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Should CBS and NBC have the right to refuse to run a church’s ad welcoming people regardless of sexual orientation?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on December 2, 2004

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Photo of Janet Filppula

“I’m not saying that it is right, but they have the right to choose what advertisements to run.”

Photo of Andrea Coiner

“I don’t agree with their decision, but if they are a private company, then they have the right to refuse to run it. If they were a public service, they wouldn’t.”

Photo of Benaud Shirley

“No, they should run it. They would run it if it had nothing to do with sexual orientation. That’s discrimination.”

Photo of Joe Yoder

“I think they should have the right to refuse to run whatever they want to. They have freedom of speech, too.”


badger 13 years, 5 months ago


I should probably mention that I'm not Christian any longer, so I'm not a very good representation of Christian thought. I just, unlike many pagans, had a really positive experience with Christianity and left it on good terms, taking away with me many things I'd learned regarding the teachings of Christ and the importance of love, tolerance, and understanding when dealing with one's fellow man.

I just get really incensed when I see people using Christianity as a justification for shunning a particular class of sinner while embracing another. To those who say, "Well, gays are welcome to come to my church, but they need to take the sermons of the pastor as they come, and accept that we won't put up with their sinful lifestyle," I ask, "So, when these gays come to your church, do you welcome them with the open arms of fellowship? Do you welcome their presence at church functions, forge friendships with them, ask them to be in the choir or on the ice cream social committee? Do you treat them with the same open and loving respect you offer everyothersinner? Do you treat them the same as the divorced woman who's remarried, the young couple living together before they wed, the man who goes after church to open his store (that one's a Commandment!), the landlord who makes enough from his tenement slums to come to church in a shiny new pickup truck, the man whose wife must be really clumsy because she bruises an awful lot? How often does your pastor preach on the false humility and hypocrisy of saying, 'Well, of course I'm a sinner, everyone's a sinner, but those sinners deserve to be singled out, humiliated, and shunned, and it's OK for me to look down my nose at them so long as I 'tolerate' their presence, but I certainly don't have to open my heart to sinners like that'?"

Do I sound angry? I'm not. I'm sad and disappointed. Your God gave you one assignment over all, one unifying truth, and you've had two thousand years to wrap your heads around it: Love one another.

A surprising number of you (Christians as a whole, not the posters on this board necessarily) still don't get it. Love one another means EVERYONE, it means you can't use politics, or personal prejudice, or what have you to set up a snarky little hierarchy of 'acceptable' and 'unacceptable' sinners.

Donsalsbury: You say your heart was too hardened by sin to be truly open to love. UCC looks at it the other way, that if you can soften hearts with love, then you can show them how to avoid sin. Some churches start by teaching you how unworthy you are of God's love, and then telling you that you have it. Others start by teaching you how worthy God is of your love, and then telling you how to live it. Different ways work for different people, but neither has the right to judge the other and imply that they're not 'real' Christians because they do it differently.

Hi_Jinks 13 years, 5 months ago

To clarify:

In part of my last post, I said.....

"dealt with in a very harsh sort of way"......

I meant dealt with by God, not by man! Sorry if that part confused anyone!

Lulu 13 years, 5 months ago

Hi everyone, It's been such a long time. Keep your religion off my body and out of my mind!!!

jonas 13 years, 5 months ago

3/4 ain't bad. Of course they have the right. The rest of us, should we choose to, have the right to not watch those networks, or write them letters and complain, etc.

jonas 13 years, 5 months ago

Well, let's not paint them as heroic defenders of rights. They are merely running from controversy. It doesn't have anything at all to do with homo or heterophobia. At least no more than anything having to do with gays deals with homophobia, which I tend to believe is about the same amount as things dealing with minorities touch on racism. In other words, a small percentage of the times actually claimed.

