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| Joe Charlebois | Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Norman M. Covert | Hayden Duke | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Edward Lulie III | Tom McLaughlin | Patricia Price | Cindy A. Rose | Richard B. Weldon Jr. | Brooke Winn |

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The Tentacle


December 15, 2004

Give Me Liberty, or..

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

The recent presidential election highlighted a wide rift in our country over the role of religion and the Judeo-Christian philosophy that our founders used in establishing a just society.

We've been fighting this battle for years - the question of the intent of the framers in defining government and the relationship with organized religions.

>From school prayer to public displays of religious symbols, it seems that every single American has strong feelings about what they want and expect.

The latest example of religious correctness run amok is the 30-second spot created by the United Church of Christ. The UCC has produced a slick, media savvy ad campaign highlighting their open and welcoming message.

The ad features people walking toward a large stone church, stopped by a red velvet rope line with two beefy bouncers. Parishioners and supplicants walk up to the rope line, only to have the bouncers stop some and let others through.

The ones who get through are essentially white Anglo-Saxons, with persons of color and same sex couples stopped at the rope. The bouncer is the only voice, and you only hear him turn people away. A typed white on black message fades in at the end: "Jesus didn't turn people away, neither do we."

Two major networks have refused to air this ad (with its message of inclusiveness) claiming it is "too controversial." I guess the people who produce those soap operas that run in the afternoon feel the content of this ad would be more damaging than extramarital affairs, incest, and murder.

CBS and NBC have refused to air this ad, citing its controversial nature. CBS has gone so far as to link the airing of the ad with President Bush's desire to see a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Read CBS' own statement: "Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations, and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks."

NBC simply deemed the spot too controversial and refused to air it.

No rational person could connect a set of non-existent dots the way CBS has. The message of the UCC commercial actually flies in the face of the marriage amendment, by making clear that same sex couples are embraced at their religious services.

CBS, NBC, and the other cable and broadcast networks defend their First Amendment rights to unfettered expression every single day. Any attempt to abridge those rights becomes the subject of lawsuits, attacks on the news programs, and fodder for letter-writing campaigns.

So here they are, the defenders of the freedom to express thoughts and opinions, deciding that faith groups do not deserve those same rights they so strongly defend.

Because a faith organization has opted to communicate their message using big media's tools, NBC, CBS, and the others are in a position to deny those rights.

Just exactly who do the networks fear harming with these ads? Will the minority groups shown in the ad be disheartened to see their plight demonstrated so effectively? Will same sex couples be shocked to learn that they might not be welcomed in every house of worship?

Of course not! These individuals, couples, and groups already know where they are and are not welcomed. The United Church of Christ ad simply demonstrates a principle of inclusion and community.

CBS and NBC fear that this image might actually inspire some to seek out a reconnection with their faith, a return to familiar and loving surroundings in church, whatever the faith.

CBS has already shown their stripes by defending Dan Rather's right to create a story in order to gain ratings share. Now NBC has diminished its brand by adopting a similar attitude regarding freedom of expression.

It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to ever take the networks seriously if they argue for the First Amendment.

You see, in their world, those protections over freedom of expression only apply to the views that match their own.

To view the ad, visit www.stillspeaking.com



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