Thanks to the ratings success of Touched by an Angel on CBS, network television has discovered faith may be fitting for prime time.

This fall there are seven religiously themed shows, running the gamut from irreverent to biblically sound. Three series are new: Good News on UPN, in which a young, single black pastor in Los Angeles welcomes homosexuals and distributes condoms; Teen Angel on ABC, in which a deceased teenager is transformed into a guardian angel for his best friend; and ABC's controversial Nothing Sacred (CT, Sept. 1, 1997, p. 95).

Two years ago, Touched by an Angel served as the lone religion-based series on television (CT, Sept. 11, 1995, p. 58). It has since become the top drama on CBS and spawned a spinoff, Promised Land (CT, Oct. 7, 1996, p. 86).

Last spring, ABC began airing episodes of Dan Aykroyd as Soul Man, a motorcycle-riding former gang member turned libidinous minister. A widower, he is raising four children alone.

The most realistic spiritually minded show is WB's 7th Heaven, in which a pastor, his homemaker wife, and their five children display faith as a positive force in their behavior. Now in its second season, the show has dealt with alcohol abuse, a racially motivated church burning, and the minister locked in a power struggle with his board.

Meanwhile, more than two dozen organizations have joined a Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights boycott of Nothing Sacred. In the debut alone, protagonist Father Ray found fault with Catholic doctrine on abortion, premarital sex, priestly celibacy, contraception, and homosexuality.

Among groups urging a boycott are the American Family Association, American Life League, Concerned Women for America, and Focus on the Family. By the airing of the fourth episode, 20 sponsors had stopped advertising on the show, including Weight Watchers, Isuzu, Red Lobster, Home Depot, Chrysler, Ocean Spray, Sears, and Kmart. The controversy has not helped Nothing Sacred 's ratings. In its second week it finished last among the top four networks' shows.

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