Cover Story

A Caveman with Convictions

A nationally acclaimed cartoonist is the latest casualty in the cultural elite's ongoing purge of Christian ideas from the mainstream media, but he hopes his persistence will expose them for "what they are" and help pierce the veil of journalistic objectivity

Issue: "Caveman with convictions," April 20, 1996

Johnny Hart's home studio in rural New York State is filled with soft jazz music and soothing natural light. Here, for more than 36 years, the cartoonist has shared life with his caveman friend, B.C. Ink pens pepper Mr. Hart's drawing table. Drawing paper carpets his floor. Characters from "B.C." and his other famous strip, "The Wizard of Id," keep company with a litany of honors, including six-time recognition by The National Cartoonist Society for Best Humor Strip of the Year.

These days, shade trees outside his window regularly wave Mr. Hart hello. Reflections of clouds dance across a 30-acre lake. And, less happily, editorial bias routinely rips at Mr. Hart's lovable characters. Even a caveman knows why: The Los Angeles Times doesn't like Mr. Hart's-or B.C.'s-brand of Christianity, and its editors are willing to suspend their "liberalism" long enough to censor it. Mr. Hart told WORLD he believes his treatment by the Times is symptomatic of the battle for America's soul, and he likes "the idea that this has gotten Christians up in arms. That's what they all need."

He doesn't overstate the case: News media hostility to Christian truth is well-established and documented, and the most recent study represents the same song, second verse. Only one percent of the 44,000 news stories done by major TV networks last year even dealt with religion, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Media Research Center in a study released this month, "Faith in a Box: Television and Religion," 1995. MRC chairman L.Brent Bozell notes that the news stories that did cover religion "regularly attacked" Christian conservatives.

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In Mr. Hart's case, for four years now the Times has refused to run his strips containing tasteful, witty Christian messages about Halloween, Easter, or Christmas. (The Atlanta Constitution since January has ceased altogether running Mr. Hart's strips.) Most recently, the Times refused to run Mr. Hart's Palm Sunday strip (see pp. 14-15).

Times spokeswoman Gloria Lopez told WORLD Mr. Hart's strip isn't the only one that has been pulled. Other examples she cited include "Doonesbury" and "The Far Side." Said Ms. Lopez: "The bottom line is the editors reserve the right to edit."

One evangelical journalist interviewed by WORLD gave a different perspective; the journalist spoke on the condition that he not be identified because of justifiable concern he'd be fired in retaliation for his remarks. The journalist recalled how in one big-city newspaper editorial meeting, an allusion to Easter as a "holy day" was met with visible derision. "About 25 percent of the people in the room just broke out laughing, like this was the biggest joke they'd ever heard in their life," the journalist said.

The same journalist worked for years at The Los Angeles Times. "Basically being at the Times, and I'd say almost any newspaper if you are a Christian, it is almost like being a lone ranger. There are just very few people who really understand what you're doing. You just assume that you are going to be misunderstood.

WORLD reported March 16 on how L.A. Times editors conducted something like an inquisition of the president of the Times's Orange County edition, Judy Sweeney, after she told a local evangelical college gathering of strains she faced as a Christian working alongside unbelievers. "She's gone," the former Times journalist said.

Though the Times's Lopez told WORLD that Ms. Sweeney "has the support of her colleagues at the Los Angeles Times," the former Times journalist predicted it is only a matter of time before Ms. Sweeney is fired or resigns under fire.

It was also only a matter of time for veteran Houston Chronicle religion writer Julia Duin, an evangelical Christian who is now culture editor for The Washington Times. She recounted to WORLD that as the Chronicle's religion writer, she once tried to respectfully sensitize a superior to how "offensive" abortion was to "over a half-million" people within the Chronicle's readership. During local pro-life demonstrations, the paper had been playing up local pro-choice coverage on the front page, while giving pro-lifers page C-8. "He just lost it and he really started screaming at me," Ms. Duin recalls. Three months later, suddenly, she was fired without explanation.

An explanation was all L. A. Times Syndicate columnist Cal Thomas wanted. A couple of hours had passed, and he still was waiting for a Good Morning America travel agent to call to set up his plane reservations to New York City to appear on the show. Finally Mr. Thomas called the show's producer, who told him they had decided to "make a switch" in a scheduled interview with Mr. Thomas about homosexuality in San Francisco.


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