All Ye Who Cannot Enter Here

Three major networks — NBC, CBS, and UPN — recently refused to
air an ad from the United Church of
Christ
, whose ‘all inclusive’ message was considered ‘too
controversial’ because it ‘advocated gay marriage’ and could
agitate conservative churchgoers. During the
30-second spot, two
actors dressed as bouncers stand guard in front of a mainstream
church and decide who can and cannot enter. Able-bodied white folks
are given the green light, people of color and those who appear to
be members of a same-sex couple are turned away. The commercial,
created after focus groups found that many Americans feel excluded
from churches across the country, ends with the phrase ‘Jesus
didn’t turn people away.’

‘Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples
and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations,
and the fact that 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,’
CBS explained
in a letter to the UCC
. The rationale has not only upset people
from a number of religious denominations who have chosen to make
their places of worship ‘open and affirming,’ but troubles
progressives who believe the mainstream media has a responsibility
to encourage, not shy away from public debate over contentious
issues.

In an attempt to explain his network’s objection to the spot,
Alan Wurtzel, president of research for NBC, said, ‘[the ad]
clearly suggested that there are churches that don’t permit a
variety of individuals to participate.’ Since countless churches
from various denominations reject homosexuality, it’s not clear why
Wurtzel rejects to such a suggestion — although more than a few
commentators have guessed its because conservative viewers who rank
‘moral values’ high on their list of priorities might be
offended.

As Media Matters for America notes, the
network’s
response to the ad is, at best, inconsistent
. CBS ran an ad
during the 2003 Super Bowl from the White House Drug Control Policy
Agency that suggested that casual marijuana users support
terrorism. A number of shows on NBC, including the hit Will and
Grace
, prominently feature gay characters. And as Rev. John
Thomas, general minister and president of the UCC, points out:
‘It’s ironic that after a political season awash in commercials
based on fear and deception by both parties seen on all the major
networks, an ad with a message of welcome and inclusion would be
deemed too controversial.’

The United Church of Christ has over six thousand congregations
across the U.S., and not all congregations have sanctioned the ad.
Others, like the Rev. Curt Anderson, Pastor of the United Church of
Christ in Madison, Wisconsin, believe that ‘people of good will
should be concerned about the message being sent to gay men and
lesbians in the aftermath of an election season that saw them
targeted by the political right.’

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