Most Americans don’t even know that the popular, G-rated Family Channel was founded by televangelist Pat Robertson and is run by his son, Tim, as a very profitable “outreach” of Pat’s non-profit Christian Broadcasting Network.
The Virginian-Pilot reported (Feb. 12) that Fox and other communication giants would pay as much as $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion for Pat’s media empire that controls MTM Entertainment (Hill Street Blues to The Mary Tyler Moore Show), the Ice Capades, a chain of live-music theaters, TV programming in Asia, Latin America, and a British version of the Family Channel.
Carried by cable into approximately 70 million U.S. homes, Family Channel programming seems innocent enough with its steady diet of popular movies and TV series reruns (Three Stooges, Waltons, Highway to Heaven), but three times every day a full hour of toxic waste flows into that polluted programming stream. Once in the morning and twice at night, the Family Channel repeats Pat’s daily 700 Club with its false and inflammatory attacks on lesbian and gay Americans.
On January 7, 1997, for example, Robertson claimed that the two biggest problems in America are “homosexuality and abortion.” He caricatured people who support gay rights as a “malevolent force pushing this agenda “that is perverse and evil.”
For six years we have carefully monitored Robertson’s anti-homosexual obsession. For two years we tried to meet with Pat privately, to help him understand how his campaign leads to discrimination, suffering and death for God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children. When he refused to see us privately, we took our case against him to the public.
On Valentine’s Day, 1995, when we tried to visit Pat’s office with flowers, candy, and our written case against him, I was arrested and held in punitive isolation in the Virginia Beach city jail for twenty-one days while I waited for a meeting with Pat. After spending a few minutes with me in a surprise, late night visit, he told his 700 Club viewers “we abhor violence against homosexuals,” but in the next twelve months Pat continued his anti-homosexual campaign that leads directly and indirectly to the very violence he “abhors.” That campaign continues today.
On February 14, 1996, when he refused to meet with us again, my partner, Gary Nixon, and I rented a hotel conference room across from his headquarters in Virginia Beach and invited the media to see a 30 minute tape we had prepared showing outrageous examples of his rhetoric and our response. In the last year, more than 2,000 copies of that video, The Rhetoric of Intolerance, have been seen in individual homes, schools, libraries, churches, synagogues, P-FLAG meetings and on public access television to help people sample Pat’s dangerous rhetoric and to prepare their own response.
Now, it’s 1997, time again to present our annual Valentine to Pat. The “soul force” principles of Jesus, Gandhi, and King are clear: We must continue to present the truth in love relentlessly until Robertson, millions of his TV followers, and the 1.7 million political activists in his Christian Coalition see the light.
Here’s how you can send a Valentine to Pat and help end his tragic, “700 Club” anti-gay/lesbian campaign.
1. Find the Family Channel (FAM) in your TV guide and decide for yourself if you want to go on watching (and thus supporting) the channel that Pat uses in his attempts to turn the country against us. Remember, Pat’s words were used against us on the floor of the U.S. House and Senate during the DOMA debate and they trickle down to help create the hostile climate that has found us among the primary victims of hate crimes all across America.
2. Warn families and friends (especially parents with children) that there are “700 Club” wolves hiding among the Family Channel sheep. Viewing Robertson’s Family Channel can be dangerous to the mental health of children and adults alike. After listening to Pat and his staff caricature and condemn us, it’s no wonder so many young lesbians and gays (especially those in religious homes) live in lonely closets of guilt and fear or even take their own lives.
3. Call your local cable operator and share your concern. You’ll be amazed at how much impact one call can have on a local cable system. And if you ask enough of your friends to call, you might see the Family Channel disappear from your screen. If not, ask local cable management to view our “Rhetoric of Intolerance” video* and then broadcast it on a public access channel to give us an equal opportunity to respond to the false charges against us.
4. Watch the Family Channel just long enough to write down 2-3 of the regular sponsors 800 numbers or home pages and call or e-mail your concern. Most sponsors don’t know that their dollars help keep Pat Robertson’s anti-homosexual campaign on the air. Tell Keebler, Lysol, Campbell’s, Dr. Scholl’s, Hormel, Magnavox, Pillsbury, Jenny Craig, Jeep, Betty Crocker, Chrysler, Disney, Columbia, Von’s, Heath Bar, etc. They need to know.
5. Share your honest concern directly with Pat at his CBN home page – or at his Family Channel homepage. Then, tell them what you think in the spirit of Gandhi and King’s soul force, “truth in love relentlessly.”
6. Contact the Federal Communications Commission with your concerns. The commissioners regulate public broadcasting and need to know how you feel about Robertson’s anti-homosexual campaign.
7. If you know anyone, – producers, actors, directors, executives – at Fox, Disney, Universal, Columbia-Tristar, or the other film and TV production houses, remind them that doing business with Pat’s Family Channel hurts us all.
8. If you want to stay informed about the dangerous words and actions of Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, and their Christian Coalition, e-mail Paula X to get on her informative and “undercover” CCWatch list.
9. Check regularly with our own JusticeNET home page for new information about Pat Robertson’s Family Channel and how you can help silence the rhetoric.
10. Too many Americans have never seen the anti-homosexual extremists in action. Our “Rhetoric of Intolerance” video* includes 35 of Pat’s most outrageous recent statements, (not just against lesbians and gays, but against “militant feminists,” Muslim Americans and others on Pat’s enemy list). Order a copy and use it with your friends and family, to see for themselves what the extremists are saying and how we can respond more effectively.
Remember, with all the gains we’ve made, our sisters and brothers are still being discarded by their families, evicted from them homes, fired from their jobs, excommunicated by their churches, hunted down and hounded out of the military, harassed, beaten and murdered by bullies simply because they’re lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
A behind-the-scenes member of the evangelical Protestant movement from the 1960’s-1980’s, Rev. Mel White came out in 1994, publishing the book Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America. He was awarded the ACLU’s National Civil Liberties Award in 1997 for his efforts to apply the “soul force” principles of Gandhi and King to the LGBTQI movement and founded the organization Soulforce in 1998 to continue that work.