Blog Post

Maher Misrepresents Movie to Film Scenes in Catholic Church

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer Comedian Bill Maher may have misrepresented his intentions in order to gain access to a Catholic church in New Jersey which he used in his virulent anti-God film, Religulous. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark, Jim Goodness, told The Record he was surprised to discover that portions of Maher’s offensive documentary included scenes filmed inside the comedian’s childhood church, Our Lady of Mercy in Park Ridge, New Jersey, especially after he turned down two requests to use the property – one from the filmmakers and one from the parish itself. The scenes involved Maher’s Jewish mother and a sister who discuss why his father stopped going to church. “This certainly would not be the kind of project we would have given a green light to,” Goodness said and explained that archdiocesan policy does not allow church property to be used for commercial purposes. “And I personally didn't trust Mr. Maher,” he added. Maher somehow managed to gain access to the church through the pastor, 66 year old Fr. Charles Grandstrand, who was told by the filmmakers that Maher wanted to present his mother with a gift on camera "because the church was such a big part of her life." Goodness added that neither he nor Fr. Grandstrand were told the real title of the film and that a fake title was used to disguise the movie’s true nature.   Maher has apparently used the same tactic to gain access to other religious sites seen in the film. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times earlier this month, Maher admitted that his crew was not always straightforward when securing interviews for the film.   “We even had a fake title for the film. We called it 'A Spiritual Journey,'" he said. Goodness said he doubted Maher's intention from the start, and feels the filmmakers pulled one over on Fr. Grandstrand. "I told him (Fr. Grandstrand) at the time that first came up. I said, 'I don't believe Bill Maher.' The woman was Jewish, so how could the Catholic Church be a central part of her life, which is what we were told when we were first approached?" Palmer West, owner of the movie's production company, Thousand Words, said he did not know how the filmmakers ultimately gained access to the church and that field producers had arranged it. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.