Lynn v. Sekulow

Lynn v. Sekulow


PBS Decision Was Unwise and Unnecessary

posted by Jay Sekulow

Barry, “sectarian” programming should not be excluded from public broadcasting at a time when matters of faith and religion are so much in the news and in the hearts and minds of viewers.

 

Local public broadcast programming is supposed to be tailored to the unique needs and characteristics of the community. This unfortunate decision serves to further nationalize the control of public broadcasting and undercuts the ability of local stations to provide a full, diverse, and relevant community service. The fact that this decision came after twenty-five years of lax enforcement is telling.

For one thing, this decision was certainly not required by the Establishment Clause. The fact that a small percentage of a public broadcast station’s air time includes programming with religious or sectarian content does not violate the Establishment Clause. Any such content would further the legitimate secular interest of providing public broadcast content that reflects the needs and interests of the local community. The few local stations permitted to keep their longstanding religious programming to serve the needs of their communities have no reason to fear a violation of the Establishment Clause.

 

In addition, under Arkansas Educational Television Commission v. Forbes, 523 U.S. 666 (1998), public television programming is not typically a forum for private speech and broadcasters have editorial discretion to decide what to air. Importantly, however, where public broadcasters air a political debate or other program that provides a platform for the expression of private speech, free speech principles come into play. A ban on religious or “sectarian” viewpoints in such programming would violate the private speakers’ freedom of speech. This likely explains why the recent decision does not cover discussion programs that air different religious points of view. It is also, ironically, one of the reasons, aside from money, why PBS stations may still air religious programs on their secondary digital multicast TV channels and websites.

 

Barry, the PBS decision reflects two major problems that reach far beyond this particular decision: the secularization of public life and the federal monopolization of local control. PBS should have followed the old adage: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

 

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posted June 19, 2009 at 3:39 pm


Jay, I agree that sectarian programming should not be excluded from public broadcasting. It is a violation of first amendment rights. There is such a vast variety of television content that if someone doesn’t want to watch – change the channel. Separation of church and state is just a cliche for leaving God out of every day life. People have such a hard time being confronted with truth. I believe there should be a reconciliation of church and state. Look at all the documents, bills, laws, etc. written by our founding fathers who were invoking the name of God and his blessing. This is not the world of Constantine. No one is demanding a state religion, no one but the Church of the Liberal Minds.



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N. Lindzee Lindholm

posted June 20, 2009 at 2:12 am


Hi Dr. Sekulow,
I agree that “sectarian” programming should not be banned from programming since religion and spirituality are paramount to the American people. A 2005 poll on the issue of Spirituality conducted by Newsweek/Beliefnet revealed that out of 1004 Americans canvassed, 88 percent indicated that they were either spiritual or religious. This statistic is proof of the prominence religion and spirituality play in people’s lives. In light of Arkansas Educational Television Commission v. Forbes, banning religious programming from stations that receive PBS programming in essence violates the free speech of the broadcasters who are entitled the freedom to choose which programs they can air through “editorial discretion”. Since airing religious broadcasts on public stations is not a violation of the Establishment Clause, PBS should amend both their legislative and executive decisions in this arena.



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Your Name

posted June 20, 2009 at 3:26 am


Tax dollars are used to fund PBS, and to use tax dollars to support sectarian causes is coercion of money for religious purpose. It should not be allowed, …not threepence. Matters of faith and religion are not in the heart or mind of this viewer, nor paramount to this taxpayer. If they were, there are ample sources to which I could contribute voluntarily. Those religious institutions which find themselves worthy of consideration by the citizenry will flourish by such contribution, otherwise they are consigned to history.
The separation of religion and government is not cliche, it is a cornerstone of our Constitution. Those who would leave God out of everyday life are free to do so, and they may do so without coerced contribution every day of their lives, without penalty or loss of governmental inclusion and protection. Those who would include God are also free to do so, and they may make contribution as they see fit to any, of many, places of worship. Their continued existence is dependent, as it should be, entirely on the merit people find in supporting them. That all sanctioned religions are free from taxation is more benefit than I would deign to provide were it up to me personally. It is not up to me any more, or less, than any of my fellow citizens who are bound by the Constitution and the laws of this great nation. Long may it remain so.



