The newly formed Citizens Against Religious Bigotry said Thursday that it believes the "JC" series would be offensive. They accuse Comedy Central of a double standard in mocking Christian figures and beliefs while recently refusing to let "South Park" depict the Prophet Muhammad for fear of offending Muslims.
"You don't have to be a Christian to be offended by this," said Brent Bozell, head of the watchdog Media Research Center.
Comedy Central said last month that "JC" is one of two dozen series it has in development. The concept is to depict Christ as a "regular guy" who moves to New York to "escape his father's enormous shadow."
Network spokesman Tony Fox noted that "JC" is nothing more than an idea now, without even a completed script. In television, only a minority of projects in development ever make it on the air.
Fox said the groups should save their energy for when a decision is made about whether the series will ever be completed.
Aside from Bozell's group, the coalition also includes the Catholic League, the Parents Television Council and talk show host Michael Medved. They said the coalition had written to 250 Comedy Central advertisers to alert them to the show and already had 93,000 petition signals against it.
Comedy Central was the target of an Internet threat this spring from a Muslim group for a "South Park" episode that supposedly showed Muhammad in a bear costume. Like other media organizations, it resists showing a depiction of Muhammad because many Muslims consider a physical description of the prophet to be blasphemous.
Such depictions of Muhammad in other media have resulted in death threats by fundamentalist Muslims against the purveyors.
"Does that indicate that Christians then are punished because they aren't crazy?" Medved asked, "that they get punished because their religion does not encourage threats of violence?"
Fox would not discuss Comedy Central's response to threats of violence. The network's programs haven't avoided the issue of some of the rabid forms of Islamic behavior, with two "South Park" episodes addressing it this spring after the show's creators were annoyed by the network's efforts to alter their work.
The protesters said they hadn't encouraged any advertisers to boycott the network yet, saying they hoped making the issue public would encourage Comedy Central to leave the idea on a shelf.
"I don't think they're going to have the guts to go ahead and do this," said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League.