Sound Of Freedom

Lawsuit Filed After Troops On Florida Military Base Denied Screenings Of “Sound Of Freedom”

Sound Of Freedom (Angel Studios, File)
Sound Of Freedom (Angel Studios, File)

A leading conservative think tank has sued the Defense Department over its refusal to provide records related to the decision to cancel free screenings of a popular faith-based movie for troops.

According to the conservative website Trending Politics, the Heritage Foundation and Mike Howell, the leader of the group’s Oversight Project, filed the lawsuit after the Pentagon failed to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for documents about the incident in September.

As the Tampa Free Press reported at the time, the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command scheduled and then canceled two free screenings of the film “Sound of Freedom.”

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“Sound of Freedom” is a biopic of former Department of Homeland Security agent Tim Ballard and his efforts to save children from sex trafficking. Ballard quit the government and ventured into the dark realm of child sex slavery as the founder of an anti-trafficking group called Operation Underground Railroad.

A key aspect of the movie is how Ballard was motivated to act because of his devout Christian faith.

SOUTHCOM commanders initially welcomed the offer of the free on-post screenings because the movie showed “support of SOUTHCOM’s mission to promote respect for human rights and combating trafficking in persons in Central and South America and the Caribbean.”

“The showing of this film does not imply or constitute endorsement by the U.S. Army nor SOUTHCOM,” they carefully noted.

But before the reels rolled, SOUTHCOM canceled the event, although it did encourage soldiers to see the film at local private theaters.

The Army claimed it wanted to “prevent the appearance of copyright infringement.” Yet it was never explained how that could happen when the producers were offering the movie to the military.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio then got involved.

“As the producers and distributors of ‘Sound of Freedom’ have consented to screening the movie at SOUTHCOM, there is no issue with copyright infringement claims,” Rubio wrote to the top brass at the Pentagon in September. 

“I hope you agree that what matters is whether the movie is worth showing to the troops and potentially meeting the filmmakers, not whether the troops can buy a movie ticket or stream the film on their own,” Rubio added in calling for the screenings to be rescheduled.

That never happened. And the Heritage Foundation and Howell wanted to know why.

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In their lawsuit, filed last Thursday, the plaintiffs noted that they filed a public records request about the decision to scrub the film in order to seek “transparency on SOUTHCOM leadership’s reasoning to cancel the screenings.”

“Plaintiffs seek to understand the basis for SOUTHCOM’s decision and to determine whether factors outside of the stated reasons played a role in the cancellation and subsequent refusal to reschedule the screening,” they argued.

“The American people deserve to know whether this decision was motivated by political concerns or other factors apart from issues of copyright law and intellectual property.”

In court records, the plaintiffs note that the Army told them it could not likely meet the legal requirement to supply records within 20 days. Respondents requested an extension of 10 days.

The plaintiffs pointed out that the window of 30 business days closed on Oct. 27. Yet the Army has not made contact about the records request since Sept. 17.

Thus, they have asked a court to “declare unlawful Defendant’s refusal to disclose requested records,” compel SOUTHCOM to comply with the request, and cover their legal fees.

As Trending Politics reported, “The legal action by The Heritage Foundation and Mike Howell is more than just a dispute over a film screening. It represents a broader concern among conservatives about what they perceive as increasing censorship and suppression of Christian and conservative viewpoints under the Biden administration.”

The Tampa Free Press has reported on this as well.

This week, for example, the Free Press reported on a settlement between pro-life activists and the National Archives and Records Administration, which this month admitted that it wrongfully told anti-abortion activists touring the Archives to cover up or remove clothing with slogans showing their cause.

The Free Press also has reported on how President Joe Biden’s Justice Department has arrested pro-life activists and sought convictions for their protests at abortion clinics, while doing next to nothing to go after left-wing vandals who damaged or destroyed more than 100 churches and crisis-pregnancy centers after the decision overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked in May 2022.     

Last week, the Free Press also trumpeted a new report by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch concerning an anti-Catholic FBI memo.

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Judicial Watch found that a memo created by the Richmond field office that depicted conservative Catholics as followers of an “anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and white supremacist ideology” was circulated to field offices in Portland and Milwaukee as well as the agency’s Office of General Counsel in Washington.

The upshot was that FBI Director Christopher Wray had testified under oath to Congress that the document was “a single product by a single field office.”

Finally, back in May, as reported by the Free Press, Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services threatened to withdraw funding for federal health insurance reimbursements from the Saint Francis Health System.

HHS told Saint Francis, the largest hospital network in Oklahoma, that funding would evaporate unless administrators snuffed out a single candle, indicative of the system’s Catholic roots, that has burned in its chapel since the facility was founded in 1960.

HHS later reversed itself after the Becket Fund, a religious freedom legal aid group, said the demand violated Saint Francis’ First Amendment rights and pledged legal action.  

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