Networks Censor Church's Commercial About Inclusion

Oklahoma Gazette | December 17, 2004
Just before they were set to begin running nationwide, all three major television networks decided not to broadcast the new ads sponsored by my denomination, the United Church of Christ. The reason: they are too "controversial."

Well, not exactly. If you watched them (go to and click on God is Still Speaking to view them), you will see two beautifully produced ads that make it clear that UCC churches welcome everyone, including gays and lesbians. And that's the rub. When a group of Christian Right television producers saw the ads, they were offended by the implication that their churches don't welcome gays.

The interesting thing is that nowhere in the ad does the word "gay" appear. One ad shows a couple of bouncers outside what is obviously a church, allowing certain people to pass by the velvet ropes, while others are rejected. The straight, white, family-types are allowed to pass, but not the others. They include several minorities, and two men, standing next to each other. Are they gay? If so, they are welcome.

The second ad is softer in tone, and shows a little girl doing this familiar ditty: "here is the church, here is the steeple, open the door and see all the people." Then a diverse group of faces repeat the word all. . .ALL the people. That group includes two women, one of whom has her arm around the other. Are they gay? Or are they just friends?

The UCC has long stood at the forefront of gay rights, and made it clear that our decision to welcome gays into our churches is not about being politically correct, but about being faithful to the gospel. But never before has the Christian Right has such power over the media, and this was evident when a CBS official offered this explanation for the censorship of the ads:

"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 to the networks."

Did you feel a chill go down your spine? Since when did the Executive Branch call the shots for the networks? Since the Christian Right took a seat at the table, and can now threaten to veto programming, or boycott products, that's when. Even though the ads don't condemn any other group or church, but only seek to tell the world about the UCC's "extravagant welcome," some evangelical pastors who saw the ads were furious. Perhaps they saw what they were conditioned to see, or looked at them through guilty eyes?

UCC President, John Thomas responded: "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. What going on here?"

What's going on here is that the message of Jesus itself has been lost, and when it surfaces, indicting all our shortcomings and prejudices, it's like a searchlight that blinds us. The text of ads says only this: "Jesus didn't turn anyone away, and neither do we. No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here."

Given the things we see on television these days, it's good to know that we are protected from a message like that! Because while the righteous are watching Desperate Housewives, as popular in red states as in the blue ones, we can rest assured that our children are safe from a message of love, acceptance, and inclusion.

Now has the redemptive become the unacceptable. Which was, after all, the rationale for the crucifixion.

Religious columnist Robin R. Meyers is a United Church of Christ minister and a professor of rhetoric in the Philosophy Department at Oklahoma City University.

Oklahoma Gazette

In its inaugural issue of Oct. 15, 1979, Oklahoma Gazette, at that time an upstart, bimonthly publication with a mere 2,000 circulation, featured a page-one story about the Oklahoma City Council’s recent passage of an urban conservation district. Hardly sexy...
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