CKRD re Focus on the Family

(CBSC Decision 96/97-0155)
S. Hall (Chair), D. Braun (Vice-Chair), K. Christensen, D. Dobbie, V. Dubois, D. Ish

The Family

On February 9, 1997, during its Weekend program, CKRD-AM (Red Deer) broadcast
highlights from three of the daily episodes of the syndicated show Focus on the Family
from the previous week which dealt with the subject of homosexuality. The highlights
opened with the following quotation:

Anthony, you have prayed for many years to be released from the bondage of
homosexuality. I have given you all that is necessary to leave it behind and the rest is up
to you.

The host then offered listeners resources from Weekend including cassettes of the entire
program “Homosexuality: Fact and Fiction” as well as a free information sheet entitled Help
for the Homosexual
. The host then thanked listeners for their assistance, financial and
otherwise, enabling Focus on the Family to be “dealing with a variety of topics, including
very difficult ones such as this.”

The host, Dr. Dobson, began the highlights by

reminding our listeners that this conversation is not suited for younger children. If parents
would like to busy those little ears somewhere else for the next few minutes, I think it would
be an excellent thing to do.

In introducing Focus on the Family, the host established the attitude of the program toward
the subject and set the tone of the show by the use of the following language: “[W]e want
to continue our discussion of the homosexual activist movement itself, what it is attempting
to do, what its motives are and how it is going about that.
[Emphasis added]” His guests
on this program included Dr. Jeff Sandover, a psychiatrist and author, and a member of
the Physicians Resource Council at Focus on the Family; Bob Knight, Director of Cultural
Studies at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.; Linda Page Lemaire, an
educational consultant, writer and former school principal and teacher; and Anthony
Falzerano, Executive Director of Transformation Ministries, an outreach organization
based in Washington which was targeting men and women who want to leave the
“homosexual lifestyle”.

Anthony Falzerano, as an ex-homosexual, was invited to give his personal story. He
summarized his life as that of a middle class youth who had not gotten the attention he
needed from his father. At 9 he had been sexually abused by a male relative and at 17 he
became actively homosexual. At one point, he encountered a Christian man who told him
that this lifestyle was sinful and that God did not want him to be a homosexual. He then
described his three year struggle to get out of this lifestyle and how, ultimately, through Ex-Gay Ministry and the Church, he discovered that he had a choice and a way out of

The panel then discussed the difficulties and conflicts which homosexuals face when trying
to leave the homosexual lifestyle and the apparent conspiracy that the gay movement is
mounting against Christianity and the Church. Excerpts of this discussion which the
Council considers relevant follow:

Dr. Dobson: Bob, you talked earlier about the myths and about the false use of statistics
in research
to validate the point. Another one has to do with, gay teen
suicide. Speak to that. [Emphasis added.]

Bob Knight: That's one of the greatest weapons that activists use to get the homosexual
agenda into the schools
. They reason that a third of all gay teens will try
suicide or they'll say that a third of all teen suicides are gay related. These
statistics come from a single study by a gay activist named Paul Gibson
who wrote a highly polemical essay (it's not even a study; it's an essay) in
1989 that he submitted to the President's Task Force on Youth Suicide. It
became an appendix in that report, but Health and Human Services
Secretary at the time, Lewis Sullivan, rejected it and said “I don't agree with
its premises.” [Emphasis added.]

Dr. Dobson: Now it's a foundational study, quote unquote.

Bob Knight: Well, like all gay science, it really has very flimsy foundations and yet it is
used as a battering ram. [Emphasis added.]

Anthony F.: Gays are using the AIDS epidemic to push the gay agenda onto our
right now and in essence it is really the spirit of anti-Christ because
what they are doing is they are trying to get the secular government to
accept homosexuality and put it on the same level as being black or being
a woman or being Jewish. In other words, they are trying to bring
homosexuality up to the level of a civil rights cause. They can change it
in the civil government and then the ultimate target is the Church, where
they can come after the Church and say, “Look, the secular government
says that homosexuality is okay and, unless you hire me in this Roman
Catholic Church or this Protestant Church, I am going to sue you or we are
going to have the government take away your 5013C status.” [Emphasis

Dr. Dobson: To make it illegal to speak in certain terms about homosexuals as it is in
Canada today.

