Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Media Blacks Out Mainstream Christians

FREDERICK CLARKSON, POLITICAL CORTEX - Are Christians being silenced? The question sounds like the perennial complaint from members of the Christian Right. But in fact, as specious as the Christian Right's complaints along these lines usually are, this one is different...

When the Sunday morning public affairs talk shows think about getting a Christian view on public affairs who do they call? According to Rev. Robert Chase, Director of Communications for the 1.3 million member United Church of Christ, over the past 8 years the Sunday network public affairs shows have interviewed political leaders of the religious right 36 times, and leaders of mainline Christian denominations such as the United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), American Baptist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, African Methodist Episcopal Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Reformed Church in America, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, among others -- exactly zero times.

"Increasingly," Chase added at a national news conference, "millions of U.S. Christians have grown weary of having their more-inclusive, more-progressive values silenced." . . . The UCC's complaint that the networks are silencing mainstream religious voices does not stop there. They are also having trouble with the advertising departments of the networks. The church is currently engaged in a multiyear outreach campaign that includes television advertising. But unless you have cable you won't get to see their new ad -- because the networks won't run them. . . ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX, reports Religion News Service, deemed them "too controversial."

"The 30-second "Ejector" ad features several people -- a black woman, a gay couple, a Middle Eastern man, an elderly man in a walker -- who are ejected from their church pews. "God doesn't reject people," the ad says. "Neither do we." The new ad, which cost about $1.5 million to make, will debut on April 3, but not on ABC, NBC, CBS or Fox. The three networks rejected the commercial as an inappropriate "advocacy" ad because of its references to homosexuality, race and ethnicity. Last year, the networks rejected a similar ad featuring bouncers behind a velvet rope keeping various people out of a church. "The message of the commercial is simple," the Rev. John Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, said Monday (March 27). "No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here at the United Church of Christ." Thomas said he found it "odd and bewildering" that the ads would be rejected.

Chase says that the exclusion of mainstream religious perspectives in the news media is a "trend we have been witnessing for decades." [more...]

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