One of the largest Christian ministries in North America has been rebuked by Canada's broadcast ethics watchdog for airing allegedly questionable commentary about homosexuals.
The Focus on the Family show, which airs on hundreds of radio stations in Canada and more than 2,300 in the United States, has been found in violation of the human rights code of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.
The council, the Canadian radio and television industry's self-regulating ethics body, recently issued a decision taking Focus on the Family to task for allegedly portraying the gay movement as "malevolent, insidious and conspiratorial."
Focus on the Family founder James Dobson hosted the disputed 30-minute, syndicated program. Officials from both Focus on the Family and the broadcast council agree the program could not be censored in the United States, where the 1st Amendment prohibits most government limitations on speech. Canada has a less sweeping view of such protections.
Since membership in the council is voluntary, it does not have the power to penalize the radio stations that air Focus on the Family programs or the show's producers. The council's sway comes from drawing attention to ethical transgressions by the 430 Canadian radio and TV stations that are members, and in refusing membership.
The ruling against the show said: "Religious programming does not have any inherent entitlement to say whatever it wants in the name of religion. While Focus on the Family is free to describe the homosexual lifestyle as sinful, the program has gone much further."
The Canadian president of Focus on the Family, Darrel Reid, demanded Sunday that the council withdraw its rebuke.
The council, Reid said, is trying to squelch debate about homosexuals for "politically correct purposes."
Focus on the Family is a $100-million-a-year evangelical Christian ministry based in Colorado Springs, Colo. Its programs air 60,000 times a week in 58 countries and it is widely known as one of the most effective conservative Christian pressure groups in the United States.