The ongoing panel discussion about the current political situation included the following
statements, among others:

This is already happening in America, wherever you find gay rights laws you find the Church
being the ultimate target. I call it the “Criminalization of Christianity” because if you redefine
bigotry as being opposed to homosexuality or failing to affirm it, and then you bring the full
power of these civil rights apparatus to bear, you are talking about some pretty heavy
government coercion directed at Christians. We're sitting in the middle of the bull's eye
right now.

I've got an example, that there was a judge named John Farrow in California, who
volunteers for the Boy Scouts. And he was told by some of his colleagues that he ought to
step down from the Bench because of a proposed new rule of judicial ethics that would ban
judges from involvement with organizations or groups that discriminate on all sorts of
grounds including sexual orientation, would include the Boy Scouts, because they won't
have homosexual Scout masters.

So he is a judge is not qualified to sit on the bench because he's identified with the Boy

That's right, he's morally unfit to be a judge because he's a volunteer of the Boy Scouts.
That's where we're heading and it's all about coercion. I try to tell people that the gay rights
movement is not about tolerance, it's about harnessing government and corporate power
to affirm homosexuality and persecute those who oppose it.
[Emphasis added.]

The Letter of Complaint

In a letter of complaint, a listener wrote

On Sunday, February 9, 1997 while listening to CKRD Radio in Red Deer Alberta, I had the
opportunity to listen to a Focus on the Family broadcast that I found very disturbing and
offending. The particular broadcast was a summary broadcast of their week of
programming. CKRD does not carry Focus on the Family's daily program but does carry
their summary program on Sunday. I received from Focus on the Family the complete
series of three programs and it is in reference to these as well as the summary program that
aired on CKRD that I lodge my complaint.

During this broadcast the commentators for Focus on the Family made many disparaging
remarks regarding homosexuality and gay people in general. I do not believe that such
statements should be allowed on the public airwaves.

[There were numerous examples cited in the letter, most of which were from the
complete series of three programs. Not having formed a part of the actual broadcast
in question, these were not taken into consideration by the Prairie Regional Council.]

I am shocked that in Canada a person can be assaulted with such hate mongering. I ask
you if the word Jewish or Catholic or Black was substituted for homosexual in the above
statements, would I have to be writing this letter. No, because it would never have been
allowed on the air.

I provided a copy of the program to a neuro-psychologist so that she could analyse their
comments with regards to the statistics and discussion surrounding the genetic basis of
homosexuality. After peeling her off the ceiling, she summarized their comments with the
word “crap”. Statistics are often misquoted to support their slant and their attempt to explain
heritability [sic] was severely flawed but would be considered very impressive by the lay
people listening to the program.

The Broadcaster's Response

The General Manager wrote to the complainant on April 10.

After reviewing the program, I called Focus on the Family to explain my concerns. I
informed them that Radio 7 carried this program to enhance our family oriented
programming. Some of their comments were contrary to our programming philosophy and
most probably the CRTC as well.

Focus on the Family explained to us that they are aware of CRTC policy and the differences
in the United States. They have assured our station that there is a more intensive screening
policy now in place to screen programs airing in Canada as they obviously want their
program to continue being aired on Canadian radio stations.

I thank you for listening to our radio station and appreciate you bringing this to our attention.
Should you have any further comments, please call me at any time.

The complainant was unsatisfied with this response and requested, on April 13, that the
CBSC refer the matter to the appropriate Regional Council for adjudication. At that time,
the complainant wrote the CBSC an additional letter, which included the following

While I believe that it was not CKRD's intent to broadcast hate, they have taken no
ownership of the offence, they have assigned all blame to Focus on the Family.

The onus for proper behaviour has been left with Focus on the Family whose only remorse
over the offending program is that Canada has differing guidelines than the United States
so they have to be more careful in what they say. Their beliefs stay the same, they just
have to be trickier at stating them.

