Abusive or Unduly Discriminatory Comments against Gays and Lesbians Unacceptable, Even in Religious Programming, Says Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, November 15, 2002 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning the religious program of evangelist R.W. Schambach entitled Power Today broadcast on the multi-faith specialty service Vision TV. The CBSC National Specialty Services Panel found some of Schambach's comments about gays and lesbians to be in breach of the Human Rights Clause of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' (CAB) Code of Ethics.

The subject of Schambach's sermon on the program in question was “demon possession”. In typically enthusiastic evangelical fashion, the preacher emoted that he wished to “free” people who were “oppressed or possessed” by the devil. In that sermon, he pointedly targeted gays and lesbians, preaching that “You don't have to go out into the world to find homosexual devils” and that “homosexuality is not another lifestyle. It's demon possession.” The CBSC received a complaint from a viewer who was troubled by these comments. So, too, was the National Specialty Services Panel, which found a breach of the Human Rights Clause as well as the provision regarding religious programming in the CAB Code of Ethics.

The Panel explained that, although the Code allows for people to state their religious beliefs on the air, “whatever recognition is provided for religious programming in Canada, there is an underlying expectation that principles of tolerance and harmony will prevail” and that “intolerant comment can find no salvation by wrapping itself in religious garb.”

The specific comments made by Schambach in the broadcast were characterized by the Panel as

hostile and vitriolic […]. He refers to “homosexual devils”, a “demon spirit”; in the context of the episode, he isolates and vilifies homosexuals. Moreover, in his evangelical style, he whips up the sentiments of his studio audience against gays and lesbians. The intolerance and bitterness that drip from his lips are extreme; they constitute abusive and unduly discriminatory comment; they have no place on Canadian airwaves, much less in the generally positive and tolerant broadcast environment of the multi-faith and multicultural Vision TV.

The Panel also reiterated the principle that broadcasters are responsible for all programming they air, even Mosaic programming such as Power Today, which was supplied to Vision TV by sponsors and not produced by the broadcaster itself. The Panel did underscore that Vision is “solidly and consistently supportive of this responsibility” and even maintains “a set of carefully wrought Mosaic programming practices to which it insists that all Mosaic programming sponsors adhere.”

Canada's private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence by which they expect the members of their profession will abide. In 1990, they also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those professional broadcast Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices first created by the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) in 1970. More than 520 radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council.

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All CBSC decisions, Codes, links to members' and other web sites, and related information are available on the CBSC's website at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Mme Andrée Noël CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab