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CULTURE DIGEST: Viacom protests Janet Jackson fines; Firms scrutinize potential execs’ personal lives; Spirituality to eclipse Christianity?; Churchgoers bypass lottery

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Viacom, CBS’s corporate owner, is arguing that the $550,000 fine proposed by the Federal Communications Commission for Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl halftime show incident is “entirely illogical” and is an unwarranted expansion of the government agency’s powers.

The television giant, in a 78-page protest letter to the FCC, also questioned whether the brief flash of nudity was indecent and argued that the FCC’s ruling violates the First Amendment right to free speech, according to the Associated Press.

“Nothing about the performance, as planned and scripted, comes close to anything the FCC has ever sanctioned as indecent,” Viacom wrote. No one at Viacom or CBS knew ahead of time that singer Justin Timberlake would remove part of Jackson’s costume, they said.

In September, the FCC fined 20 CBS stations $27,500 each for airing the halftime show — a record fine at the time for indecency on television. The FCC has since cracked down on 169 Fox Television Network affiliates with a total fine of $1.2 million for airing indecent material during an episode of the reality program “Married by America.”

The FCC received about 542,000 complaints about the halftime show.

POTENTIAL EXECS’ PERSONAL LIVES PROBED FOR INTEGRITY — In light of the corporate scandals that have rocked the nation’s economy in recent years, some companies are starting to probe into the personal lives of potential executives in search of clues that would indicate a lack of integrity, according to a report in USA Today Nov. 5. The most common red flag is whether the person has been unfaithful in marriage.

Former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski had at least two affairs with subordinates before he divorced his first wife and married his mistress, the report said, while WorldCom’s Bernie Ebbers openly courted a sales executive while married to his first wife. And Enron’s top officials dated women outside their marriages.

“If their life is a lie, it’s not confined to their personal life,” Thomas DiBiagio, the U.S. Attorney for Maryland, told USA Today. “If they are lying to their wives, there’s huge potential they are also lying to their colleagues, their board of directors and potentially their auditors.”

Companies are beginning to ask for more extensive background checks that go beyond traditional references in order to find executives with the “highest professional and personal ethics,” USA Today said. “More are taking information about morals and ethics into consideration when deciding whether to hire or promote an executive.”

NEWSPAPER PREDICTS SHIFT TO ‘SPIRITUALITY’ — A recent article by The Times in London predicted Christianity will be eclipsed by spirituality in the next 30 years as people grow tired of church and stop going, turning their interests toward yoga and t’ai chi instead.

The Times said more people are describing themselves as “spiritual” and fewer as “religious.” They’re also turning away from the Christian church with its “rules and ‘self-last’ philosophy and looking inwards for the meaning of life.” The Times reported that twice as many people in London believe in a “spirit force” within than they do an Almighty God without, and two-thirds of 18- to 24-year-olds have more belief in their horoscopes than in the Bible.

A reason for this development could be a “flight from judgment,” The Times said, in which people do not want to be made to feel guilty or be told how to live their lives. Another reason is a shift in focus from God to the individual, with one source telling The Times a one-hour service on Sundays is not enough time to address self-esteem issues.

CHURCHGOERS REFRAIN FROM LOTTERY — A poll by Middle Tennessee State University has found that nearly two-thirds of the state’s residents, particularly churchgoers, have never played any of the lottery games introduced in Tennessee last January.

MTSU interviewed 624 randomly selected adults by phone in October and found that 62 percent had refrained from the games, according to the Associated Press. The state offers three online games — Powerball, Lotto 5 and Cash 3 — and more than 30 instant games, but not everyone is enticed.

“If God promises to bless me immeasurably, why not stand on His Word?” Erica Bell of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Nashville told the AP. She said she used to play the lottery from time to time before it was implemented in Tennessee, but she doesn’t play now because she knows “where her blessings come from.”

G-RATED ‘PASSION’ FOR KIDS — In response to concerns that “The Passion of The Christ” is too violent for young children, a family friendly DVD series called “The Animated Passion Trilogy” has been introduced.

Animated by the people behind “The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” and “Fox and the Hound,” the Passion Trilogy blends colorful, child-appropriate storytelling with biblical accuracy, according to a news release by NestFamily Entertainment.

The trilogy begins with “Worthy is the Lamb,” the story of the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus, then moves on to “He is Risen,” the story of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension and concludes with “The Kingdom of Heaven,” parables of Jesus and His return.

“Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of The Christ’ is an extraordinary film, but because of its graphic content it may not be appropriate for young children,” said Ernie Frausto, president of NestFamily. “The same powerful truths found in Gibson’s film are also offered in our Animated Passion Trilogy, but in a video series that the whole family can watch together.”

The Animated Passion Trilogy is available in Christian bookstores nationwide.

BALLOT BOX BLUES FOR MILLIONAIRES — Though 22 candidates spent more than $1 million each of their own money in their first run for Congress this year, just one was actually elected, according to USA Today.

The lone winner: Republican Michael McCaul of Texas, a former federal prosecutor. USA Today said the biggest loser was Senate candidate Blair Hull in Illinois, who spent nearly $29 million in the Democratic primary but lost to Barack Obama, who went on to a Nov. 2 win.

“Millionaires don’t automatically win,” Herb Asher, a political science professor at Ohio State University, told USA Today. “The money just gives them instant credibility and puts them in the position to be able to run in the first place.”

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  • Erin Curry