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CULTURE DIGEST: FCC says MNF promo not indecent; city may remove cross; views on homosexuality get leader the boot

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The Federal Communications Commission ruled March 14 that a “Desperate Housewives” promo featuring one of its stars dropping her towel in front of an NFL player, which aired before a Monday Night Football game last fall, is “not sufficiently explicit or graphic to be deemed indecent.”

Viewer complaints led the FCC to open an investigation into whether ABC should be fined for airing the segment, but the five-member FCC unanimously agreed the broadcast did not violate federal indecency standards.

The commission agreed that the segment is sexually suggestive but not over the top.

“Although the scene apparently is intended to be titillating, it simply is not graphic or explicit enough to be indecent under our standard,” the commission said.

Commissioner Michael Copps said although the promo could not be ruled indecent, it “does raise the issue of broadcasters acting responsibly when deciding what to air during the hours when children are likely to be in the audience.”

“At a time when recent surveys show a substantial majority of parents to be concerned that children are being exposed to too much inappropriate content, I would hope that television broadcasters would go the extra mile in exercising self-discipline when airing or promoting programming that may not be appropriate for younger viewers,” Copps said in a statement. “There wasn’t much self-discipline in this particular promotion. As stewards of the public airwaves, broadcasters can and should do better.”

More attention has been paid to whether certain broadcasts are indecent in the aftermath of the Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident in February 2004. Congress is considering a substantial increase in fines for indecency. Last month the House overwhelmingly passed a bill to raise the maximum fine from $32,500 to $500,000, and a similar bill has been introduced in the Senate, AP said.

In the Monday Night Football segment, actress Nicollette Sheridan from the ABC drama was seen with Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens in a locker room. Sheridan wore only a towel, provocatively asked Owens to skip the game for her and then dropped the towel and jumped into his arms when he complied.

BLACK CHURCHES SEEK PLACE IN NEW POLITICAL CLIMATE — As evangelicals have generally aligned with President Bush in the current political atmosphere, some black church members — who have traditionally identified with Democrats — are considering their new role in politics.

The New York Times featured several black pastors with various views on whether they will “stay focused primarily on issues like job creation, education, affirmative action, prison reform and health care, which have drawn blacks closer to the Democratic Party, or whether to put more emphasis on issues of personal morality, like opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, which would place them deeper in the Republican camp.”

Harry Jackson Jr., pastor of Hope Christian Church in College Park, Md., is traveling the country promoting what he calls a “Black Contract with America on Moral Values,” hoping to secure 1 million signatures of support. The contract’s top priorities include opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion, according to The Times March 6.

“Historically, when societies have gone off kilter, there has been rampant same-sex marriage,” Jackson told The Times. “What tends to happen is that people tend to devalue the institution of marriage as a whole. People start rearing kids without two parents, and the black community already has this incredibly alarming and, if I may say, this shameful number of babies being born without fathers.”

But Jesse Jackson is among the segment of black church leaders who are fighting against white evangelicals’ alignment with President Bush, particularly over the issue of same-sex “marriage” and other social issues.

“Well, they didn’t make the Top 10 with Moses, and Jesus didn’t make mention of them,” Jesse Jackson said.

William J. Shaw, president of the National Baptist Convention USA, told The Times white evangelicals have a strong voice in national politics, and he doesn’t want them to have the only voice.

“The challenge to us is to be a voice that is soundly biblically based and that doesn’t provide a blanket sanction to government policy as others have done. This is a dangerous time when white evangelicals dictate government policy,” Shaw said.

Bush won 11 percent of the black vote last November, compared to 8 percent in 2000.

GROUP WANTS WAR MEMORIAL CROSS TO STAY — A group of San Diego residents is leading a petition drive to prevent the city from removing a 43-foot cross that has been part of the Mount Soledad War Memorial since 1954.

In 1991, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled that the presence of the cross on public property violated the California constitution, so the city sold a portion of land surrounding the cross to the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, a private group. The federal court then ruled the move was unconstitutional.

After a series of legal rounds, two San Diego Congressmen inserted a provision in a spending bill to have the land transferred the federal government for inclusion in the national parks system of war memorials. President Bush signed the bill.

But the city council decided March 8 to decline the U.S. government’s offer to accept the transfer of title, saying the donation would serve a religious purpose for keeping the cross in place.

“For us to transfer our cross from city ownership to federal ownership leaves us in the same constitutional position,” Councilman Scott Peters told the Associated Press.

More than 400 residents debated the issue March 8, with the majority in favor of keeping the cross. “San Diegans for the Mount Soledad National War Memorial” have launched a referendum drive to block the city council’s resolution and hope to secure 30,000 signatures in order to put the issue on a ballot for voters to decide. The group’s ultimate objective is to have the memorial transferred to federal property where the cross will serve a secular purpose as part of a national memorial and pass U.S. constitutional tests, according to their website, www.soledadnational.com.

PRO-FAMILY COUNSELOR REMOVED FROM BOARD — The largest healthcare provider in the United States, Magellan Health Services, has removed a nationally known counselor and psychology professor from its advisory panel, presumably because he believes homosexuality is not a fixed condition, according to Focus on the Family’s Family News in Focus.

Dr. Warren Throckmorton, who teaches at Grove City College in Grove City, Pa., served on the board for five years and was asked to serve a sixth before the offer was retracted. He suggested people associated with Magellan had voiced strong opposition to his pro-family views and even mischaracterized those views.

A spokeswoman for Magellan said the move was a business decision and was unrelated to Throckmorton’s belief that homosexuals can change their behavior.

The American Association of Christian Counselors has said it will pressure Magellan until Throckmorton is reinstated, Focus said.

“Certainly, we are constantly being challenged by a militant gay minority who hates the appearance of any idea that change is possible,” George Ohlschlager said on behalf of the association.

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  • Erin Curry