PigFarmer 13 years, 5 months ago

They already have the right to select which advertisers are selected. There is no "should they" about it! Just because you don't promote the gay agenda doesn't mean you are gay bashing. Actually it means you have good sense and follow God's word. It is sad so many churches forget this so they can fill the pews and increase numbers. Gentle persuasion and kindness goes further than anger.

mrcairo 13 years, 5 months ago

It's called freedom of speech baby. As long as you agree with certain views you have the freedom to speak them.

jonas 13 years, 5 months ago

It's unfortunate when wanting equal rights for being who you are is considered an "agenda." Or when reaching out to include people is cynically viewed as a ploy to increase turnout and popularity. At this point, the bible is pick and choose when it comes to what you want to believe anyway. It was just written too long ago to be 100% relevent to our society, or even our physical reality. There's still good stuff in there, though.

lunacydetector 13 years, 5 months ago

I understand why the ad was banned. How many churches turn homosexuals away? I don't know of any. The ad is a lie.

How many people do not attend Plymouth Congregational Church anymore? I know they have lost members for their 'if it feels good, do it' mentality.

David Ryan 13 years, 5 months ago

Good advice in that ad: Jesus turned no one away.

People who turn away any fellow human being in the name of Christianity -- turn them away from, say, the civic rights other Americans enjoy -- are not simply not being Christian, they're being anti-Christian.

The networks who refused this ad have every "right" to. Just as every so-called Christian has the "right" to hate gays.

It's still cowardly and anti-Christian.

Fangorn 13 years, 5 months ago

Many good comments today. Having a right to do something doesn't necessarily make it the right thing to do. The networks have run commercials on abortion and other "controversial" subjects. I don't know why this one is different.

lunacydetector is correct, though: the ad itself is a lie. It's true, as the ad says, that Jesus did not turn anyone away. He was often criticized for associating with "tax-gatherers and sinners". However, He also told them "Go, and sin no more." (davidryan, not loving them enough to tell them what the Bible teaches about homosexuality would be "anti-Christian".) Jonas' comment that our society "pick(s) and choose(s) when it comes to what you want to believe" about the Bible is accurate. And that is exactly what this church is doing in their ad.

[Jonas, I believe that the Bible is still relevant today. Today, or in some future forum, or over coffee (hot chocolate!), I'd be interested to know what parts or aspects of the Bible you believe are irrelevant to today's society. I don't ask this in a challenging or defiant manner. Obviously I'd assert and defend my viewpoint on any topic, but I'm less interested in "argument" than I am in discussion. And one goal of any good discussion should be to understand the other viewpoints involved. Thus, the purpose of my question.]

jonas 13 years, 5 months ago

Fangorn: If you look at the rules of society in Leviticus, that the generally accepted "homosexuality is wrong" quote comes from, you'll find, as well, a large series of maxims and rules that have no relevence in our society. Some do, some don't.

It's an interesting point, though, about the ad being a lie, and one I hadn't really thought about. There is a ring of truth to it.

Libcon 13 years, 5 months ago

I believe freedom of speech is overrated. They should run the ads b/c they are a news channel not an opinion one.

I think they are just afraid of homosexuality. Why is everyone so afraid of it? I don't really understand.

ms_canada 13 years, 5 months ago

Interesting question today. I read the whole article in ljw. Did any of you read the description of the add they wanted to run? I thought the stations had a legitimate reason for not running it. I thought it was in very poor taste. Bouncers at the door turning people away!! Very poor taste. Did you note that NBC and CBS accepted another add from the UCC? Now, about churches accepting or not accepting gays. I can only speak for my church, which incidently is a world-wide (56 countries) misssionary based evangelical Bible teaching organization. We would turn no one away, but would not advertise except for the times of our worship sevices. Gays would be welcome, but they would have to take whatever comes in the messages of our Pastor. In my 32 years in this church I have heard several messages concerning homosexual activity. The message has always been a positive one. The Bible is the unerring word of God, every word of it, jonas, and we go by what it says concerning homo activity. At the same time we do not condemn the person just as God does not. It is the activity that is condemned. God offers redemption to ALL if there is repentance. We are not to judge. We have had some homosexual persons in our church but they seem to leave when they realize that their behavior is not acceptable to us. Gee, I hope I am making myself clear on this. There is so much differing of OPINION on this. Is homosexuality inborn or learned behavior? Which opinion is correct. Doesn't matter, it is what God says that counts. Then again there is the interpretation of scripture hassle. It will never really be solved just as the question of when does life begin and the abortion issue. These will go on ad infinitum. And that is all, folks.

badger 13 years, 5 months ago

Please let me preface this by saying that I was born, christened, raised, and confirmed into the United Church of Christ, so while that makes me a little biased, it also gives me a unique perspective.