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Richard Lee Dechert

posted June 21, 2009 at 2:53 pm


The updated PBS requirement on religious programming for PBS member stations is summarized in the 6/16/09 posting on “Current,” a public broadcasting newspaper, at http://www.current.org. In my judgment it is “Wise and Necessary”:
“In a compromise with the small number of PBS stations running religious programming, the PBS board today approved a membership requirement that would allow those shows to continue but would ban more sectarian programs to be added on PRIMARY channels. Also, religious programs may be carried on MULTICAST (SECONDARY) channels or OTHER PLATFORMS as long as PBS branding is not included. This was the final requirement recommended by the Station Services Committee after more than a year’s work updating membership criteria. The ‘three nons’ question had been sent back to the system for additional input (see Current, April 13….” [Emphases added]
The PBS board updated its membership requirement on religious programming to accommodate the federally mandated 6/12/09 conversion from analog to digital television, whereby 356 local member stations can MULTICAST two or more digital channels from one FCC-licensed transmitter.
For example, TPT (Twin Cities Public Television) in Saint Paul is using two licensed transmitters to MULTICAST one PRIMARY channel in a high-definition format and three SECONDARY channels in standard-definition formats.
Per my understanding of the updated requirement, TPT could provide sectarian church services on its SECONDARY channels if they weren’t branded as PBS-distributed services; and TPT’s Website could be a PLATFORM for services if they weren’t PBS branded. Also, TPT could continue providing a wide range of PBS-branded nonsectarian programs like the award-winning “Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.”
TPT has been multicasting digital channels for several years, and has been able to substantially increase the volume and variety of its nonsectarian programs, many of which have been co-produced with
religious organizations. So contrary to Jay Sekulow’s claim, the updated requirement enables TPT and other PBS stations to retain local control of their programming.
Richard Lee Dechert
(A retired TPT staffer speaking only for myself.)



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jimbino

posted June 22, 2009 at 11:05 am


When was the last time we had a lawsuit over Ten Commandments monuments or Christian crosses at Disney World or Six Flags? Never. If we were to get the government out of our schools, libraries, parks and forests, all this stife over religion would come to an end.



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Mary-Lee

posted June 22, 2009 at 4:51 pm


… “sectarian” programming should not be excluded from public broadcasting at a time when matters of faith and religion are so much in the news and in the hearts and minds of viewers.
Sectarian programming is not excluded from public broadcasting. Maybe it’s not on in prime time, but it’s definitely not excluded. On any number of channels those who are interested can view preachers from a variety of faiths exhorting their TV congregants. Where I live there are two stations given over entirely to Christian religious programming. All day long, anyone can watch a conversation, a sermon, an entire service, or a film on some aspect of the life of Jesus.
PBS is publicly supported television, though. That makes it different. One more time, no one should be forced to pay for any religious effort of any sort. Public broadcasting can show programs about religion… they do this for many faiths, generally but not always at the various holiday seasons. Still, they cannot show services for the convenience of shut-ins or for any other reason.
Maybe it might be better if everyone who wants to see a service got out of bed on a Sunday morning and actually went to church! There’s a thought for you all.



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Cara Floyd

posted June 22, 2009 at 9:51 pm


Thou shalt not kill
C



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Evoluted1

posted June 23, 2009 at 3:05 am


You’re not talking about John Ensign are you Boris? Sorry, bad pun.



