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                                                August 27, 2009           Special Edition 
 
Bob
In This Issue
Morality in Advertising
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Bob
In our last issue, Crosswinds Board member, Tommy DeRamus wrote an article about the "Imagine There's No Religion" billboard that was placed in Alabama by an atheist group. In covering this story, Tommy learned the location that was the group's first choice for placement of the sign was denied them by the advertiser who owned the space.
 
Naturally, he was immediately threatened with litigation. Though this threat apparently was not made publicly, when representatives for the atheist group were interviewed by local media they did make such claims their rights had been violated and they were discriminated against.
 
We wondered if there was any legal standing for such a claim so we asked Eric Johnston of the Southeast Law Institute for his opinion. In response Eric submitted the following article, regarding "Morality in Advertising.
 
We also sat down with Eric for an extensive video interview and discussed a variety of other issues related to rights in advertising and how we should respond to public advertisements that we think do not meet community standards or which are offensive to family values. That video will be on our website for viewing within the next two weeks.
 
If you are not familiar with Southeast Law Institute, I encourage you to learn more about them. This organization does a great work in looking out for the legal interests of Christians in a number of different arenas. They also do a tremendous job defending and protecting the community values that many of us hold dear.
 
For more information, visit their website: Southeast Law Institute. You can also read past issues of their newsletter there. To sign up for the newsletter contact Eric Johnston at:
Please let me know if we can be of help to you with any questions or information needs.

Blessings,

Bob Signature 
Bob Waldrep
 
"Morality in Advertising"
by Eric Johnston
 
Advertising is a way of life for all of us.  It is how we find or identify something in which we have an interest.  It is how merchants hawk their wares and how we let others know what we are thinking.  It is knowledge in the information highway.  It is speech.
 
The internet has revolutionized advertising.  Even so, newspapers, magazines and billboards are advertising sites.  Advertising on the internet is different from traditional methods.  Likely as not, the advertiser will create his own website, and may join with search engines or other services, to draw your attention to it.  Like traditional providers, internet advertising services are usually provided by private companies.
 
What happens when we want to advertise, but our request is rejected?  Or, what happens when we object to disagreeable ads?  First, it depends on whether the provider is public or nonpublic.
 
AlonzaTake city buses as an example.  These are owned and operated by governmental entities, usually cities.  They are prohibited from free speech discrimination.  When the American Humanist Association placed ads on the Washington, D.C. Metro buses in September 2008 saying "Why believe in God?  Just be good for goodness sake," hundreds of complaints were filed.  D.C. Metro had no choice but to accept the advertising.  The response was a later bus ad by the Center for Family Development which said "Why believe?  Because I created you and I love you, for goodness sake - GOD."  This is free speech in action.
 
But, what about a privately owned newspaper who rejects an ad?  The one that comes to mind proposed to show graphic pictures of aborted children.  It was shocking, but it would have gotten the message across.  The newspaper had the right to reject the ad.
 
Similarly, when atheist groups The Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Alabama Freethought Association wanted to run an ad, like on the D.C. Metro buses, but on a billboard in Birmingham, Alabama, a private company, Lamar Advertising, rejected the ad.  However, another private company later put the ad on its billboard.
 
The principle is that a private provider can accept or reject ads based on its own personal judgment or values.  This is not censorship.  On the other hand, a government provider cannot reject ads, unless the content is unlawful.  Speaking of the latter, a small Alabama town objected to billboards by a private company advertising sex toys.  Because the ads are not unlawful, the city could do nothing.  While billboards can be regulated for safety reasons, i.e., proximity to highways, sight distances, etcetera, it cannot discriminate on the basis of content.
 
On the bright side, Christian businesses cannot be required to advertise pornography, atheism, homosexual matters or other objectionable things.  But, as with so many things in the public square, community values will ultimately dictate the content of advertising, public or private.  No one stays where they are not wanted, it is not fun or profitable.  What are the values in your community?
 
If you are like those who opposed the atheist ads on D.C. Metro buses, be vigilant for such ads.  Join with others to purchase ads expressing your values.  You may want to do this, whether you have seen an objectionable ad.  We do not need to always be on the defensive.
 
Support values organizations with whom you identify.  Encourage them to speak out publicly in the advertising media.
 
Remember, advertising is putting knowledge on the information highway.  By doing so, you inform your community of its values.  Be a leader for, as well as, a defender of our traditional moral and religious values.
 
Eric JohnstonEric Johnston is the Founder and Director of the Southeast Law Institute. Email Eric at: AEJ@SoutheastlawInstitute.org, or click on link to visit the Southeast Law Institute website.
Southeast Law Institute
1200 Corporate Drive, Suite 107
Birmingham, Alabama  35242
 
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