Religious Group’s Political Expression Not Protected Against Criticism Says Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, July 28, 1998 -- The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning comments made by CJXY-FM (Hamilton)’s afternoon drive show hosts “Scott and Lori”. On June 17, 1997, co-host Lori commented on the decision of a Southern Baptist Convention to boycott the Disney Studio for its relationship with the television series Ellen on the grounds that the star of the show was gay. Her comment ended with a one-word characterisation of the Convention’s conclusion: “Wackos”.

A listener complained that the host had “expressed her obvious contempt for both a definable religious group as well as a nationality.”

The CBSC’s Ontario Regional Council considered the complaint under the ‘human rights’ provision of the Code of Ethics of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB). In its view, the comment was political, not religious, in nature and did not breach the Code. The Council concluded

The decision in this matter ultimately turns on the Council’s understanding of the use by co-host Lori of the term “wackos”. It is only if the epithet were directed at the Southern Baptists by reason of their religion that the Council could find that the broadcaster was in breach of the Code. If the epithet were, on the other hand, directed at the admittedly religious group by reason of something other than their religion (race, national or ethnic origin, colour, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental handicap not being relevant to this matter), then the conclusion would likely be different. In the view of the Council, the epithet was not directed at the religious group by reason of anything other than the group’s stated boycott of Disney by reason of their association with the television series Ellen. That stance by the Baptists was, in the Regional Council’s view, an economic action regarding a political issue. There is, of course, no doubt whatsoever regarding the entitlement of the Southern Baptists to hold and to express its views on controversial matters of a political or publicly controversial nature. The point is only that, if they choose to do so, they render themselves fair game on the public playing field of political controversy. They cannot expect that they have the right to publicly express controversial political opinions and to be sheltered by reason of the fact that they are a religious group from the resulting fallout from the ideological seeds which they have sown.

Canada’s private broadcasters have created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence by which they expect their members will abide. They also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices created by the Radio Television News Directors Association Canada (RTNDA). More than 430 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 World Wide Web at For more information, please contact the National Chair of the CBSC, Ron Cohen, at (###) ###-####.