Tonight on PBS: ‘First Freedom’ documentary by Utah filmmaker

“First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty,” a film by Utah filmmaker Lee Groberg on the history of religious liberty in America, airs tonight at 7 on KUED as well as on hundreds of PBS affiliates across the country.

Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that the 90-minute documentary “takes a look back at the religious rights America’s founding fathers intended through a mix of dramatic recreation – filmed in Colonial Williamsburg and elsewhere, mostly along the East Coast in historic, colonial settings – and interviews with contemporary historians.”

Click here to see a preview on the PBS website.

Owen featured “First Freedom” in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette TV Week. He writes, “While the notions of religious freedom and separation of church and state may seem like topics out of a musty history book, look no further than the most recent presidential election to see how the topic remains relevant.”

Producer/director Groberg told Owen, “The First Amendment was of keen interest to me and I wanted to understand what it was that moved these men to want to move in this direction.

“Every one of them, though they were not of the same faith, but universally there seemed to be a feeling and their writings would indicate that in order to sustain this kind of government by the people, they needed it to be a virtuous society and to be virtuous people they needed to worship in whatever stroke they wanted to worship. The beauty of the First Amendment is that it allows people to worship freely and to not even worship at all.”

Those interviewed on camera for the documentary include scriptwriter Douglas Brinkley, NPR analyst Cokie Roberts, Pulitzer-winning author Jon Meacham and UVU President Matt Holland.

Lee Groberg, whose previous documentary work includes “Sweetwater Rescue; The Willie and Martin Handcart Story” (2006) and “America’s Choir; The Story of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir” (2005), filmed re-enactments portraying key historical figures and scenes in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and England.

You can find related educational resources at www.pbs.org/firstfreedom.

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