Dobson v. the FCC
Date Added: Feb. 16 2004
Proving that it probably has the most staying power of any e-mail rumor in history, the 'save religious broadcasting' chain letter petition keeps circulating, thanks to minor facelifts that help it look current, despite its total lack of validity.
Subject: Dr. James Dobson - Very Important
Dr. Dobson is going on CNBC to urge every Christian to get involved. I hope you will think about signing this and forwarding to all your family and friends. Dr. James Dobson, with Focus on the Family, pleads for our action.
An organization has been granted a Federal Hearing on the same subject by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, DC. Their petition, Number 2493, would ultimately pave the way to stop the reading of the gospel of our Lord and Savior, on the airwaves of America. They got 287000 signatures to back their stand! If this attempt is successful, all Sunday worship services being broadcast on the radio or by television will be stopped. This group is also campaigning to remove all Christmas programs and Christmas carols from public schools!
You as a Christian can help! We are praying for at least 1 million signatures. This would defeat their effort and show that there are many Christians alive, well and concerned about our country. As Christians we must unite on this. Please don't take this lightly. We ignored one lady once and lost prayer in our schools and in offices across the nation. Please stand up for your religious freedom and let your voice be heard. Together we can make a difference in our country while creating an opportunity for the lost to know the Lord.
Please press "forward," CLEAN UP THE MESSAGE, and forward this to everyone you think should read this. Now, please sign your name at the bottom (you can only add your name after you have pressed "Forward" or cut and paste the text). Don't delete any other names, just go to the next number and type your name. Please do not sign jointly, such as Mr.. & Mrs.. ... Each person should sign his/her own name. Please defeat this organization and keep the right of our freedom of religion.
The above is merely the latest iteration of an old and misinformed petition. Floating around the Internet since at least 1997, early versions attributed this supposed compaign to get the FCC to ban religious programming to legendary atheist activist Madelyn Murray O'Hare and/or "her organization" (whatever that is). Interestingly, after her murder was confirmed in 2002, her name was changed in the petition or dropped altogether, but by 2004, had found its way back onto the most popular versions of it.
Versions circluating from about 2000-2001 specifically identified the popular CBS series "Touched By An Angel" as one program endangered, should the FCC act as requested. In 2003, after that series ended its network run, its reference was dropped from most versions, though it still lingers in some.
In 2008, the missive acquired two new preambles, each citing popular Christian programming that would be lost if the alleged effort was not headed off:
FW: Removal of Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer - CHRISTIAN TELEVISION
NEED YOUR HELP EVERY CHRISTIAN !!!
PLEASE READ ENTIRE E-MAIL.
Subject: Removal of the Catholic Mass Huh Please read on below ...
You may be interested in looking at this event & sign your name and pass it on ...
I thought this is worth signing your name and passing it on to your Catholic friends. Thanks
Removal of the Catholic Mass, EWTN, etc.
Since at least 2004, predominant versions of this chain have claimed that the effort to stop this supposed travesty is led by none other than Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, a conservative family values activism group. In a statement on their web site, Focus on the Family calls this rumor "absolutely false" and denies Dr. Dobson's involvement with it:
"This 'petition' has evolved several times, but the bottom line is that every single one of them is a false rumor based on a few truths from the past. The urban legend about petition 2493 has circulated with different types of pleas and "calls for action" for many years. In fact, Focus on the Family recently learned of a version of the rumor that said that Dr. Dobson himself was asking for people to respond to the e-mail by signing a petition and circulating it to their friends and family. Please be assured that this is not true; Dr. Dobson did not initiate an e-mail petition."
Here are the facts about this one, in a nutshell:
Further, in a statement on their Web site, the FCC points out that they do not have the authority to do what this chain letter claims it is being asked to do:
"There is no federal law or regulation that gives the FCC the authority to prohibit radio and television stations from presenting religious programs. Actually, the Communications Act (the law that established the FCC and defines its authority) prohibits the FCC from censoring broadcast material and interfering with freedom of speech in broadcasting.
"The FCC cannot direct any broadcaster to present, or refrain from presenting, announcements or programs on religion, and the FCC cannot act as an arbitrator on the insights or accuracy of such material. Broadcasters, not the FCC, nor any other governmental agency, have the responsibility for selecting the programming that is aired by their stations.
"Since 1975 to the present time, the FCC has received and responded to millions of inquiries about these rumors. Many efforts have been made by the FCC to advise the public of their falsehood. The laws and the FCC's policies on the broadcast of religious programming have appeared in numerous publications (including newspapers, religious publications, TV Guide and Time Magazine) and have been discussed in religious group meetings."
"Signing" this e-mail anti-petition is pointless. First, what it purports to counter is invalid. Second, e-mail petitions are totally worthless. Adding your name to the list will not further the cause because nobody is collecting and verifying the signatures. Your name (and possibly e-mail address) will just float aimlessly around the Internet for years. Read my primer on Armchair Activism to learn why e-mail petitions often do more harm than good. Break this chain.
References: FCC Statement, Focus on the Family, O'Hare/"Touched by an Angel" Versions