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N. Lindzee Lindholm

posted June 24, 2009 at 11:19 pm


Hi Dr. Jay,
I greatly appreciate your contributions to the weekly blogs. I, too, am a big fan of constitutional law and a supporter of religious liberties. Therefore, I really treasure the informal mentoring that takes place when I read your responses, learn from them, and either assimilate the knowledge in my brain or in my own answer.
I proudly admit that I am a classical music lover and listener. Among my several favorite public stations I listen to, they all broadcast religious programming, usually on Sunday, in which they play sacred classics like Gregorian Chant, Handel’s Messiah, sacred requiems, and mass music. This beautiful, inspirational music is a gem for both religious and non-religious people alike. If public radio is allowed to host sacred programs, public television ought to be able to host religious programs as well.



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Richard Lee Dechert

posted June 26, 2009 at 7:11 pm


The updated requirement on religious programming for PBS member stations is summarized in the 6/16/09 posting on “Current,” a public broadcasting newspaper:
“In a compromise with the small number of PBS stations running religious programming, the PBS board today approved a membership requirement that would allow those shows to continue but would ban more sectarian programs to be added on PRIMARY channels. Also, religious programs may be carried on MULTICAST (SECONDARY) channels or OTHER PLATFORMS as long as PBS branding is not included. This was the final requirement recommended by the Station Services Committee after more than a year’s work updating membership criteria….” [Emphases added]
In my judgment the requirement is Wise and Necessary–and contrary to Mr. Sekulow, it doesn’t “further nationalize the control of public broadcasting and undercut the ability of local stations to provide a full, diverse, and relevant community service.”
He failed to note that the PBS board updated the requirement to accommodate the federally mandated 6/12/09 conversion from analog to digital television, whereby 356 local member stations can MULTICAST two or more digital channels from one FCC-licensed transmitter.
For example, TPT (Twin Cities Public Television) in Saint Paul is using two licensed transmitters to MULTICAST one PRIMARY channel in a high-definition format and three SECONDARY channels in standard-definition formats.
Per my understanding of the requirement, TPT could provide sectarian programs on one of its SECONDARY channels if they weren’t PBS branded, it could continue providing PBS-branded nonsectarian programs like the “Religion & Ethics Newsweekly” on its other MULTICAST channels, and its Website could be a PLATFORM for secular programs if they weren’t PBS branded.
TPT has been MULTICASTING digital channels for several years, and they’ve enabled it to increase the volume and variety of its nonsectarian programs–many of which have been locally produced with religious and nonreligious partners. Contrary to Mr. Sekulow, TPT and other PBS stations can STILL do this to enhance their “community service.”
Richard Lee Dechert
(A media researcher and retired TPT staffer speaking only for myself.)



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Richard Lee Dechert

posted June 26, 2009 at 7:55 pm


Correction – My above statement should say: “Per my understanding of the requirement, TPT could provide sectarian programs on one of its SECONDARY channels if they weren’t PBS branded, it could continue providing PBS-branded nonsectarian programs like the “Religion & Ethics Newsweekly” on its other MULTICAST channels, and its Website could be a PLATFORM for sectarian [not secular] programs if they weren’t PBS branded.”



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Paul Duncan

posted July 9, 2009 at 12:37 pm


There never was a separation of Church and State as our Congress printed the first family Christian Bibles and I’m free to pray anywhere as jesus gave me that right. Stop the evil atheist Obama and his fraudulent treaty with Russia on nukes. 2/3 of the senate must ratify any treaty with a foreign country which makes his treaty unconstitutional. Our military is not obligated to follow an unconstitutional treaty. Have our US Senate stand up for their rights and stop the dictator Hussein Obama.



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Boris

posted July 11, 2009 at 3:16 am


Paul Duncan thinks president Obama is an “evil atheist” for trying to make peace with a treaty. What Paul does support obviously are the two holy wars wars of aggression started by the evil evangelical Christian George Bush. Christians start wars and kill people. Paul thinks that is good. When people try to make peace the Christian Bible believer Paul Duncan thinks peace is bad.
Paul also thinks his rights come from Jesus Christ, someone who never existed.



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