Religion's Role, Respect Find New Ground

Did Emmy Usher In New Wave of Culture War?

Above you see video of Sally Field’s acceptance speech at last night’s Emmy Awards. You’re not hearing Field’s actual words: “If the mothers ruled the world, there would be no goddamn wars in the first place.”

Did we not just hear the first shot in the Culture War’s next front??

Though operating under federal guidelines, networks censor at their own discretion. Sure, certain literal and figurative four-letter words get an automatic bleep, but others utterances are up left to the network’s discretion. And Fox took a heavy – and telling – hand in its policing of the Emmy Awards.

The writing was on the wall last week when E! network editors artfully removed Kathy Griffin‘s allegedly blasphemous use of Jesus Christ, as in,

A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this. But he had nothing to do with this. Suck it, Jesus, this award is my God now!

Catholic activists decried Griffin’s words, which were later removed.

Fox’s snip-snips went [almost] live during last night’s awards show. While they followed FCC guidelines in excising Ray Ramano and Katherine Heigl’s four-lettered words, the network exercised its own restraints by removing Field’s politically-charged religious expression.

First and foremost, Field’s statement does not violate FCC policy. Though it frowns on fuck and the such, as LA Times‘ Tom O’Neil remembers, the watchdogs ruled back in 2003 that such language doesn’t fall within its realm. That brouhaha started at The Golden Globes, when Bono said “god damn”. The resulting ruling reads,

The Bureau, however, concluded that the material was not obscene or indecent, finding in particular with respect to indecency that the language used by Bono did not describe, in context, sexual or excretory organs or activities and that the utterance was fleeting and isolated.

Fox can’t pretend to be holding up FCC requirements. Rather, it seems they’re simply maintaining their conservative stance. The network, whose news branch basically acts as a mouthpiece for the Bush administration and frequently takes on liberal leaning politicos, drew up its own guidelines in censoring Field and Griffin.

So, what does this all mean? Maybe nothing. Or maybe we’ve just seen the start of new culture war. If we’re right and Larry Craig’s guilty plea strikes down the GOP’s anti-gay policy, social conservatives are going to need a new red flag to wave. Queers can’t be presented as the ultimate danger anymore. Their symbolism, however, can.

Many-a-homophobe have used the Bible to condemn homosexuality. By allowing gay marriage and the such, politicians are defiling the nation’s historic religious foundations, they say. Gay marriage may not yet be a reality, but the reality’s that anti-gay politics no longer hold water – or sway. Politicians and other cultural figures, however, rely on common believes to cast a wide net. Fox and E!’s respective behind-the-scenes tampering may have given us a glimpse into the working of conserative’s minds. If they can’t uphold Christian values by going against the gays, they can fight their battle on grounds of respect. Field and Griffin’s disrespectful Christian sentiments. Taking on Griffin’s comments, Catholic League president Bill Donahue said,

Mel Gibson. Michael Richards. Isaiah Washington. Imus. Jerry Lewis. Every time a celebrity offends a segment of the population, he pays a price, in one way or another. The question now is whether Kathy Griffin will pay a similar price for her outburst.

Religious outcries nothing new, but could it come back in style? The past week suggests it could.

While religionists may celebrate the censorship, some people wonder if it won’t back fire. The Salt-Lake City Tribune‘s Corey Hodge writes:

…Editing out the lewd portions of Griffin’s speech is necessary for the public airwaves, additional censorship of her comments may have far-reaching consequences for people of faith.

Suppressing secular or anti-religious commentary will set a precedent that could be used to restrict religious content. People of faith are already losing the “war on Christmas.” Retailers, municipalities and even the White House opt for the politically correct term “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

If we continue to demand the silencing of Griffin and others who don’t believe as we believe, we run the risk of losing many more battles.

Under the Constitution, Griffin has as much a right to say Jesus had nothing to do with her statuette as her colleagues do to thank God for theirs. If people of faith want to continue to enjoy their right to freely express their religion, we may have to stomach remarks that are sometimes offensive to our faith.

The lines are being drawn. Where and how they’re crossed, however, remains to be seen. At least now we know where Fox and E! stand…

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