Tale of Two Ads

America, land of the free! At least that's what we've been taught. But today freedom is sometimes selective. Freedom of speech is granted to some groups . . . but not to others. Consider the opposite treatment given to two advertisements in recent weeks. The first was in Georgia, where a pro-life candidate for Congress-David Becker-aired several political ads showing an abortion in progress. Pro-choicers were outraged and appealed to the Federal Communications Commission to declare the ads indecent. The ads were admittedly pretty gruesome-but then abortion is a gruesome business. The FCC upheld Becker's right to show the ads, but then the Georgia Supreme Court stepped in and ruled the ads indecent. By law, indecent programming can run only between midnight and 6 a.m. So while prime time is free to show murders in living color, abortion is relegated to the dead of night-along with smutty programs that really are indecent. So much for Becker's freedom of speech. Now, listen to what happened to a second ad. This story is set in Washington, D.C., where a country radio station was approached by a gay-rights group to run an ad promoting the organization and its agenda. The station manager maintained a long-standing policy of refusing to accept any "issue advertising" at all, so he politely turned down the ad. Immediately the gay group swung into action. The next business day the station manager received a call from the mayor of Washington, D.C. He was told in no uncertain terms that if the station refused to carry the ad, he would be prosecuted-under the charge of denying a minority group access to the "cultural life" of the city. Well, the radio station caved in-which of course will encourage the gay group to keep using coercive tactics. You know, we often hear that liberal groups are open and tolerant and just want a pluralistic society. Well, I'm not so sure. The gay activists certainly weren't very tolerant about the radio station's policy. They were just as absolutist about it-just as willing to force it on others-as fundamentalists are accused of being. And the Georgia Supreme Court certainly wasn't very pluralistic when it banned those pro-life ads. The judges were just as exclusivist as conservatives are accused of being. The truth is that appeals to tolerance and pluralism aren't always sincere. Often they're just tactics used to undermine one set of values-in order to make way for a new set. The new values are just as absolute, just as dogmatic, as the old ones. So when you hear a group say, We just want everyone to be free to make up their own mind, don't take that necessarily at face value. Pro-choicers aren't for real choice when they use the courts to suppress the opposition. Pro-gay groups are not for real tolerance when they use the arm of the law to force their views on others. Yes, America is the land of the free-but not when the government uses its coercive power selectively, to promote one point of view over another.


Chuck Colson



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