CNN's Morgan Spurlock followed in the footsteps of Christiane Amanpour on Sunday's Inside Man by giving faithful Christians much more harsh treatment than practicing Muslims. Spurlock denounced a pro-traditional marriage sermon by the pastor of a mega-church: "Being somebody who has a lot of friends and family who are homosexuals, it's hard to believe that there's only one way. And it's part of the problem that I have with religion in general."
By contrast, the TV personality sympathized with the apparent plight of Muslims in Tennessee – despite Islam's own condemnation of homosexuality. Spurlock zeroed in on a Muslim woman who has "witnessed the groundswell of Islamophobia first hand," and helped her lobby against proposed legislation in the Tennessee statehouse: [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]
MORGAN SPURLOCK (voice-over): Today, Renziya [Suleyman] and I are lobbying against an education bill....that could limit the teaching of minority achievements in school curriculum....
RENZIYA SULEYMAN: I can say that we are going to count on your support?
REP. JOE PITTS, (D), CLARKSVILLE, TENNESSEE: A hundred and ten percent.
REP. JASON POWELL, (D), NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE: Yeah – thank you.
REP. HAROLD LOVE, JR., (D), NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE: Thank you – so good to see you.
SPURLOCK: Nice job. (high-fives Suleyman) She killed it.
The director of the documentary Super Size Me, who is an agnostic, visited places of worship in and around Nashville, Tennessee for his hour-long episode about religion and atheism in the U.S. The mega-church that he visited, Cornerstone Church, has a congregation of more than 3,000 people. He sat in on a worship service there as Pastor Maury Davis preached about the sanctity of marriage:
PASTOR MAURY DAVIS, CORNERSTONE CHURCH, NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE: ...The purpose of marriage is mutual satisfaction, as well as reproduction. God said, you shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female. It's an abomination. You don't get to make up your own walk with God. When we have a society that 80 percent of the people say they believe in God, and a majority of Americans say they're Christians, but they vote for...somebody who wants to promote homosexuality as the same as traditional marriage, you have a problem in your walk with God; you have a problem in your biblical understanding. And there's something wrong in a Christian nation that elects people, that want to destroy biblical values, and we've got to stop that and get back to the Bible.
Spurlock injected his remark about his "problem with religion in general" after playing the excerpt from Pastor Davis, and continued by pointing out that "he's not only the pastor of this mega-church, he's also a convicted murderer." He then asked the church leader about his criminal past, and about his beliefs on salvation and homosexuality:
SPURLOCK (on-camera): Has God forgiven you?
DAVIS: Oh, absolutely.
SPURLOCK: How do you know?
DAVIS: His word says so. Had I not had that moment that I had faith in Christ, they would have either electrocuted me, or put me in prison for the rest of my life, and – and I wouldn't be here today....I told the church not too long ago, I don't deserve to pastor this church. I don't deserve to have the life I have. Everything I have is because of God's amazing grace. You know, being born again actually means that God writes your name down in the Lamb's book of life. When you get to heaven....if your name's not in the book, you don't get in.
SPURLOCK: What about somebody like Gandhi? Where is Gandhi get to go?
DAVIS: I don't know. I didn't know Gandhi....
SPURLOCK: ...Are there any homosexuals in your congregation?
DAVIS: Yes, they are – yeah.
SPURLOCK: And so, you're basically telling them, you're going to go to hell....but they still keep coming back.
DAVIS: They know I love them.
SPURLOCK: Yeah. But do they have a different interpretation of the Bible?
DAVIS: Yes, they do.
SPURLOCK: They're like, you could say whatever you want – we don't agree with you.
DAVIS: We probably have about 30 people that are either practicing or struggle with homosexuality than I'm aware of. I'm sure-
SPURLOCK: Yeah – probably more than that.
DAVIS: And you know, we love them all.
SPURLOCK: You know, in a world where we live and people continue to talk about the separation of church and state, is the pulpit the place to talk about issues?
DAVIS: America has a long Christian history. The word 'religion,' when they founded our constitution, didn't mean Muslim, Buddhism. It meant Baptist, Methodist – it meant the different religions within Christianity.
SPURLOCK: So, when you hear freedom of religion, you believe freedom of religion in America doesn't apply to other religions?
DAVIS: No, I do, but I think we need to understand the original definition was not for other religions to practice. I disagree with the other religions, but I believe in the freedom to practice, because God gave people the freedom of choice as long – as they don't fly planes or kill people, or stuff of that nature.
Spurlock concluded the segment by asserting, "Maybe not the most tolerant views from Pastor Davis, but then again, religion is not without its controversies. One thing is for certain: being judged or excluded will definitely not be a part of 'the gospel of Morgan.'"
Several minutes later, the CNN host introduced Renziya Suleyman with a softball interview that he did with the Muslim resident of Tennessee. He asked her, "what are the biggest stereotypes" about Muslims, and why she started wearing the veil again. Spurlock then spent the rest of the segment detailing her lobbying efforts over the past several years – first against an "anti-sharia" bill that, in his words, would "in effect...have outlawed being a practicing Muslim in Tennessee;" and a current "education bill....that could limit the teaching of minority achievements in school curriculum."
After helping Suleyman lobby around the Tennessee state capitol, Spurlock tracked down one of the supporters of the so-called "anti-sharia" law – a member of the local chapter of the conservative group Eagle Forum – but she refused to talk to the film director. Perhaps she knew that she wouldn't get fair treatment from Spurlock.
It should be pointed out that there was a bias in the music selections between the two segments as well. The series played dark, moody music as Pastor Davis gave his pro-traditional marriage sermon. By contrast, they played more upbeat music during the segment with Suleyman.
Spurlock also dressed up as a Catholic priest in the commercials promoting this episode of Inside Man. One wonders what kind of outcry would have been raised if he dressed up as a Saudi prince instead.