Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Fox bans stadium ad

Tim Tebow dared to write the reference of well-known Bible verse John 3:16 on his eye black before the 2009 BCS National Championship Game as a testament to his faith. The Gators’ star quarterback was able to do what common people aren’t allowed to–air a biblical message on national network television– with millions of people watching.

Executive Director of Fixed Point Foundation Larry Taunton said he put a great deal of thought into what he would want to tell more than 100 million viewers during a 30-second Super Bowl commercial if given the opportunity.

“As a Christian, my thought was I want to put out a message of hope,” Taunton said. “I didn’t want to push a political agenda or sell a product. I definitely want to say something that encourages people.”

Extensive fundraising commenced, and Taunton’s “Message of Hope,” centered on Bible verse John 3:16, was filmed at Bryant-Denny Stadium. He soon learned, however, the commercial would not appear on national television during the Super Bowl on Feb. 6th.

“Fox Sports said they would not air it because they deemed it too controversial,” Taunton said. “I was stunned because the commercial is so tame. The text does not appear on the television screen, and no one reads John 3:16 aloud.”

The commercial depicts a multitude of fans watching a football game, and one player is tackled. The familiar bible verse is sketched in his eye black, and a couple of fans are struck with the idea to actually look up the verse for the first time. The commercial then refers viewers to a website, LookUp316, that explains the verse in detail, according to Taunton.

“The fact that the commercial gives you the freedom to look up the verse if you want to makes it your prerogative,” said Katie Naughton, a sophomore majoring in communication studies. “I’m kind of tired of our society trying not to offend anyone. I think it’s a really good way to spark people’s interest and plant a seed without hitting them over the head with the Bible.”

Taunton said the commercial will still be aired throughout the state of Alabama, but he is surprised FoxSports refuses to broadcast the commercial, based on some of the other content the network airs.

“I was just sitting there trying to watch a football game last weekend with my 12-year-old daughter, and a commercial comes on for this horror movie, ‘The Rite,’ ” Taunton said. “She was very troubled by the frightening and disturbing images that came onto the screen. If I’d tried to put a commercial up with some naked women, [Fox Sports] probably would have allowed that.”

SUBHED: The controversy of Christ

Others believe FoxSports is just following protocol by not allowing the commercial to be aired due to its biblical content.

“I once did a study of an advertising campaign by the United Church of Christ denomination in the North,” said Theodore Trost, Chair of the University’s religious studies department. “The slogan read, ‘No matter where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here in this church.’ The commercial was banned by all the major networks, who consistently said it went against their charters to promote religion.”

Trost said on one level, the networks are being consistent with their policy, and on another level he can see where the commercial can be considered controversial.

“Controversy may not be obvious if you are a follower of Jesus Christ and see it as a message of hope,” Trost said. “However, the ad is controversial in the way it treats people of other faiths. What about Muslims, Jews, Hindus and atheists? That particular verse excludes all of those groups from God’s love.”

The station has a good case for denying the commercial, he said. He said he believes local stations not held to the same standards as national networks will have fewer issues with the commercial.

“The Governor Bentley example falls in the same category, regarding when he made those comments about only sharing brotherhood with followers of Christ,” Trost said. “A huge proportion of Alabamians are born-again Baptists, and they understood what he was trying to say and did not fault him for criticizing other religions. However, those who do not believe in Christ’s narrative may feel implicated and criticized for not believing the same way.”

Students have mixed reactions about Fox Sports’ decision not to air the commercial.

“Legally speaking, they have the right not to air it, but personally I do not agree with it,” said Laken Romine, a freshman majoring in public relations. “Most of the commercials on air are secular and don’t have strong moral or Christian values. In my opinion there should be equal representation.”

Rachel Steed, a sophomore majoring in psychology, said things that deal with Christianity can oftentimes be seen as controversial.

“If it deals with another religion, it’s just being tolerant,” Steed said. “It would make more sense if it was a blanket idea instead of targeting Christianity.”

University of Alabama Atheists and Agnostics President Timothy Keele said he was not personally offended by the nature of this particular commercial, but he understands and supports Fox’s reasoning in censoring it.

“For a Christian advertisement, it is tame — not attempting to be inflammatory, nor outwardly proselytizing,” Keele said. “On the other hand, I think there is a slew of highly offensive Christian advertisements out there — ranging from the unintentional slights toward nonbelievers embedded in political ads and political speeches such as Governor Bentley’s, to the blatant ‘heathens shall burn in hell’ variety.  While I do not think that any of these should be stifled outright because we live in a society that justly

believes in freedom of information and opinion, I am glad to see that Fox itself is considering if such advertising is wise.”

Keele said the non-Christian portion of the population is rapidly growing and beginning to have a strong political voice.

“I doubt Fox would have been so accommodating were this not the Super Bowl itself, but the Fox of 10 years ago would have aired it unquestioningly,” Keele said. “I am also glad that Fox is at least trying not to be offensive, albeit not with the utmost skill. Censorship is not required for a mature dialogue; moderation is.”

Reava Vaughters contributed to this report.

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