Under God Or Under Government? GOP Senator Bullies TV Network

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!


12 thoughts on “Under God Or Under Government? GOP Senator Bullies TV Network

  1. God damn the Republican Party!

  2. What is odd to me is that the Pledge of Allegiance isn’t, in any way, an official pledge or document. What’s more it was originally written without the word, “Under God” (I thought the religious right and most conservatives were originalists). The reason the phrase was added was the ridiculous and wholly outdated assumption that only communists are atheists and all true Americans subscribe to a religious beleif system (preferably Christianity).

    Furthermore, and pursuant to your referencing the Constitution, it could be argued that the telecast of a sporting event falls under the journalistic arm of NBC, and the editorial decisions made are thus protected by the Constitution. If so, Coats could be guilty of an illegal attempt to stifle that freedom. I wouldn’t argue it but it is at least as credible as the notion that NBC owes Coats an explanation for anything they do.

    • To be clear, the sports division does not have to be part of the news group in order to be protected by the Constitution. While news is covered by the free press clause, everything else is covered by the free speech clause.

  3. Of course, all this completely ignores the history of the Pledge: that it wasn’t created until 1892, and that the phrase “under God” wasn’t added until 1954. Really, it reads much better in the original, regardless of the religious implications!

    • Do you get the impression that these guys would like to amend the Pledge again and change “under God” to “under Jesus?”

  4. Thou shalt not invoke my name in vain for the sake of your librul website!

  5. I’m too stunned to even make a comment on this other than to use the words of one of the stalwarts of the republican party-Dick Cheney-and tell Dan Coats to “go fuck yourself”!!!

  6. Would Coats demand that the golfers also pray “in a manner to be seen by men”?

  7. Talk about “small government” huh…

  8. At what point does Coats threaten to take any sort of action? It appears you all are reading things that aren’t there.

    You are also kind of buried the lead. How dumb is NBC to do this? It was clearly intentional and which political direction do think golf fans lean?

    • If you don’t think that letter from a U.S. senator is not threatening, you are pitifully naive. For a TV network to be called to justify their editing of an entertainment program is wholly out of bounds for the government, and I can’t understand how any conservative would support this.

      And I DID cover the lede. Censorship is far more important. I don’t think what NBC did was dumb at all. I couldn’t care less how they edit their intro to a golf broadcast. I do care that a powerful senator thinks he has the right to intervene.

  9. If you think this is governmental overreach into private secular enterprise, you should take a gander at what Christian right Tea Party Republicans in office have in store for us in future… This is next to nothing compared to what they’ve already accomplished and to what they have in mind.

    For some serious eye opening articles concerning current political events in this regard, see the following (prepared to be appalled):

    http://www.publiceye.org (Political Research Associates)
    http://www.pfaw.org (People for the American Way)

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