Editorial: Before you forward that email …
Executive Editor

Article Date: Dec 7, 2011

Don’t believe everything you read. In the age of the Internet and email this maxim has never been truer.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a friend. The subject line read: “Is this legit? … Pastor Removal from TV.” My friend was skeptical for good reason. I immediately recognized the bogus claims—although revised from earlier iterations—as the notorious FCC Petition Number 2493 that has been around for decades. Indeed, this hoax has been in circulation since 1975—and it won’t die!

I wrote about this in 2001, and many other legitimate sources of Christian news over the years have attempted to expose this bogus effort, obviously to no avail.

Here is the actual content of the email message (typos included), provided here as a service for future readers to know the exact content—as it stands today—of this spurious effort:

Pastor Removal from Television

Removal of 20, including Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Charles Stanley, David Jeremiah and other pastors from the airwaves.

An organization has been granted a Federal Hearing on the same subject by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington , D.C. Their petition, Number 2493, would ultimately pave the way to stop the reading of the gospel of our Lord and Savior, on the airwaves ofAmerica . They got 287,000 signatures to back their stand! If this attempt is successful, all Sunday worship services being broadcast on the radio or by television will be stopped..

This group is also campaigning to remove all Christmas programs and Christmas carols from public schools! You, as a Christian, can help!

We are praying for at least 1 million signatures. This would defeat their effort and show that there are many Christians alive, well and concerned about our country.. As Christians, we must unite on this.

Please don’t take this lightly. We ignored one lady once and lost prayer in our schools and in offices across the nation. Please stand up for your religious freedom and let your voice be heard. Together we can make a difference in our country while creating an opportunity for the lost to know the Lord.

Please, if you don’t wish to participate, return this email to whoever sent it to you so they can at least keep this email going or forward it to someone you know who will wish to participate. Dr. Dobson is going on CNBC to urge every Christian to get involved. I hope you will sign and forward to all your family and friends.. Please press forward, CLEAN UP THE MESSAGE, and forward this to everyone you think should read this.....

Now, please sign your name at the bottom (you can only add your name after you have pressed ‘Forward’ or you have copied and pasted the text).

Don’t delete any other names, just go to the next number and type your name. Please do not sign jointly, such as Mr. & Mrs., each person should sign his/her own name. Please defeat this organization and keep the light of our freedom of religion.

The signatory list numbered nearly 1,000 persons—some of whom actually included their private contact information, which each succeeding recipient of the email received!

Interestingly, whoever is behind the current version of this hoax has finally gotten wise enough to remove Madalyn Murray O’Hair as the chief culprit behind the supposed anti-religion on TV campaign. The now-deceased, famous atheist was part of the bogus email even for many years after she was known to be dead.

Earlier versions of the FCC hoax claimed: “CBS will be forced to discontinue ‘Touched by an Angel’ for using the word ‘God’ in every program. Madline (sic) Murray O’Hare (sic), an atheist, successfully managed to eliminate the use of Bible reading from public schools a few years ago. Now her organization has been granted a federal hearing on the same subject by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, D.C. Their petition, Number 2493, would ultimately pave the way to stop the reading of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior on the airwaves of America.”

Here are facts about the petition:

►In December 1974, Jeremy Lansman and Lorenzo Milam filed a petition requesting the FCC to inquire into operating practices of stations licensed to religious organizations.

►On August 1, 1975, the FCC denied the petition noting that the First Amendment required a “stance of neutrality toward religion.”

►Madalyn Murray O’Hair was never involved in the petition. In 2001, the FBI identified her remains. She had been missing since 1995.

►There is no effort before the FCC today to eliminate religious broadcasting. If there ever was such an attempt, you can be sure Christian organizations in Washington would let us know.

This and other information about Petition 2493 can be found on the FCC’s web site: http://www.fcc.gov/guides/religious-broadcast-rumor-denied. Focus on the Family has also published information on its website debunking the claim of James Dobson’s involvement in the petition.

For well over 35 years, millions of letters, faxes and e-mails have been distributed regarding FCC Petition 2493. When I worked in Washington for the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (then known as Christian Life Commission), 1989-1995, hardly a week would go by without hearing from some concerned Southern Baptist about this petition. I was convinced then that well-meaning Christians were being taken advantage of by not-so-well-meaning unbelievers who wanted to make Christians look silly.

Today, I’m even more convinced that is true. In spite of repeated efforts by the FCC, Christian publications—including the Witness, and other Baptist state papers and other Christian organizations, this is the rumor that will not die.

Given the increasing level of hostility against Christians evident in our society, including our government at times, it’s easy to see how we might believe there could be an effort to banish Christian broadcasting.

Nevertheless, Christians should not be guilty of promulgating false information. Further, we have the obligation to checkout the facts of any claim, no matter how believable it seems.

There are plenty of legitimate public policy concerns that are worthy of Christian action. Any ounce of energy committed to the notoriously bogus FCC Petition 2493 claim is wasted, distracting believers from what really matters.

Before you forward an email about this or any of the innumerable other Internet rumors, take a few minutes to investigate the claims to verify their legitimacy. Don’t be guilty of passing along false information—and advancing the notion that Christians trade in lies.

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