WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) – A local theater has pulled all screenings of a film that features a pastor who business owners say has compared autism to possession from otherworldly entities.
In a Tuesday Facebook post, Abingdon Cinemall owners said that the complex would not be showing “Come Out in Jesus Name,” a film starring pastor Greg Locke.
According to marketing material for the film, Locke (who plays himself) and a band of comrades set off “the most important awakening in the history of the Christian Church” through the exorcism of demons. After the March 13 screening of “Come Out in Jesus Name”, marketing material encouraged viewers to attend simulcast events featuring Locke and “his fellow demon slayers” to experience “a supernatural mass deliverance… in Jesus name.”
“On the one hand, it is important that our general public be able to see any particular movie if that is their choice,” Cinemall’s post said. “The fact that a movie is controversial, whether for faith or political ideology reasons, has never stopped us from showing it before.”
But according to the post, Locke’s messages surrounding people on the autism spectrum mean it will not be showing in their business.
“On the other hand, one of the preachings of the debated film’s protagonist, Pastor Locke, is that autism spectrum and similar disorders are the result of demonic possession,” the post said. “I have family and friends with children who are autistic. They are all beautiful, loving souls.”
Original recordings of Locke’s “Desperate for Deliverance” sermon include comments that Cinemall owners reference.
“Do not jump up right now and rebuke me for what I’m about to say, but I read the Bible too much to worry about what you think,” Locke said during the sermon before making comments that received backlash from religious publications.
“Are you telling me my kid’s possessed?” Locke asked. “No, I’m telling you your kid could be demonized and attacked but your doctor calls it autism.”
It isn’t the first time the Cinemall has presented a faith-based film for the community, but the decision to pull Locke’s work could reportedly mean retaliation from his distributor.
“Only the large movie theater chains get to pick and choose what movies they show, and even then only rarely,” a comment by the business said before the film was pulled. “Refusing to show a film promoted by a film distributor can put a theater in jeopardy of that distributor passing that theater by with their next film releases. The distributor for Come Out In Jesus Name is the distributor of over 100 faith-based movies such as God’s Not Dead, FireProof, Left Behind, The Case For Heaven, Lifemark, I Heard The Bells, and The Chosen.”
In a final post about the issue, theater owners said the film would not be playing anytime soon.
“Fortunately those members of our community who wish to partake of Pastor Locke’s teachings can still do so in Bristol, because his movie will not play at Abingdon Cinemall, ever,” the post said. “If you purchased a ticket, you will be refunded in full.”
News Channel 11 has reached out to Abingdon Cinemall owners for comment on the matter.