HOPE SPRINGS, Ark. – A highly anticipated faith-based flick about the intersection of church and state in an imaginary Arkansas high school opens in movie theaters today.

“God’s Not Dead 2” features Melissa Joan Hart from “Clarissa Explains It All” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and Jesse Metcalfe, from “Desperate Housewives” in an epic court battle centered on a classroom discussion comparing Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr.

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“The film takes place in the fictional town of Hope Springs, where beloved teacher Grace Wesley teaches history. Her love for teaching, her love for her students, and her love for life all come from the same place: her love for Christ,” The Christian Post reports.

“When a student asks a question about Jesus in class, Grace’s answer causes her to face an epic court case, in which she would have to stand up for her faith.”

A.V. Club describes the original 2014 blockbuster “God’s Not Dead” as a nod to the Old Testament, and “God’s Not Dead 2” as a reference to the New Testament.

Hart, a Presbyterian, said she felt compelled to accept the role of Grace despite a very short break with her family between movies.

“I had a hard time in my personal life being able to make room for this movie. I felt very persecuted within my own inner circle…I felt very called to do this movie,” Hart told the Post. “I promised my family I’d be home and I felt like I had to do this movie. My husband always says, ‘Do what you have to do’ and I felt like I had to do this movie.”

“But once I announced that to him, to his parents, to my parents, to my family, everyone kind of came at me: ‘How could you leave your family again, and how could you do this? You promised you’d be home.'”

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“It was a very important story for me to tell,” she said. “[I]t has become one of the great blessings of my career to make this movie.”

Hart said Grace is unlike most Hollywood roles she’s played in the past.

“The character I was playing was very new to me,” she told The Blaze. “I had not really played a very introverted woman who stood by her faith, alone … and she taught me a lot.”

“I’m used to being large and funny and this was a lot of inner monologue,” Hart said.

“God’s Not Dead 2” comes as atheist groups continue to threaten an increasing number of U.S. schools with legal action over perceived violations of the “separation of church and state.” The film illustrates the heated disputes between atheist groups and believers that are convincing many school officials to remove all mention of religion from schools, regardless of whether its legally required or not. The movie also highlights the slippery slope from the demand for “diversity and tolerance” in schools to the outright persecution of Christian students and faculty.

“We wanted to make a good movie that people come to and hopefully they walk away understanding tolerance a little more,” Hart told The Blaze.