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FIRST-PERSON: A hero in our midst

LYNCHBURG, Va. (BP)–There is a hero that attends my Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va. His name is Randy Smith. Let me tell you about him.

On March 11, Smith, who is president of WSET, our ABC affiliate, chose to preempt an episode of the drama “Once and Again,” after learning that it would contain a passionate and provocative kiss between two teenage girls and examine a burgeoning relationship between a female high school student and her male drama teacher.

Amazingly, he was the only manager in the nation to pull the plug on the broadcast.

Predictably, an immediate outcry went out from homosexual-rights organizations. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation accused WSET of rejecting the episode “apparently because of a storyline involving gay and lesbian themes.”

But Smith said nothing could be further from the truth.

“If we made these decisions based solely on homosexual content, we’d have major holes in our schedule,” he said. “There were a lot of factors that came into play — the number-one thing being the issue of minors being involved in a homosexual situation, and also the issue of the female student and her male teacher.”

It’s not like Smith banned every homosexual-themed broadcast from his station. In fact, this marked the first time WSET had refused to air an ABC show because of content. The station aired the high-profile coming out episode of “Ellen,” and airs other ABC series featuring prominent homosexual characters, including “Spin City” and “NYPD Blue.”

But GLAAD officials were unwilling to accept Mr. Smith’s decision to preempt the broadcast. Interestingly, GLAAD was even critical of ABC’s decision to attach a broadcast warning to parents, which read: “Due to Adult Subject Matter, Parental Discretion Is Advised.”

“There is nothing in this episode that could be construed as sexually explicit or inappropriate for family audiences,” GLAAD protested. “If this episode had featured Jessie sharing a first kiss with a boy, no parental advisory would have been posted. This inappropriate double standard inaccurately suggests that gay and lesbian content is by definition ‘adult subject matter’.”

Critics of Smith’s decision have charged that it was a decision motivated by “hate” — a familiar theme of homosexual-rights leaders who habitually attempt to stigmatize their adversaries. But Randy said those who make this shallow charge are the actual “hate mongers” because they maintain an insensitivity toward people who hold sincere concerns about consequential moral issues. Indeed, anyone willing to inspect the reasoning behind Mr. Smith’s decision can see that he made it after much deliberation and out of concern for his community, not from a perspective of animosity toward homosexuals.

I think you can see now why I believe Randy Smith is a hero. He was willing to take a stand and to stand alone. The tragedy is that every other ABC TV station chief in our nation apparently believes that it is appropriate for network shows to explore relations between adults and teens and homosexuality among youths.

ABC’s “Once and Again” will no doubt continue to examine the teen characters’ blossoming relationships. I am encouraging people to stay abreast of the show’s development of these sexual themes and to courteously let the network and their local ABC affiliates know that they object to this type of content. [GLAAD is encouraging their supporters to contact ABC to thank the network for the broadcast, so it is important that we counter their efforts.]

Communications to ABC may be sent through the following venues:

— Lloyd Braun, Chairman, ABC Entertainment TV Group, 500 S. Buena Vista Street, Burbank, CA 91521. His telephone number is 818-460-7777.

— Email may be sent to [email protected]

Also, I urge you to send an email of encouragement to our “local hero”, Randy Smith, [email protected].

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  • Jerry Falwell