Remember the campaign to get conservative hate speech off the broadcast airwaves, launched by petition to the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Commerce last week? It turns out the effort by the United Church of Christ Communications Office-staffed So We Might See Coalition is getting pushback from two of the members of the coalition. First, there’s this from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, via LifeSite News:
Speaking for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver has stated that a religious coalition, which recently petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clamp down on “hate speech” by conservative talk-show hosts, has misrepresented the U.S. bishops’ involvement in their initiative.
The USCCB Office of Communications is listed as a member of the So We Might See Coalition, a group billing itself as a national interfaith coalition against hate speech in media led by the United Church of Christ’s (UCC) Office of Communications’ Executive Director, J. Bennett Guess.
However, the American Spectator’s Jeffrey Lord reports that, in responding to a parishioner’s request for an explanation about the scandal, Archbishop Chaput said that “the USCCB feels that its involvement has been misrepresented” by So We Might See.
The USCCB’s Communications Secretary Helen Osman told the Catholic News Agency on Monday that, although the USCCB is one of the groups in the So We Might See Coalition, the USCCB did not sign on to the current petition, which is at the center of the controversy.
Archbishop Chaput pointed out that the USCCB’s goals in joining the coalition were specifically outlined in a letter that it sent in July to the FCC. Lord reports that the USCCB’s letter did not mention any specific public figure or media forum, but simply supported “a broad public forum in which to raise and debate (hate speech and other issues) in a respectful manner.”
Chaput also observed that at the time the USCCB had “informed the sponsors of this effort that (1) there are serious constitutional concerns raised by any interference with free speech; (2) it’s not at all clear that the FCC has jurisdiction or can actually do anything about the problem; and (3) ‘hate speech’ is an ambiguous concept with some troubling implications for religious believers and their right to hold and preach doctrines that some might find offensive.”
So We Might See has put the USCCB statement on its Web site, though it isn’t easy to find. Meanwhile, United Methodists are apparently having second thoughts about their involvement, according to an item at UCC Communications:
On Oct. 20, United Methodist Communications requested temporary removal of its name and logo from the coalition’s website until its board was given more time to consider the agency’s involvement. This request was honored immediately.
This is from a piece written by Bennett Guess (who is both executive director of UCC Communications and the first person listed under staff for the SWMSC) in which he supposedly responds to “misleading and untruthful articles that have appeared this past week at The American Spectator about the UCC and the So We Might See interfaith media justice coalition.” (The article–as far as I know there was only one–in question is here.) I say “supposedly,” because there’s no response to much of anything that Jeffrey Lord writes. The only fact that Guess disputes has to do with SWMSC funding, about which Guess says this:
Neither the United Church of Christ’s Office of Communication, Inc., nor the So We Might See Coalition, receive any financial support from George Soros, as an individual, nor from his foundation, the Open Society Institute. While the Open Society Institute is one of multiple supporters of the Media Democracy Fund, neither the UCC, the Coalition nor its campaigns have been recipients of these funds directly.
Of course, if he’d carefully read the article, he would know that Lord never said that either the UCC or the SWMSC got money from Soros or the Open Society Institute. All he said was that SWMSC got money from the Media Democracy Fund, which is partially funded by Soros’ OPI. So in sum, Guess refutes nothing that Lord said, and the point still remains: the basic aim of the SWMSC and its petition to the FCC (about which there’s no word on number of signatures, naturally, given their previous failure) is to drive competing political points of view off the air, or, if that can’t be achieved, to demonize them as “hate speech.” That’s the real scandal of this effort.