July/August 2012 Church & State | People & Events

Actor Matthew Modine joined forces with Americans United in May for a special benefit event featuring three of his films.

In the past few years, Modine has produced three short features dealing with diversity, social justice and the democratic process.

The provocatively titled movies – “To Kill An American,” “I Think I Thought” and “Jesus Was a Commie” – were shown at the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, Md. Following the screening, Modine participated in a discussion moderated by AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn.

Joining Lynn and Modine in the conversation were Laura W. Murphy, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, and Janet Parshall, a nationally syndicated radio host.

Modine has long had an interest in church-state separation and social justice issues. Last year, he portrayed Thomas Jefferson in a New York City musical event that benefitted Americans United. Well known for his role in the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket, Modine appears this summer in the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises.

In an interview with The (Montgomery County, Md.) Gazette, Modine explained his interest in church-state issues.

“Because we live in a country where it’s becoming more and more of an issue,” Modine said. “I mean, I wasn’t alive during the time when John F. Kennedy was running for president and just being a Catholic was an issue, but I think during the Republican debates there wasn’t one of the candidates who was running for the office who was willing to say that the world was older than 6,000 years old for fear of offending the Christians in the country who believe that dinosaurs were walking the Earth a few thousand years ago, as preposterous as that sounds.”

Modine also told Politico that he believes film can be used to project a political message. He said he made the three short films in the post-9/11 era to provoke thought and stimulate discussion.

During the May 23 panel discussion, Lynn quizzed participants on the issues raised by the films. Topics such as abortion, gay rights, access to contraceptives and economic justice were also raised. Participants, who took divergent views, held a spirited discussion and took questions from the audience.