This is not some johnny-come-lately jump on the bandwagon to grab members by parroting the alleged 'gay agenda'. At four years old, when asked why Christ died, I'd answer, "Because He Loved us." Nothing about sin, or the 'evil' nature of humanity, just the pure knowledge that Christ lived and died as a conscious act of love for man, and that to live a Christlike life (which I was raised was the ultimate goal of a Christian) meant to live life as a conscious and active process of love, not to follow a set of strict rules and commandments. Rather than worrying about this or that being a sin, I was to ask myself if it was a kind and loving act, and let the small voice in my heart guide me to help others.

UCC holds, often, that much of the New Testament washes away the brimstone and equalizes us in the knowledge that we are all sinners, but all loved equally. They also recognize that in many churches, gays may not be turned away, but they are also not welcomed with open arms and the love of brotherhood. Gays are expected to give up their own loves and feelings before they're considered 'good enough' to be 'normal' sinners along with everyone else.

When I was in my exploratory phase (I spent five years going to different churches looking for what I'd had at UCC, because I moved somewhere there wasn't one), I went to over a hundred churches for varying lengths of time. I found a lot of people who felt it was fine to say some pretty hateful things about 'those gays' and talk about how Sodom and Gomorrah would be wiped out again. UCC is offering inspiration, acceptance, compassion, and community to a group of people that are very commonly made to feel 'other' among self-proclaimed 'moral' communities.

They are generally a denomination that believes that the overwhelming charge laid upon Christianity is to spread the faith not through fear or adherence to specific points of Biblical law, but through a profound and heartfelt love of Christ and fellow man. They tend to be one of those churches that believes that if you can inspire someone to love Christ, the rest of the rules and tenets and strictures will follow naturally, but that if you begin from a point of judgement and demanding that others set aside their sins before entering the church, reaching that level of Love is an uphill battle.

badger 13 years, 5 months ago

Sorry, I just realized that I got so carried away defending my upbringing that I forgot to answer the actual question.

I think that refusing to air an ad because you're afraid of controversy is very cowardly. However, it's their stated policy, and as they're also not airing ads from Phred Phelps or his ilk, I really can't call this unfair or discriminatory.

At the bottom line, for me, is the fact that they as a network have the right to decide what they will and will not air, as they're held responsible for the content of what goes on. They shouldn't be forced or made to run the ads, but I will be writing them a letter telling them I'm very disappointed in them for this choice.

donsalsbury 13 years, 5 months ago

There is a serious contradiction here. I agree with pretty much all of your post, badger, except I felt the need to address this.

"Nothing about sin, or the 'evil' nature of humanity, just the pure knowledge that Christ lived and died as a conscious act of love for man"

Christ did die because he loved us, but why did he have to die to show us that? Is self-sacrifice the only message here? Why don't Christians need to die a martyr's death for them to live the ultimate Christian life? The apostle John didn't die as a martyr, and he wrote like 5 books of the Bible. Same with Moses.

The answer is that Christ's death did more than provide an example of how we are to conduct ourselves. It does provide an example, but that's really a (very important) afterthought to why he chose to die for us.

Christ died as payment for our sins, so we don't have to be punished for them after we die. This is straightforward stuff, although you can delve deeper if you like. Jesus lived the perfect life that we cannot, then died so we wouldn't bear the eternal punishment for our sins. He did it out of love, of course, but we mustn't ever forget what drove him to this act of love.

