Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Anti-Catholic billboards? No problem, says CBS

The Catholic League has published an article and photos of two billboards in Indiana owned by CBS Outdoor, a division of CBS. Both have obvious anti-Catholic messages -- I hope that no one would deny that claiming that the Pope was the Antichrist is anti-Catholic -- paid for by something that calls itself the Eternal Gospel Church, one of the 10,000-plus tiny Protestant sects that pepper the American religious landscape. Both billboards have been the targets of complaints from Catholics. Both are staying up, at least for now, says CBS.

The article claims that CBS Outdoor has previously rejected content from PETA that it deemed offensive, so it appears that there's precedent for denial of this content, too. Well, it would be precedent -- if CBS saw anything offensive about grossly insulting the leadership of the Catholic Church, which may explain the difference in treatment of the two cases.

Now, I think the Catholic League took the wrong approach in their main counter-move to date. After CBS Outdoor refused to take down the billboards, they say they asked CBS to put up a billboard, paid for by the League, stating "CBS sponsors anti-Catholicism." They were refused, on the grounds that CBS would not publish sentiments that were defamatory to itself.

I sure understand the fury at this effrontery that may fuel the League's efforts. But I really don't know what other response they could have expected to that proposal. I suppose one could argue that CBS Outdoor ought to be forced to do it, but that's a side issue, to me.

Instead, why not take up the question raised by the offending billboards, which is whether God intended that Christians celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday? It's not like the Catholic Church decided on the Sabbath day by closing its eyes and poking a finger at the calendar. We've got reasons, and good ones, dating from very early in Christian practice.

So why not put up a billboard saying "Why Catholics really celebrate Sunday, and why you should, too." Give a toll-free number to call to hear a short recorded message. Give the URL of a web page with a concise but complete explanation, links to source documents, a podcast, and a YouTube video. A small, knowledgeable group of people with inexpensive equipment and modest web skills could knock that out in days -- hours if the coffee was strong enough. (Yes, I did work in IT for a long time).

To me, an educational approach like this that respects the intelligence of the seeker would be a much better use of the opportunity than continuing a war of insults. We don't have to scream back at people who scream at us; we have the truth, so let's calm down and teach it to people. (Though a part of me really just wants to let fly against anti-Catholic bigots such as the EGC). And the resource it would put in place could go on spreading the truth for years to come, with minor tweaks as technology advances.