel, and White said a God's Not Dead 3 movie indeed "is in the works," although filming has not started.
"We're still working on the script for it," he said. "..."We're hoping [to release it] sometime next year, but it might be into 2018. We're not 100 percent sure."