As a result, if you believe all this--well, badger stated it better than I could: "to live a Christlike life (which I was raised was the ultimate goal of a Christian) meant to live life as a conscious and active process of love, not to follow a set of strict rules and commandments. Rather than worrying about this or that being a sin, I was to ask myself if it was a kind and loving act, and let the small voice in my heart guide me to help others."

I was not saved at age four, but at eighteen, so I know what the weight of sin in my life means. It's not so easily replaced with love, because as weird as it sounds, my heart was hardened by sin so I didn't want to love. I had to accept that Jesus died for those sins; I had to basically die to those sins as well, so that I could be born again in Christ's love. Only then could I love with his love.

I hope this makes sense. This is a great discussion so far. I agree that the networks have the right to refuse an ad; that the ad itself is misleading because it implies that other churches do turn away homosexuals (I'm glad my church doesn't turn away sinners--it'd be pretty empty). I also believe if we as Christians focussed as much on serious Bible study and community service as we do on homosexuals, we'd be better off, and more gays and other sinners would want to join us.

donsalsbury 13 years, 5 months ago

Hey, I finally watched the ad...

What's the big deal with airing it? This spot had nothing 'controversial' in it, apart from the aforementioned misleading overtones.

I can't remember which network doesn't air any religious promos. That's a different argument.

For the other network, they need to chill out. I've seen worse content in a Bugle Boy commercial, and heard more controversial words in a nightly news program.


donsalsbury 13 years, 5 months ago

Just to respond to myself again...

I'm an idiot. I just finally read the story in the LJW and it says that both networks rejected it for controversial content, not for religious content.

I thought I heard on the TV today that one of them did, so I apologize for being mistaken. The other statements stand, however.

Hong_Kong_Phooey 13 years, 5 months ago

Dost mine eyes deceive me, or did "Libcon" actually write, and I want to make sure I get this right, that "...freedom of speech is overrated"?? Possibly one of the most liberal, "can't we all just get along" people to post on this site, and they believe that freedom of speech is overrated. Of course, it's only overrated when one of these ridiculous commercials is denied airtime. Now, if it were a commercial pointing out the fact that the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin, s/he'd be all over that.

By the way, NBC and CBS are not "news networks". The news networks are things like CNN, FOX News Channel, and Headline News. NBC and CBS are national networks that air everything from situational comedies to drama's to Infomercials in the early morning hours. They are private companies and, as such, can air just about whatever they want [within FCC guidelines]. Is it discrimination? Maybe. However, I don't believe that 'discrimination' is a bad thing, in itself. It's how, and why, we choose to discriminate that can make it bad. Maybe the networks board members are conservative christians. As such, they have a right to not air something that goes against the teachings in the Bible.

Oh, and as far as the comment about "picking and choosing" relevant info for today's society in the Bible goes, when do you choose to believe, or set aside, some of the core teachings? When it best suits you?

italianprincess 13 years, 5 months ago

Why are so many people stuck on this whole gay thing?

I guess some people will never get a clue that gay people are just like you and me. They are humans and should be treated with respect and dignity.

Are they so afraid they are going to catch something?

I find it so silly that some people need to dwell on this issue so much.

Maybe they are bored with their own life or need to be in someone elses.

Give it a rest........

ft817 13 years, 5 months ago

A television station is licensed by the FCC to serve the public. The public is everyone. A business that is federally licensed to serve the public must also abide by federal anti-discrimination laws. Unless the advertisement does not meet standards set by the FCC for decency and appropriateness, I do not think the station can legally refuse to air the ad. In effect, the station is judging the church and its policy. An FCC license does not give them the authority to pass judgment on a church's internal policy.

Fangorn 13 years, 5 months ago

Badger- Thank you for your response. I think it is something I would enjoy at a later time. Also, I don't think you got "carried away" defending your up-bringing. It's useful background to understand what you write. I do want to tell you that any church that asks anyone to "set aside their sins before entering the church" asks for the impossible. No one gets cleaned up in order to go take a bath.

