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CULTURE DIGEST: Networks sue FCC over indecency rulings; homosexual egg rollers get no time with Bush

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox filed lawsuits in federal appeals courts last week, challenging the Federal Communications Commission for its aggressive enforcement of indecency laws, and some say the move could end up at the Supreme Court.

“In filing these court appeals we are seeking to overturn the FCC decisions that the broadcast of fleeting, isolated — and in some cases unintentional — words rendered these programs indecent,” the networks, along with their affiliates, said in a joint statement April 14.

In March, FCC commissioners released decisions resolving more than 300,000 consumer complaints about nearly 50 television programs broadcast between February 2002 and March 2005, proposing a total of $3.9 million in new fines. The largest fine issued was for a record $3.6 million against dozens of CBS stations and affiliates for airing an episode of the crime drama “Without a Trace” with the graphic depiction of “teenage boys and girls participating in a sexual orgy.”

But the networks took issue with the FCC’s rulings on shows containing expletives, such as CBS’ “The Early Show,” Fox’s “Billboard Music Awards” and ABC’s “NYPD Blue.”

“The FCC overstepped its authority in an attempt to regulate content protected by the First Amendment, acted arbitrarily and failed to provide broadcasters with a clear and consistent standard for determining what content the government needs to penalize,” the networks said.

Pro-family leaders reacted with dismay toward the network lawsuits, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, dismissed the networks’ contention that parents can prevent broadcast indecency from entering their homes by using the V-chip censoring device.

“Let me get this straight: Would the same networks say it was OK for corporate polluters to dump mercury in the town reservoir and claim that parents are responsible for filtering at the kitchen faucet?” Perkins wrote in his “Washington Update” April 17.

The Parents Television Council also denounced the lawsuits, saying it is “beyond preposterous that the networks would even propose that airing the ‘f-word’ and ‘s-word’ on television is not indecent.”

“Memo to the networks: The broadcast airwaves are owned by the American people, and the broadcast industry must abide by community standards of decency,” L. Brent Bozell, president of the PTC, said in a statement April 14. “This is not a proposal, it is the law that the Supreme Court affirmed many years ago. The FCC rightly decided that the use of these words is considered indecent. It is the networks’ responsibility to follow the law.”

HOMOSEXUAL EGG ROLLERS GET NO TIME WITH BUSH — Soulforce and other homosexual activists had planned to make a statement in Washington this spring by lining up 1,000 “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender” families to participate in the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. But they ended up with less than 200 such families and didn’t even get that coveted time mingling with President Bush on the South Lawn.

Homosexual families were among the first in line over the weekend for tickets to the April 17 event, but most of them received time-stamped passes for noon — hours after the president and first lady made an appearance to kick off the “happiest of traditions at the White House.”

About 16,000 tickets were distributed, but early slots were reserved for VIPs, staff members, youth volunteer groups and victims of Hurricane Katrina, according to USA Today.

When their turn came, families with two mothers or two fathers wore multicolored leis to set them apart as children used spoons to roll dyed eggs through the grass and giant storybook characters roamed the grounds.

Across the street, six protestors waved signs and expressed their views over a loudspeaker, USA Today noted.

“I am fed up with the homosexual agenda. It makes me want to vomit. And it makes God want to vomit,” Ben Narsil, an Atlanta travel agent, shouted.

NEW JEWISH SEMINARY LEADER IS ‘PRO-GAY’ — The recently appointed chancellor of Conservative Judaism’s flagship school, the Jewish Theological Seminary, says he welcomes the ordination of homosexual rabbis.

“I’d like to see it possible for gay and lesbian students to be ordained,” Stanford scholar Arnold M. Eisen, who is not a rabbi, told The New York Times during an interview at the seminary in Manhattan, where he set forth some priorities for his tenure.

The Times noted that the seminary’s chancellor historically has enjoyed great influence over the direction of the Conservative Judaism movement, and Eisen’s predecessor adamantly opposed the ordination of homosexuals as well as the idea of rabbis performing same-sex unions.

Eisen said his opinion comes not from familiarity with Jewish law but from “just knowing gay and lesbian people, friends, students, co-workers; and the sense that Judaism has always adapted itself to fit changing circumstances,” he told The Times. “Not every change is good, but this is one in which I think it’s time.”

1 IN 4 MARRIED SYRIAN WOMEN ARE BEATEN — Observers are applauding a recent study by the United Nations as a milestone while lamenting its findings that 25 percent of married Syrian women have been beaten.

The study, conducted under the supervision of the quasi-governmental General Union of Women in Syria, selected nearly 1,900 families at random and questioned the men and women separately, according to a report by The New York Times April 10. Results were released recently as part of a report on Syria by the U.N. Development Fund for Women.

“In Syria there was simply no data on violence against women; formal studies hadn’t ever been done before,” Shirin Shukri, a manager of the project at the U.N. regional offices in Jordan, told The Times. “The issue of violence against women was kept silent here for many years. But we’re making people in Syria aware that this is something that happens everywhere in Europe, in Asia, in the United States, and this is opening up discussion.”

Reports about the findings have been published by Syrian media outlets, The Times said, and experts are hoping the attention will lead to “practical action on the ground.”

“The most surprising thing is that for the first time in Syria, a semigovernmental organization, the women’s union, has admitted that there is a problem,” Maan Abdul Salam, a campaigner for women’s rights, told The Times.

DIFFERENT TAKE ON ‘GOSPEL OF JUDAS’ — Michael Duduit, editor of Preaching magazine, is making light of some scholars’ portrayal of the newly discovered gospel of Judas as a “lost gospel.”

The document, revealed in early April, has no impact on Christian theology as some are arguing, and its popularity in the media “suggests there may be a market for future such ‘discoveries’ that can be arranged,” Duduit mused.

Among the lost documents Duduit suggested in his “Preaching Now” newsletter April 11:

“The Lost Book of Luther, in which we learn that the German monk never intended to post ‘95 Theses’ on the church door. It was supposed to be a list of ‘95 Recipes’ for use in next Sunday’s Dinner on the Grounds. The confusion contributed to the Protestant Reformation.

“The Lost Rick Warren letter, in which we learn that he never intended to wear a Hawaiian shirt to worship, but the dry cleaner failed to make his normal Saturday delivery. The confusion contributed to a dramatic decline in men’s suit sales,” Duduit wrote.

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  • Erin Roach