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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Comedian sues Jews for Jesus

By Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jews for Jesus thought it was amusing to put comedian Jackie Mason's image on a pamphlet aimed at converting Jews to Christianity, but Mason found it no laughing matter and has sued the group for $4 million (2.1 million pounds).

"I found it disgusting and obnoxious, and I find it even more disgusting and obnoxious that the spokesman for that organisation says, 'Why doesn't he have a sense of humour about it?'" Mason, 75 and famously Jewish, told Reuters on Friday.

"It's like if they kidnap my children and say, 'So what, you never saw a child before?'"

Mason's lawyer filed the suit in New York Supreme Court on Wednesday, and Jews for Jesus on Friday asked a federal court to take the case.

It is now up to a federal judge to decide which court should have jurisdiction.

"As everyone knows, I am as Jewish as a matzoh ball or kosher salami (not to mention that I was an ordained rabbi)," Mason says in an affidavit in support of the lawsuit, which seeks an injunction halting distribution of the pamphlet, compensatory damages of $2 million and exemplary damages of $2 million.

Jews for Jesus, which says it has a mailing list of 150,000 people, has launched an advertising blitz on New York subways and earlier this year handed out thousands of pamphlets with a cartoon drawing of Mason with a text saying, "Jackie Mason ... a Jew for Jesus?"

"He's a public persona. It postulated that even someone as Jewish as Jackie Mason could come to faith in Jesus if he wanted to," said Susan Perlman, a spokeswoman for the group.

"It's humorous, hardly labelling him a Jew for Jesus. ... We thought it would be flattering to him," she said.

Mason was having none of that.

"First of all there's no such thing as a Jew for Jesus. If you believe in Jesus you're a Christian. That's the point of Christianity. You can't be a table and also a chair.

"I have to develop a whole new act now," said Mason, who accused the group of stealing his "schtick" of poking fun at the differences between Jews and Gentiles.

Perlman said Jews for Jesus were ethnic Jews "who have come to faith in Jesus as the promised messiah and saviour."

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