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Religion Notes

"Religion Notes" Continued...

Issue: "Stand in the gap," Oct. 18, 1997

Some things are sacred

Executives at ABC television said they will not pull the plug on its controversial new show, Nothing Sacred, despite pressure from religious groups, an exodus of advertisers, and poor ratings. The show portrays an inner-city Catholic priest who questions his faith and vocation, has lustful thoughts, treats the Bible lightly, and is ambivalent about Catholic doctrine on such issues as abortion and celibacy. In the premiere, Father Ray declared a moratorium on hearing about sexual sins in the confessional. The congregation applauded. An informal coalition of several dozen religious groups has bombarded Walt Disney Co., owner of ABC, with petitions reportedly signed by more than 500,000 people. Some of the most intense pressure against Disney and ABC is coming from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Thousands of its 35,000 members began calling ABC and advertisers months before the show began airing to protest it, League officials said. The program "is clearly a political statement against religious teachings on sexuality, and we decided to fight it," researcher Tamara Collins told reporters. Sears, K-Mart, Weight Watchers, Red Lobster, DuPont, American Izusu Motors, and other firms canceled ads. ABC defended the show in a statement, saying it offers "an honest depiction" of one priest's desire to balance his faith in God with the challenges of modern-day life. It suggested future episodes will help opponents see that the series "reflects positively on the issues of faith, for that is our intention."

Most important

Editors in Life magazine's Sept. 29 issue named the printing of the Gutenberg Bible in 1455 as the most important event of the last 1,000 years. They saw the event as ushering in the information revolution. It appeared at the top of a list of 100 of the most important events of the millennium (the Protestant Reformation came in third). Martin Luther ranked third on a list of 100 of the most important people.

Do not adjust your set

A class-action lawsuit on behalf of donors was filed against the board of directors of Christian Television Network of Largo, Fla. It alleges misuse of funds, illegal elections, and payoff of a female employee with donor money. It claims she and the network's founder and former president, Robert D'Andrea, had engaged in "immoral activity." Mr. D'Andrea was forced to resign as president in 1996 but remained a board member, according to James Fountain, who filed the suit. Mr. Fountain leads the Tampa-based National Christian Community Development Corp., which provides job training to inner-city residents. He told reporters a group of donors asked him to lead a reform effort because he is known as a leader in the Christian community. Donations are down, staff members have been laid off, and no one seems to be managing day-to-day operations, he said. The 24-hour anchor station, WCLF-TV Channel 22, a mainstay for the Tampa Bay Christian community for years, is in jeopardy, he warned. The network also has stations in West Palm Beach, Fort Myers, and Pensacola in Florida, Mobile, Ala., and Nashville, Tenn. The suit seeks temporary judicial oversight of finances, preservation of records, and election of a new and expanded board. Mr. Fountain claimed a confidential agreement to pay a former secretary six months' salary as severance pay was a misuse of donor money to "indemnify" Mr. D'Andrea. Attorney David Gibbs III, the network's board chairman and acting president, said the board will move to have the case dismissed. He suggested Mr. Fountain, a "complete stranger" to the ministry, has no legal standing to sue. Control of a valuable broadcast license is what really is at stake, he alleged. Mr. Gibbs said he is serving as an unpaid volunteer and at the unanimous request of the board. More than 50 people are employed full time at Channel 22 and the local network office, executives run day-to-day operations, and income is $135,000 ahead of last year, he said. He acknowledged that under a restructuring plan, more jobs will be handled by volunteers. Mr. D'Andrea resigned from the board this month, he said.

Gay quotas?

Having pledged to name five homosexuals to top White House posts, President Clinton chose as his first such appointee an ex-nun and lesbian activist, Virginia M. Apuzzo, 56. She will take over White House operations, the job once held by Clinton friend David Watkins. With a long record of involvement in Democratic politics and AIDS causes, she becomes the highest-level open homosexual in a U.S. administration. She was appointed an associate deputy secretary of labor in 1996.

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