Greg Cotterill, assistant WEOS station manager, and Susan Henking, professor of religious studies, were quoted in the Dec. 10 Finger Lakes Times article “Church TV ad uproar illustrates divisions: Local pastor agrees with refusal to air.”
CBS and NBC refused to run a United Church of Christ ad that implied that other denominations don't welcome gay couples or members of certain other demographic groups. CBS would only say that airing “advocacy advertising” is against their policy; an NBC spokeswoman said the 30-second spot goes against that network's longstanding policy of not accepting ads that deal with issues of public controversy.
Henking said the controversy only served to highlight a fission that has been deepening between conservative and liberal theologians for several years.
“If you watch the ads at Christmastime, there's a lot of ads about churches and people welcoming people into the church. There's some delightful ones by the Salvation Army. What happens is, in those ads they're not saying 'we won't include you if you're gay.' They don't have a conservative message. What they do is produce a message that they want to be normal,” Henking said.
“What bothers me about it is how the stations, CBS and NBC are making judgments on what's too controversial, particularly with issues that have to do with sexuality and religion,” Henking said. “They are taking a position by choosing not to run it. By choosing not to run it, they are shaping American civil society.”
“In these networks' case, it was probably a business decision,” said Cotterill. “They didn't want to upset other groups. They thought if they didn't run it … it would just go away.”