Widespread Protests Precede 'Da Vinci Code' Premiere

Anger over "The Da Vinci Code," premiering Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival, escalated Tuesday as Christian groups from South Korea, Thailand, Greece and India planned boycotts, a hunger strike and attempts to block or shorten screenings.

The plot of the movie, adapted by Ron Howard from Dan Brown's worldwide best seller, makes the case that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children with her.

In India, the government Tuesday put a temporary hold on the movie's release because of complaints.

In South Korea, which has 13 million Protestants and 4.6 million Roman Catholics, a court ruled Tuesday that a Christian group's request for an injunction to block screenings lacked merit.

"As it is clear that the novel and movie are all fiction ... there is no probability that the movie can make viewers mistakenly believe the contents of the movie are facts," chief judge Song Jin-hyun said in his ruling.

The Christian Council of Korea, an umbrella group of 63 South Korean Protestant denominations, said it respected the ruling but would lead a boycott of the movie, which it said defiles the sanctity of Jesus Christ and distorts facts.

In Thailand, Christian groups demanded that government censors cut the film's final 15 minutes, fix subtitles that are supposedly disrespectful to Jesus and screen messages before and after the movie saying the content is fictional.

"If they are going to screen this, we asked that they cut out the conclusion of the movie that Jesus still has heirs alive today," said spokesman Manoch Jangmook, ofld be a "test of faith" for many people in the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines.

"Those groups, like the conservatives who want it banned, maybe they can tell their friends, discourage their friends from watching it," she said. "But it has to be shown. Otherwise we will be the only country that will not show this film. Thirty-six countries have already reviewed this film and they have not banned it. So are we just out of the Stone Age?"

The National Council of Churches in Singapore, which also had requested a ban, planned lectures to refute aspects of the film and the book on which it is based. The censorship board gave the movie an NC16 rating, barring viewers under 16, arguing that "only a mature audience will be able to discern and differentiate between fact and fiction."