Donsalsbury- Thank you for a clear explanation of why Christ died for us.

Libcon- Most Christians are not "afraid" of homosexuals. The term "homophobe" (which you did not use in your post but is often used elsewhere) is a clever way of limiting the debate. It de-legitimizes any reasonable moral objections to homosexual behavior by equating them with irrational fear (phobia). I don't believe homosexuality is wrong because I'm afraid of gays or because I "hate" them (another charge tossed around loosely). I believe it's wrong because the Bible teaches that it violates God's law. Hate also violates God's law, a point that Christians who do hate gays seem to forget or ignore.

remember_username 13 years, 5 months ago

Wow, more comments than I thought I would see today.

Consumer1 I disagree. Lawrence is not an extreme left city depending on your reference. For KS it is moderately left, if you look at several local political positions it is moderate US overall. It has a vocal left which is in the minority, that can make the region appear more left than it is. Also, much "anti-gay" activity is "homophobic", enough so that the knee jerk reaction from the pro-gay position to accuse the anti-gay of homophobia has validity. (I typed out that sentence three times and I'm still not sure if I said it right.)

Badger and Donsalsbury Thank you for your sedate comments. The views of the majority of the Christians I've encountered scare the stuffing out of me. Yours seemed more thoughtful than I normally encounter. I don't agree with them, but your tone doesn't make me want to run for Europe.

On the subject does the broadcast network have an obligation to grant opposing time for public opinions? Does the ad seem more like public opinion than an advertisement? Yes, they are running from controversy, and who can blame them. We just got through the last couple of months where every action stirred up controversy. Time for a breather.

John1945 13 years, 5 months ago

The real hypocrisy would come if another church ran an ad in response to the one the UCC wants to run saying something to the effect "We don't exclude anyone from worship, but we are true to the word of God" and the text from a Bible verse stating that homosexuality is an abomination in the sight of God appeared on the screen along with the statement "Is your church apostate? Join one that isn't." You can bet your friends at the UCC and particularly the folks at ECM would go ballistic.

Bottom line is that they are being allowed to get their message out. What they are not being allowed to do is bash other churches.

remember_username 13 years, 5 months ago

Badger - sounds like you walked away from Christianity and kept all the good parts. It is the intolerance of most religions that frighten me. I am instinctively repelled by the belief that the bible is the absolute word of God, and that mankind didn't get in there and muck around a bit with the words to press some sectarian advantage. Anyway, thanks for your words. Plus, I liked the part about " I unlike many pagans, had a really positive experience with Christianity" - try 99.9% of pagans.

craigers 13 years, 5 months ago

Badger, I agree that people should be loved and accepted but just because we welcome people doesn't mean that we should condone sinful acts. In Romans it asks that with this new covenant with Christ which makes us free from the law, should we keep on sinning and let grace abound? Absolutely not. Just because we choose to hear and love one another doesn't mean there shouldn't be correction in the lives of members of the church. The church is supposed to welcome sinners into their doors with open arms, but they aren't suppose to turn and look the other way if there are serious sin problems in the peoples lives. God's grace and love aren't licenses to sin when you want to and continue living a perverted lifestyle. God's love is to change us and release us from our sin, and the pastors of the churches are to show people the correct way of life. The UCC might have great pastors that are very loving and accepting, but they are doing their members a disservice and leading them to the path of destruction by saying it's okay to live a sinful lifestyle because God's love and Jesus' blood covers our sins. That is a true manipulation of God's word.

Fangorn 13 years, 5 months ago

First, let me thank everyone for letting this be a discussion, not an argument. It's more enjoyable and I think we all learn more this way.

Badger, your central (and exceptionally valid) question is : "Do you treat them with the same open and loving respect you offer everyothersinner?" Speaking for my congregation as a whole, yes, we do. Are there individuals at my church who would not? Of course! Just like all of us, they are learning and growing in their faith. I must disagree with you about the "one unifying truth", however. Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to "love the Lord your God with all your heart:soul:mind:and strength." I would assert that this would be the one unifying truth. Now Jesus immediately followed that by saying the second greatest commandment is to "love your neighbor as yourself". He also made it clear on another occasion (the parable of the Good Samaritan) just who our "neighbor" is. So loving others is one important truth of biblical teaching; I just wouldn't call it the "one unifying truth".

