Religious Broadcasters Vow Fight on Doctrine Issue : Media: Christian radio and television figures claim that reinstating the fairness rule, repealed in 1987, would undermine their campaign for family values by forcing them to air the opinions of gays.
Alarmed that Christian radio and television stations may be forced to air the views of homosexuals, the nation’s religious broadcasters said Wednesday that they will mount a major effort to block Congress from reinstituting the fairness doctrine.
The doctrine, repealed by the Federal Communications Commission in 1987 under President Reagan, is viewed as a formidable threat to plans by many of the nation’s 800 Christian radio and television stations to campaign for “family values.” The fairness doctrine required broadcasters to air all sides of controversial issues.
“It’s a way to stifle conservative views coming over the airwaves . . . and it’s going to meet with our full, head-on opposition,” E. Brandt Gustavson, president of National Religious Broadcasters, vowed Wednesday as the group ended its 50th anniversary convention at the Los Angeles Convention Center. More than 5,300 people attended the four-day meeting.
Broadcasters said any talk of restoring the fairness doctrine could undermine plans to step up the campaign for family values.
There are enough non-religious broadcast outlets in the United States to allow a wide divergence of viewpoints, Gustavson said, without requiring religious stations to carry views that run afoul of religious beliefs.
Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, may carry legislation this year to restore the doctrine, said his aide, Dennis Fitzgibbons, in Washington on Wednesday. Dingell has fought unsuccessfully to restore the doctrine in years past.
Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and its flagship “The 700 Club” program, told broadcasters during a keynote address Tuesday night that the secular media cannot be counted on to press the battle for family values. Religious broadcasters must wage the battle, he said.
“Who is going to warn the nation?” he asked. “We have the microphones. We have the transmitters. We have the satellite capability. We can mobilize prayer. We can mobilize community action. We can bring together thousands of churches in concert together.”
Robertson, head of the nation’s largest Christian broadcast network and a 1988 presidential candidate, may cross religious lines and attempt to enlist Jews for the first time in a widened campaign for family values.
Until now, the organized political push to elect candidates who support family values has been largely limited to Christians--evangelicals, fundamentalists and Roman Catholics who oppose abortion.
“I’m convinced on the political scene, the evangelical churches, the Catholic churches, the Orthodox Jewish people . . . all of us will work together and we can elect anybody to any office at any level,” Robertson told the broadcasters.
At the Chesapeake, Va., headquarters of the Christian Coalition, a 300,000-member political organization Robertson founded, Executive Director Ralph Reed confirmed that the religious broadcaster is in the preliminary stages of forging an alliance with members of the Jewish faith.
“We’re working very closely with various Conservative and Orthodox rabbis to try to build a friendship and a cooperation across theological lines on family and moral issues,” Reed said Wednesday.
A decision on an interfaith family values coalition is expected in about a month, Reed added.
Gustavson of the broadcasters group said Christian broadcasters are likely to back Robertson’s initiative. “Some of our people agree. My personal feeling is it is a good idea,” he said.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the Chicago-based International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, said in an interview that many Jews share concerns over secularism and what they see as the “destruction of family values.”
But Eckstein, an Orthodox rabbi and an official observer at the broadcasters convention, cautioned that many Jews are also concerned that evangelical Christians want to proclaim the United States a “Christian nation.” Jews worry that their religious values and civil liberties could be denied.
Eckstein said the proposed coalition with Jews would not involve existing Jewish rabbinical or other organizations. Instead, it would be a task force, probably under the auspices of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, that included “high-level, high-profile Jews from various walks of life who share a belief with evangelical Christians that there has been a deterioration in moral values.”
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