Making The Story A Non-Story


I was planning on writing a fairly straightforward article about the increase of religious discrimination against Christians as evidenced by a recent incident here in SoCal.

I saw the story on the news last night and ferreted out the newspaper version this morning. Apparently the Orange County Register first reported the incident, and their facts match up with the clip I saw last night which included a fairly detailed (for TV) interview.

Here’s the situation. Compass Bible Church wanted to advertise their Easter service which they hold at a large center in a nearby university. They made a video and turned it in to the appropriate persons. It was rejected.

According to Pastor Mike Fabarez the guidelines they’d been given prohibited nudity and drugs but said nothing about religion. Yet when the church’s video was returned, he was told that the media company wouldn’t promote religious figures.

Here’s how the reporter worded it:

Fabarez said the church did receive content guidelines for their ad, which prohibited things like nudity or drug use. The guidelines made no mention of religion, he added, but the church was told promoting a religious figure would not be allowed.

The MSNBC version of the article added this paragraph, which matched the video I saw on the news last night:

The church would have been allowed to simply show the time and location of the service. Fabarez added he was shown example Easter ads that featured eggs and bunnies, but the church wanted attendees to know the topic would focus on the holiday’s history.

Here’s where things start to get twisted. I wanted to see what other sources might say. I found the story first on the local CBS affiliate web site. Imagine my surprise when I read this paragraph:

NCM Media Networks, which handles pre-show advertising for many Orange County theaters, gave Fabarez content guidelines, which prohibits nudity, drug use and promotion of religious figures [emphasis mine].

So which was it? Did the guidelines spell out no religious figures and the pastor turned a blind eye? Was he purposefully stirring up controversy, as some suggested, to get more attention than he ever would have with a movie ad?

I found a number of Christian organizations carrying a report on the situation, but the Big Name outlets were buried on Google’s page five or six. Finally I found the Associated Press report via the Fresno Bee and here’s how the article was distilled:

NCM Media Networks, which handles pre-show advertising for many Orange County theaters, gave Fabarez content guidelines, which prohibits nudity, drug use and promotion of religious figures.

The Orange County Register says NCM Media released a statement explaining the ad was rejected because Compass Bible Church chose not to revise the ad to meet content guidelines.

Yes, this is consistent with the CBS print report but clearly, it is not what the pastor said in the TV interview and not what the OC Register reporter wrote.

Yet this is the story most of the nation will hear. And who will get exercised over a pastor refusing to follow clearly spelled out guidelines? Where’s the story in that? This rewriting of the facts is sure to make this story of discrimination against Christians a non-story. I wonder if, oh, say a women’s rights group were to be denied their ad, would the story be so succinctly summarized in such a non-controversial manner?

By the way, I went to the the NCM Media Networks website and could find no guidelines. Anyway, tell me what you think about the issue.

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