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Fox affiliate pulls ‘Married by America,’ saying it demeans institution of marriage

RALEIGH, N.C. (BP)–The new reality show “Married by America” will no longer be aired by the Fox television affiliate in Raleigh, N.C., because station executives concluded that “the program did not reflect prevailing standards of good taste and that the show was clearly demeaning to the institution of marriage.”

The introduction to Fox’s Married by America website reads: “Marriage is a sacred union between two people who have grown together over time. Fox says (expletive) that!”

Married by America features five singles who, upon evaluations from family and the public, are paired with strangers. According to the Fox website, “Once face-to-face, these new couples will embark on a journey toward matrimony in hopes that they have indeed found their one true love.” The couple chosen by America to be married will win $1 million if they can stay married for 180 days.

Tom Elliff, pastor of the Oklahoma City-area First Southern Baptist Church in Del City and chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Council on Family Life, told Baptist Press he is encouraged by the Raleigh affiliate’s decision to pull the show.

“The fact that their executives hold to the notion that marriage is a sacred institution is not only a rarity among their peers but worthy of commendation,” he said. “Secular media outlets have a recent history of portraying the traditional family as a comical oddity with the father, in particular, generally scripted as nothing more than a dimwitted buffoon.

“Finally, one network has taken a step toward strengthening the family, recognizing its crucial role in society and acknowledging the importance of enduring love. Southern Baptists have placed the family high on its list of priorities, determining to do everything necessary to strengthen and preserve the divine institution of marriage. As such we welcome the efforts of any media outlet to do the same,” said Elliff, who will be among the featured speakers at the SBC’s first-ever Kingdom Family Rally June 16 in Phoenix.

Dwayne Hastings, vice president for communications with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, also supported the decision.

“Two thumbs up for a local television station that is willing to put morality before dollars,” Hastings told Baptist Press. “WRAZ’s decision not to air the crass reality show, Married by America, is refreshing. The program’s plot is degrading, despicable, and can only further damage the fraying moral fabric of our nation.

“It is God who ordains the institution of marriage, not a hundred thousand Americans mindlessly gripping their television remote. This is not entertainment; it is voyeurism, and as such, is an unhealthy obsession for many American television viewers. I can only hope that more television station executives will display the moral fortitude necessary to make the right and God-honoring decision to pre-empt programs that promote such immoral and God-dishonoring behavior,” Hastings said.

In a Feb. 27 column in Baptist Press, Todd Brady, instructor of Christian studies and minister to the university at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., took a stand against Married by America. In it, he wrote, “The seriousness of marriage should not be trivialized as a tool of entertainment for the masses. Nor should it be used as a way of making money. Marriage is an end in itself and not a means to another end.”

In comments to Baptist Press after the Raleigh affiliate’s decision, Brady said he thinks it’s great that the affiliate realizes there are many in America who believe in the seriousness and the sacredness of marriage.

“Perhaps their pulling of this show indicates that there are many who are more interested in truth than entertainment,” Brady said. “I think shows like this are an opportunity for Christians to speak about the real issues behind the shows. Just because it’s interesting or unique should not confuse our thinking about what is right or good.”

Since 2000, WRAZ-TV in Raleigh has instituted a policy that says the station will not broadcast reality programming that demeans marriage, according to the Raleigh News & Observer newspaper March 11. That policy developed after the Fox network developed one of the first reality shows, “Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?” In 2001, the station pulled “Temptation Island,” which featured couples trying to ward off the advances of singles at an island resort, after the revelation that one of the couples had a young child, the News & Observer reported. WRAZ did not air “Temptation Island 2.”

As further explanation for their decision not to air Married by America, the Fox affiliate issued this statement in their March 9 release: “Since WRAZ-TV/FOX 50 was never afforded the opportunity to preview these nor future episodes, the station can only assume that the program content will continue as is. WRAZ-TV/FOX 50 can only believe the FOX promotional announcements when they say: Once engaged, they [the couples] move into this romantic estate, living together, sleeping together. You’ll witness their every move until the day they say I do, and all five engaged strangers will commit to marriage on this stage.”

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  • Erin Curry