[btw, has a location been chosen yet for Sunday? Or a definite time, for that matter? I'm really looking forward to it!]

Hi_Jinks 13 years, 5 months ago

From all that I have read in the Bible it has always been my impression that, as Fangorn states, "numero uno" as far as God is to love and worship him. Second on the list is to love thy neighbor. Third, is to turn away from sin, yourself, and reject the sins and sinful lifestyle of others. I do believe that God expects all of us to do two things in our day-to-day lives.....

1.) Spread his mesasage of faith, love, and hope to the masses.

2.) Inform the masses of what the socials ills are in the world that we share (whatever those "ills" may be) and then to "inform" (as opposed to hate or kill) others that certain lifestyles and all sinful manner that God finds intolerable will be dealt with in a very harsh sort of way! I do think that John the Baptist, and virtually all of the prophets that I am aware of, went roaming around the countryside in their day shouting from the tops of rocks and cliffs and other high places spreading the "Good Word" and giving "woe" to those who refuse to live by God's example! where am I going with all of this?......

Well, I believe that a church of God (any so-called church of God, for that matter) should allow homosexuals into their fold! Absolutely! No doubt about it! However......if that church subscribes to the belief/notion of homosexuality as being an abomination....well, then.....that church needs to impress upon its gay parishioners to "reject the gay lifestyle"!

--And that's just my impression of gays and churches. (In particular, the Catholic Church....of which I was a member for years.)

Grundoon Luna 13 years, 5 months ago


Not all pagans have had a bad experience with Christianity per se. While my spirituality is best expressed through Wicca, I think all faiths have something valuable to offer. I hadn't had any bad experiences with clergy. I wasn't molested by the youth group organizer, or beaten by nuns, and found most clergy I encountered to be forthright and earnest. I am, however, revolted by the pastor who felt compelled to insult Mary Miller's memory by reading a letter at her funeral by the person who is likely to be her killer. Some of us were - and I do not speak for all, of course - just so bothered by the sanctimony, hipocrasy, apparent misogyny that we just did not, in good conscience, feel we could participate. Do we shun Christians from our lives? No, just the hateful ones - and there are multitudes of that type! It's not Jesus I had a problem with, it was a great many of his followers. I don't want to be included in a group with people like: Phred, or the lady at the Quick Stop who saw my brother trying to get his car started and smugly said, "If you would have gone to church today your car wouldn't be giving you problems (as if she were privy to any of his activities)," or a married coworker who looks down at others for not being religious, but is screwing around with his girlfriend on his lunch break, and the general if-you-aren't-Christian-you're-crap attitude put forth by so, so many of those who "claim" to follow Christ. It is the unbridaled arrogance that turns so many away. Going to church every Sunday becuase you are afraid of going to hell, then looking down upon othera who don't, I don't think is Christ worhip - and he's probably shaking his head going "you just don't get it, do ya?" How can Christians say they don't turn gay's away from their church, when a child molester who is now "saved" will be more likely to be treated with far less contempt? Just becuase they say they don't turn away gays doesn't mean they are welcoming them with open arms and I think that is the point of the ad. Should NBC and CBS be forced to play the ads? No. Are they being ckicken-poo-poo? You bet!

Savage 13 years, 5 months ago

Just like the boy scouts ... They too can pick and choose who they want in their org. Etc... Trust me...they don't need federal money to survive. Its funny how we hear about the lawsuits against them, but we never hear about how the suits against them miserably fail in the courts time and time again. Ha ha ha I'm sick and tired of the ...It must be a homosexual writing this story routine. Its so obvious and cliche'. The media can't fool us or brainwash us any more with their godless rhetoric.

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