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Two OU alumni film unauthorized commercial advertising book in Great Reading Room, professor voices concern

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Bizzell Library (copy)

The Bizzell Library on Sept. 9.

OU Libraries confirmed there was unauthorized use of Bizzell Memorial Library Wednesday, where two OU alumni had filmed and released a commercial for a book a concerned faculty member says carries anti-Judaic messages.

Jill Hicks-Keeton, an assistant professor of religious studies at OU and academic biblical scholar, sent an email to OU Public Affairs after noticing a commercial featuring Lauren McAfee, an OU graduate who works in a corporate role for Hobby Lobby and advocates for Museum of the Bible, and Michael McAfee, the museum’s director of community initiatives. The museum aims to “invite all people to engage with the Bible,” and provides Biblical education and conducts research, according to the museum’s website.

The commercial features the inside and outside of Bizzell Memorial Library, but the pair did not receive proper permits to film there.

According to the book’s official description, the book advertised in the commercial, “Not What You Think,” attempts to “blow the dust off dated misconceptions” about the Bible and help readers — specifically young people — understand how it fits into modern society.

In an email to The Daily, Hicks-Keeton said OU Libraries confirmed it did not receive a filming request from the alumni, and said she was concerned the setting may imply OU endorsed the book, which Hicks-Keeton said “engages in dangerous anti-Judaic rhetoric.”

“I'm concerned about the McAfees' attempt to trade on the prestige of my home university to authorize their ideas,” Hicks-Keeton said in the email. “Their book engages in anti-Jewish tropes that are historically unsustainable, including blaming Jews for the death of Jesus and depicting ancient Judaism as overly concerned about religious rules. The book mischaracterizes religious traditions other than Christianity in order to try to argue for the superiority of Christianity. In so doing the book distorts evidence and engages in logically fallacious thinking.”

Hicks-Keeton said she feels it is possible to study the Bible as an academic and be a Christian, but feels the book carelessly attacks other religious communities.

“For me a line is crossed when anyone starts polemicizing against other religions — including ancient Judaism,” Hicks-Keeton said in the email, “but especially when it happens without empathy for other people or care for historical rigor.”

In the email, Hicks-Keeton said her primary concern was the commercial’s use of Bizzell Memorial Library, which could suggest the book was endorsed by OU.

“I am personally concerned about the false connection that the commercial draws between the book and the University of Oklahoma,” Hicks-Keeton said in the email. “My expectation is that the university is taking action based on its policies of commercial filming on campus.”

According to OU’s on-campus filming and photography guidelines, filming and photography “may be permitted” with “prior approval and in accordance with University of Oklahoma policies.” According to the guidelines, for filming “external use” pieces like broadcast or print media not produced by OU students, a permit and permit fee are required.

The Daily reached out to OU Public Affairs at 3:21 p.m. Wednesday, and a university spokesperson said they would look into the specific actions taken by OU. As of 2:30 p.m. Thursday, The Daily has not received confirmation regarding possible actions taken regarding the commercial. This post will be updated when The Daily receives more information.

At 6:07 p.m. Thursday, OU Public Affairs confirmed in an email to The Daily that the OU Office of Legal Counsel investigated the video, and found "permission was not requested nor was it provided by authorized university personnel." The university legal counsel has drafted a cease and desist letter according to the email and "will be finalizing its actions soon."

This story was updated at 6:33 p.m. to include comment from OU Public Affairs.

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