Opponents of the movie "The Last Temptation of Christ" say they will continue protesting the movie as long as it remains at the Centre Theatre.

"It's not that we want to prohibit or ban this movie," said Mike Stimpson, a protest organizer who obtained the city permit to picket the controversial movie that began screenings Friday."I'm just a concerned Christian who wants to make sure people understand the difference between what the movie portrays about Christ and what the Bible says."

Stimpson said he believes the number of pickets over the next few days will decrease, but he said he and others will continue to distribute literature to moviegoers explaining their position - a position he said many people misinterpret.

"This is not a First Amendment issue," said protester Tim Oliver. Movie producers have a right to make any kind of movie they please and no one wants to deny them their rights, he said. Protesters have the same right to oppose the movie.

"No one seems to be applying the freedom of the press to our rights to say what we want," said Stimpson.

A city permit allows protesters to picket the movie between 6 and 10 p.m. until the end of August. Stimpson said he will apply for another permit at that time.

Theater officials have hired off-duty Salt Lake police officers for security measures, but officers said they anticipate few problems.

The first showing of the movie in Salt Lake was canceled because of vandalism to the theater screen and to a copy of the film. Another copy of the film was obtained, the screen repaired and subsequent showings have proceeded as scheduled to large audiences.

Protesters at the theater said they believe Friday's incident was a publicity stunt by the movie makers to get more national attention and to portray them as fanatic vandals.

"This is the perfect place to try and create a ruckus because of the (religious) reputation of Salt Lake City," said Oliver.

Cineplex Odeon officials deny that the vandalism was a publicity stunt, and police officials say they are handling the incident as a regular burglary.

Stimpson admits he has not seen the movie but has seen movie scripts and has talked with many who have viewed the film. He said he does not feel hypocritical condemning the movie, but would be a hypocrite if he paid money to see it.