Over the last several days, Equality Florida has received a few emails suggesting that our recent efforts - condemning Tampa NBC affiliate WFLA's screening of a homophobic infomercial - amount to censorship.
We could not disagree more.
Equality Florida would vigorously defend the American Family Association's (AFA) RIGHT to say what they want. Only government can take rights away, and we would strongly oppose, let alone advocate for government limiting AFA's ability to speak.
The First Amendment does not, however, require a television station to air absolutely anything if someone is willing to pay for it. Every broadcast company in the nation has standards for content and they vet that content all the time.
If an advertiser pulls their funding from a show because of the content, are they censoring that show and denying someone their freedom of speech? Of course not. They are simply making a business decision to not associate with the content of that show. Likewise, WFLA, a business, constantly makes decisions about what content it will and wont allow on its network.
As the St. Petersburg Times recently editorialized, in part:
Could anyone, for example, imagine WFLA airing a documentary decrying "propaganda techniques to manipulate people into accepting the interracial lifestyle?" (replace the word "interracial" with "homosexual" and you have an actual line from Silencing Christians)."
We believe WFLA made a terrible decision that did real harm to the Tampa Bay community and they should apologize. They aired a one-sided show that was factually inaccurate and advocated for dangerous "reparative therapy" as a "treatment" for gay people.
Let's be clear. This show does harm to communities. The dehumanizing rhetoric used throughout the 60 minute broadcast is exactly the type a catalyst for increased anti-gay hate violence, especially perpetrated by impressionable young men.
When Ryan Skipper, a young gay Polk County man, was killed in 2007, his killers drove around and bragged to friends that they had killed a "fag." They were shocked that they weren't embraced as heroes. At the time, we asked ourselves "In what world did these young men live that it was okay to harm, even kill someone because of who they are?" It is shows like the one WFLA broadcast - at 7PM on a Saturday - that create a world in which anti-gay violence is at least perceived to be acceptable within a community.
That's our position. What do you think?