By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES – Under pressure from Christian conservative groups accusing pop star Madonna of sacrilege, a U.S. television network said on Thursday it removed footage of the singer performing while suspended on a giant cross from her upcoming prime-time concert s
Madonna had insisted that the mock crucifixion, a centerpiece of her “Confessions” world tour staged while she performed the hit song “Live to Tell,” be included in the two-hour special set to air on NBC on Nov. 22.
But socially conservative organizations organized a campaign urging NBC affiliate stations to refuse to carry the special if the crucifix stunt remained in the show.
After weeks of uncertainty, the network said it decided it would not show the opening portion of the “Live to Tell” performance in which she sings suspended from a giant mirrored cross while wearing a crown of thorns.
Instead, cameras will cut away to other shots while Madonna is on the cross, then cut back to the singer when she steps down to finish the song.
“You hear the song, but you’re not seeing her on the cross,” one network source told Reuters. The special was filmed during her performance at Wembley Stadium in London.
Madonna’s New York-based spokeswoman, Liz Rosenberg, said the 48-year-old entertainer, an executive producer of the special, ultimately acquiesced to the revision of the broadcast, but suggested the singer was not happy about it.
“She wanted it in, and they wanted it out,” Rosenberg, a Warner Bros. Records executive, told Reuters. “You won’t see Madonna on a crucifix. That element of the song is no longer in the show. How they came to that conclusion I really don’t know.”
Madonna’s use of the cross in her concerts drew protests from the Roman Catholic Church and Russian Orthodox Church during her performances in Rome and Moscow, where leaders of the clergy condemned the act as blasphemy.
Madonna issued a statement last month insisting her act was “neither anti-Christian, sacrilegious or blasphemous. Rather it is a plea to the audience to encourage mankind to help one another and to see the world as a unified whole.
“I believe if Jesus were alive today, he would be doing the same thing,” she said, adding that her specific intent was to bring attention to the extreme poverty in Africa.
Madonna has been making headlines with her efforts to adopt a motherless year-old boy from Malawi.
The controversy over Madonna’s mock crucifixion is not the first time the Material Girl has drawn the ire of religious groups for her use of Christian imagery. In 1989, the video for her hit song “Like a Prayer” featured the scantily clad singer cavorting in front of burning crosses and statues crying blood. — Reuter