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United Church of Christ & homosexuality

The UCCA TV ad that was "too controversial"

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2004-DEC: Inclusive TV ad rejected by NBC and CBS as "too controversial:"

The United Church of Christ prepared a TV ad which was tested in six markets during the spring of 2004, for broadcast between 2004-DEC-01 and 26. It contained the message that God created all humanity, that there should be no outsiders, and that the UCC attempts to be inclusive in a country where some minorities have been systematically excluded. The ad showed two bouncers at the doors of a church rejecting people who wanted to enter. They appeared to refuse entry to persons on the basis of their race or sexual orientation.

According to UCC News Service:

"...text interrupts the scene, announcing, 'Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we.' A narrator then proclaims the United Church of Christ's commitment to Jesus' extravagant welcome: 'No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here'."

CBS refused to run the ad because it implies that gay and lesbian couples should be accepted as worthy to attend church. This made the ad too controversial. NBC also rejected the ad because its theme of inclusiveness was too controversial. ABC Family, AMC, BET, Discovery, Fox, Hallmark, History, Nick@Nite, TBS, TNT, Travel, TV Land, and other networks accepted the ad.

Rev. John Thomas, is the denomination's top official, and the only president of the UCC who hasn't been invited to the White House. He said:

"It’s ironic that after a political season awash in commercials based on fear and deception...an ad with a message of welcome and inclusion would be deemed too controversial. What’s going on here?" 1

Larry Hollon, who leads the national advertising effort for The United Methodist Church, wrote in the United Methodist Reporter:

"The reasons given by the networks for rejecting this message should bring a chill to everyone who supports freedom of religious expression because they are saying that a fundamental tenet of Christian belief is politically unacceptable for the public dialogue. The belief that God loves every person without condition is so basic to Christian teaching that if a denomination cannot make this assertion what can it say? Such decisions shut out the Christian community from the national conversation....How ironic that a gentle message of inclusion is considered unacceptable while ads for beer are accepted and programs in which people eat insects and worms are considered entertaining. In a divided and fearful world this message is not only needed. It could lead to healing."  1

William Sloane Coffin, former senior minister of The Riverside Church (UCC/American Baptist) in New York City and a former chaplain at Yale University wrote:

"Inevitably, in a homophobic society, many people feel uncomfortable with displays of same-sex affection. But their comfort is not the issue. At issue is the discomfort of gays and lesbians who for years have been isolated, silenced, abused, and killed. The image of Matthew Shepard hanging on a Wyoming fence still burns in many American minds and hearts. So NBC and CBS were guilty not only of censorship but also of insensitivity to considerable suffering. No doubt, the networks feared a right-wing backlash. It is true that such leaders of the Religious Right as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Gary Bauer repudiate violent forms of homophobia. But to deplore the violence, while continuing to proclaim the ideas that undergird it, strikes thoughtful people as hypocritical. Seeds of disrespect all too often blossom into hatred and violence." 2

In an article in the UCC's Observer magazine, Davil Wilson wrote:

"By rejecting the bouncer ad, the networks wound up giving the church more profile than it could have imagined — or afforded. The longer the dispute dragged on, the more opportunities it offered the church to demonstrate how it practises [sic] the values the ad proclaims — to consolidate itself as a brand. Church officials seem almost sheepish about their stroke of good luck. Some say it was providential. A mantra echoes through the corridors of the church’s national offices and in the sanctuaries of its 6,000 congregations: 'This has been an incredible gift'." 3

Gotham, Inc, produced the bouncer ad for the UCC at cost. They won the "Addy award" for 2005 in the Consumer Services/Advocacy category.

You can view a variety of UCC ads http://www.ucc.org/ Included are:

The Ejector Ad from United Church of Christ on Vimeo.

The Bouncer Ad from United Church of Christ on Vimeo.

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Site navigation:

Home > Conflict > HomosexualityReligious groups > Christian > UCC > here

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References:

  1. "Only recently did UCC learn of network's ultimate refusal of church ads," United Church News, 2004-DEC-02, at: http://news.ucc.org/
  2. William Sloane Coffin, "Commentary: It's clear that homophobia was reason for ad's rejection," United Church News, 2004-DEC-15, at: http://news.ucc.org/
  3. David Wilson, "The U.S. church that sold itself without selling its soul," The Observer, 2005-JUN. Pages 32 to 35.
  4. The home page of the UUC web site is at: http://www.ucc.org/

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Copyright 1997 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 1997-SEP-19
Latest update: 2010-AUG-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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