UVU hosts PBS special premiere

Reading Time: 2 minutes Utah Valley University hosted the premiere of the PBS film special “First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty” last Friday, Nov. 2.

Reading Time: 2 minutes
UVU hosted the premiere of the PBS film special “First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty” last Friday, Nov. 2.


The event took place in the Ragan Theater and was sponsored by the religious studies program and the department of history and political science at UVU.


“I can’t think of a more fitting place to premiere this documentary than right here in the heart of the great state of Utah,” said Lee Groberg, director of the film, in his remarks to open the event. “Utah was founded by people of faith, who were persecuted and sought religious freedom.”


The documentary film investigates how the founders’ religious beliefs and backgrounds paved the way for historic and lasting American traditions such as religious freedom and tolerance, and the separation of church and state.


After 30 minutes of the 90-minute film was screened, Dr. Rick Griffin, director of The Center for Constitutional Studies at UVU, moderated a three-person panel on religious liberty and the founding fathers featuring author and historian Dr. Randall Balmer, director Lee Groberg and UVU President Matthew Holland.


Holland, who made an appearance in the film, began the discussion by saying, “I sat here watching this film with my family and at one point my 13-year-old daughter asked, ‘Dad, when was this filmed?’ and I said, ‘It’s been a couple of years,’ and then she said, ‘You had a lot less gray hair.’ I guess that shows the effect of university presidential life.”


The panel discussion lasted just under an hour, and although the discussion was very intellectual, there were a few light-hearted moments.


In the middle of the discussion, Groberg said he was thrilled PBS television was airing the film across the nation.


“That is before Mitt Romney cancels PBS, right?” Griffin replied.


Ballmer wrote the book the documentary film is based on and ended the evening by talking about America’s resilience and its ability to overcome long odds over the years.


“What makes me patriotic is that we, Americans, are basically a good and tolerant people who, when given the opportunity, rise to our better selves and embrace the principles that are encoded in our charter documents,” Ballmer said.


Not many UVU students attended the screening. The Ragan Theatre was nearly full, but it was mostly members of the community and local leaders and legislatures in the audience, most of whom attended a dinner prior to the event.