Talk about your big government. Republican Senator Dan Coats of Indiana is applying strong-arm tactics to intimidate a television network for not being sufficiently deferential to God.
The controversy stems from an NBC Sports opening sequence to the U.S. Open Golf Championship. The segment, intended to be a moment of patriotism, included parts of the Pledge of Allegiance. As is routine with television promos, editing of the segment was performed due to time constraints. As a result the words “under God” were omitted from the segment.
Bear in mind that this was not a religious program. It was not a news program. It was not an educational program. It was not a socially significant drama or even a “very special episode” of an otherwise vapid sitcom. This was a short slice of promotional tripe introducing a sporting event. Nevertheless, the martinets of virtue on the right were aghast at this affront to their Lord.
The outrage exhibited by the religious zealots is not really a matter of much concern. They are entitled to express their opinions and advance their view of how religious issues are presented in the media. The problem here is that now a United States Senator has injected himself, and consequently the weight of the government, into this debate in a wholly inappropriate and offensive manner.
Senator Coats, in a flurry of self-righteous indignation, has dashed off a letter to the president and CEO of NBC, Stephen Burke. The tone of the letter is repugnant and intimidating, as Coats seeks to pressure the network into compliance with his religious views. Coats writes…
“I am writing to express my serious concern, and the concerns of the Hoosiers I represent, regarding NBC’s decision to air an edited version of the national Pledge of Allegiance not once but twice during the June 19, 2011 broadcast of the U.S. Open golf tournament. In the opening of this broadcast, NBC aired video showing schoolchildren reciting the Pledge, but omitted the words ‘under God, indivisible’ during the segment. Moments later, NBC again aired an edited version of the Pledge, this time omitting the words ‘one nation, under God, indivisible.'”
“I am disturbed with NBC’s decision to modify the Pledge for this broadcast. I understand that NBC acknowledged its error at a later point in Sunday’s broadcast, and has since stated that this action was a ‘bad decision’ made by a small group of individuals. Nonetheless, I remain concerned that such a decision to selectively edit the Pledge could be made in the first place. As a result, I would like to request that NBC provide me with a full written account of its decision-making process in this matter, including an explanation of why these specific words were omitted, and what actions NBC intends to take to prevent such inappropriate edits from occurring in the future.”
It’s bad enough that NBC was cowed into making an unnecessary apology, but under what authority is Coats requesting that NBC be prevailed upon to provide him with a written account of their decision-making process? What business is it of his, or the U.S. government, how a private business decides to edit a program for entertainment purposes? Perhaps he would also like an explanation for why “American Idol” is elevating secular pop singers to deity status? Has he not heard the commandment that “you shall not make for yourself an idol?” Maybe he would like to force CBS to develop a new show called “Creationism” to counter the blasphemous effects of “The Big Bang Theory?”
And where does Coats get off demanding that NBC tell him what actions they intend to take to “prevent such inappropriate edits from occurring in the future?” Who is he to decide that the edits were inappropriate? Isn’t that the job of the producers, writers, and marketers of the private enterprise making the program? Is Coats implying that there is some government imposed prohibition to airing this, or some similar segment, in the future?
This is government intrusion on media of the most heinous sort. It is trampling on the feet of the First Amendment. This over-reach should be denounced by everyone from religious freedom advocates to Tea Party proponents of “getting government off our backs.” (Although I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the Tea Party to demonstrate their moral consistency).
To see a person in a position of power abusing it like this is a chilling spectacle. Sen. Coates needs to study the Constitution and refrain from imposing his religious beliefs on private enterprise. The Pledge of Allegiance is not mandated by law to be recited on any television program and there is no legal stipulation that it never be edited – Thank God!