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

Ottawa, December 17, 1998 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a commentary by regular contributor Brian Henderson which was aired on CJBK-AM (London) following its noon newscast. Henderson’s commentary focussed on and criticized the Southern Baptists’ decision to boycott the Disney company for its support of gay and lesbian rights. A listener complained that the commentary constituted mere “poisoned rantings”, stating that she found it “quite disturbing that such an angry, mis-informed, hate-filled bigot has so easy an access to public airwaves.”

The Ontario Regional Council considered the complaint under provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB)’s Code of Ethics. The Council found no breach of this Code. Noting that the complainant had misquoted key parts of the commentary, the Council concluded that the language used in the actual broadcast did not violate the “Human Rights” provision of the CAB Code of Ethics.

In the Council’s view, the commentary addresses a socio-political issue (i.e. the place of religion in business and politics) and is not a comment, abusive or otherwise, about the religious right qua religious group.

The Council’s decision was unequivocal on the issue of Brian Henderson’s entitlement to comment on the Southern Baptists’ decision to boycott everything Disney.

In reaching this conclusion, the Regional Council finds no fault with the Southern Baptists’ position on the issue; their political stance is their business and their entitlement to publicize it their right. It is just to say that, in so doing, they place themselves in the public arena, justifiably open, in the purest democratic sense, to the criticism, even if exaggerated, of those who do not share their political/economic perspective.

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 (###) ###-####.