The fox has been allowed to guard the henhouse. Focus on the Family cannot be trusted
to protect my human rights.

There is no mechanism in place to guard against future offensive programming on CKRD
by Focus on the Family. There needs to be a screening process, perhaps Canadian wide
if not only in Red Deer, to make sure repetition does not occur.

CKRD has not apologized to those it has offended by airing this broadcast.

The CBSCs Prairie Regional Council considered the complaint under Clauses 2 and 6 of
the CAB Code of Ethics, which read as follows:

Clause 2 (Human Rights):

Recognizing that every person has a right to full and equal recognition and to enjoy certain
fundamental rights and freedoms, broadcasters shall endeavour to ensure, to the best of
their ability, that their programming contains no abusive or discriminatory material or
comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age,
sex, marital status or physical or mental handicap.

Clause 6 (News), paragraph 3:

It is recognized that the full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and
editorial is the prime and fundamental responsibility of the broadcast publisher.

The Regional Council members listened to a tape of the program in question and reviewed
the correspondence. The Council considers that the program in question is in breach of
the above-cited clauses.

Sexual Orientation and Clause 2 of the Code of Ethics

Before dealing with the fundamental questions raised by the broadcast, the Council notes
that, although sexual orientation is not one of the enumerated groups in the text of Clause
2 of the Code of Ethics, previous interpretation of the human rights provision of the Code
has led to its inclusion as a protected ground. Most recently, the Ontario Regional Council
reviewed the CBSC jurisprudence in CHCH-TV re Life Today with James Robison (CBSC
Decision 95/96-0128, April 30, 1996). While the Prairie Regional Council will not review
all of those decisions again, it will only note that it was this Council in CHQR-AM re Forbes
and Friends
(CBSC Decision 92/93-0187, August 8, 1994), that first adopted that
interpretation of Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics. It stated there that

Although Clause 2 does not contain a specific reference to “sexual orientation”, the Regional
Council considered that the term “sex” could reasonably be understood as being broad
enough to include “sexual orientation”.

Lengthier expositions of the rationale are provided in CJRQ-FM re Opinion Poll (CBSC
Decision 94/95-0135, March 26, 1996) and the Robison decision noted above. The
Council also notes that the Supreme Court of Canada has recently read sexual orientation
into Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Egan v. Canada [1995]
2 S.C.R. 513. In that decision, Mr. Justice La Forest stated:

I have no difficulty accepting the appellants' contention that whether or not sexual
orientation is based on biological or physiological factors, which may be a matter of some
controversy, it is a deeply personal characteristic that is either unchangeable or changeable
only at unacceptable personal costs, and so falls within the ambit of s. 15 protection as being
analogous to the enumerated grounds.
[Emphasis added.]

The Content of the Program

The orientation of the challenged program is sufficiently similar to Life Today with James
that the Council considers it worthwhile to incorporate some of the introductory
language of that decision here. The Ontario Regional Council there stated

that Life Today hosted by James Robison is a program which, by its very nature, involves
the presentation of opinions and presupposes a moral bias. It does not purport to be
objective, as is made clear by the introduction reproduced above. Accordingly, such a
program should not, indeed, cannot be judged using the criteria of accuracy and fairness
that would be applied to news or public affairs programming. Rather, when dealing with the
expression of opinions, the Council must merely determine whether these opinions are
expressed in a manner that is abusive or discriminatory.

