House Majority Whip Roy Blunt and other lawmakers are demanding explanations after hearing complaints that the movie "Facing the Giants" was rated PG instead of G due to religious content.
A PG rating means parental guidance is suggested because the MPAA believes some material may not be suitable for children. A G rating means the MPAA has found the movie acceptable for all audiences.
The Motion Picture Association of America claims the controversy arose from a miscommunication with the filmmakers. It says religion was not the reason for the rating.
"This incident raises the disquieting possibility that the MPAA considers exposure to Christian themes more dangerous for children than exposure to gratuitous sex and violence," Blunt said in a letter to MPAA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dan Glickman.
After meeting with MPAA officials, Blunt and a handful of other House members said they remain concerned about the subjective nature of the ratings process.
"I'm not satisfied," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who attended the meeting with Blunt. "We probably will want to revisit this ratings process to have some commonality in the standards that exist for movies, videos and video games."
Blackburn said she wants the House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold hearings on the issue later this year.
Blunt also brought up a recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health that found that the MPAA standards on sex and violence in movies have been getting weaker.
"Mr. Blunt does continue to have questions about the process by which 'Facing the Giants' was rated and what that says about ratings creep in general," spokeswoman Burson Taylor said Friday.
An MPAA spokesman did not return calls seeking comment. But in a letter to Blunt in June, the MPAA's Glickman insisted the rating for "Facing the Giants" was not based on religious content.
"Any strong or mature discussion of any subject matter results in at least a PG rating," Glickman said. "This movie had a mature discussion about pregnancy, for example. It also had other mature discussions that some parents might want to be aware of before taking their kids to see this movie."
Glickman said the movie's producers agreed with the rating and never appealed it.
The film's producers claim ratings officials changed their story after the controversy began.
"The first communication from the MPAA was that religion was a factor in the ratings," said Kris Fuhr, vice president of marketing at Provident Films, which is owned by Sony Pictures. "Since then, the MPAA has revised those factors to no longer include religion."
Fuhr says she is now satisfied with the rating and wants to move beyond the controversy to focus on marketing the film, billed as an inspirational drama about a high school football coach who relies on faith to battle fear and failure.