The Council went on to explain that there is a fine line to be drawn between comment
which may constitute the simple expression of opinion and that which is abusively
discriminatory and thus a breach of Clause 2 of the Code of Ethics. They put that issue
in the following terms:

The host's message was that monogamous heterosexuality was the “right” lifestyle. He
expressed the view that a proper interpretation of the Bible leads to the conclusion that
homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle (as is also the case with adulterous
heterosexuality, according to his interpretation). It is not the Council's mandate to determine
the correctness of the views presented, but only whether the views were presented in a non-abusive, legitimate manner. In a contrary circumstance, they would be in breach of the
Code; however, in this case, the Council finds that the host's statements were expressed
as his moral position, presented in a legitimate manner and not at all as hateful

The Council also considers it appropriate to weigh these issues in the context of the
CRTC's Religious Broadcasting Policy (P.N. CRTC 1993-78, June 3, 1993). In that Policy,
under the heading “Recognition of Alternative Values”, the Commission made it clear that
the need to ensure more religious programming on Canadian airwaves included a
balancing component relating to content:

While the Commission is of the view that a more flexible approach to the licensing of
religious programming services is warranted, it also considers that this flexibility must be
accompanied by rigorous guidelines on ethics to assist broadcasters of religious
programming and to guard against egregious intolerance and exploitation.

Those Guidelines include the following provisions:

All licensees who broadcast religious programs will be expected to adhere to the following
guidelines on ethics.

The purpose of these guidelines is to serve as an effective guide to program development,
production, acquisition and scheduling, and to protect viewers and listeners against
intolerance and exploitation, …

These guidelines recognize and support the freedom and rights of individuals and groups
to state their beliefs freely and clearly, and are intended to enable individuals and groups
to communicate these beliefs in an appropriate and meaningful manner. The Commission,
however, expects that programming of religious nature, like any programming, must
demonstrate tolerance, integrity and social responsibility.

These guidelines apply to all Canadian and non-Canadian religious programs broadcast by
Canadian licensees.

Then, under the heading “Programming Practices”, the Guidelines become precise:

Licensees who broadcast religious programs should ensure that the following practices are

1. No programs shall have the effect of abusing or misrepresenting any individual or group.

3. While groups and ministries are free to express their views about activities that they
deem to be “sinful”, they shall not call into question the human rights or dignity of any
individual or group.

The relevance of the Commission's Religious Broadcasting Policy to the matter at hand is
that the Policy provides specific indications of the limits of religious broadcasting.
Religious programming does not, after all, have any inherent entitlement to say whatever
it wants in the name of religion. The CBSC's understanding of “full, fair and proper
presentation of … opinion, comment and editorial” is defined by elements such as those
provided in the CRTC's Religious Broadcasting Policy and it is here that CKRD's broadcast
of this segment of Focus in the Family falls afoul of that provision.

While Focus in the Family is free to describe the homosexual lifestyle as sinful, as did Life
Today with James Robison
, the program under consideration here has gone much further.
It has treated support for the movement as “flimsy” and has disparaged that support (see,
for example, the dismissal of a study authored by a gay activist with the general statement
that “like all gay science, it really has very flimsy foundations”). Moreover, it has attributed
to the gay movement a malevolent, insidious and conspiratorial purpose, a so-called
“agenda”, which, in the view of the Council, constitutes abusively discriminatory comment
on the basis of sexual orientation, contrary to the provisions of Clause 2 of the CAB Code
of Ethics

Broadcaster Responsiveness

The CBSC always recognizes the broadcaster's obligation, as a CBSC member, to be
responsive to complainants. In this case, the Regional Council considers that the
response from the broadcaster did not really deal in any depth with the issues raised by
the complainant. While the complainant expressed the concern that the broadcaster had
assigned all of the blame to Focus on the Family, the station had, however, acknowledged
that some of the show's comments were contrary to the station's programming philosophy
“and most probably the CRTC as well.” In the view of the Council, the station did not
breach the CBSC's standard of responsiveness.

The station is required to announce this decision forthwith, in the following terms, during
prime time and, within the next thirty days, to provide confirmation of the airing of the
statement to the CBSC and to the complainant who filed the Ruling Request.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that CKRD-AM
breached the provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Code
of Ethics
in its broadcast of a segment of Focus on the Family on February
9, 1997. The program attributed to the gay movement a false and flimsy
intellectual basis and a malevolent, insidious and conspiratorial purpose
which, in the view of the Council, constitute abusively discriminatory
comment on the basis of sexual orientation, contrary to the provisions of
Clause 2 of the Code of Ethics.

This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards