Judgment Day for radio network, prankster after cathedral sex stunt
The Federal Communications Commission has proposed a $357,000 fine against Infinity Broadcasting for an August 2002 radio stunt that involved a couple supposedly having sex in New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral during a service.

It's the second-largest fine in FCC history, but is significantly smaller than a 1995 judgment against Howard Stern, which involved several different violations of community standards.

The $375,000 fine, which the FCC described as "the highest amount permitted," is supported by four of the five commissioners. The fifth says it simply isn't a severe enough punishment.

"Infinity/Viacom could pay this entire fine by tacking just one more commercial onto one of its prime-time TV shows and probably pocket a profit to boot," said Michael Copps. "Unless the FCC takes these cases seriously and initiates revocation hearings, stations will know that they don't have to take the law seriously. … The message to licensees is clear: Even egregious repeated violations will not result in revocation of a license. Rather, they will result only in a financial penalty that doesn't even rise to a serious cost of doing business."

Meanwhile, the 38-year-old man who supposedly engaged in the sex act faces a judgment of a different kind. Less than a week before he was due to appear in court for the stunt, Brian Florence died of a heart attack, his lawyer said. "We are all in shock — he was a young guy," the attorney told the court, announcing the death. His girlfriend, with whom he performed the stunt, had her case postponed.

Paul Mercurio, the radio worker who described the act on the air, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to seven days of community service.

"Since the show, I realized how inappropriate these actions were," Mercurio said "I have apologized personally to monsignors at St. Patrick's Cathedral and apologize publicly now for the disrespect we showed the church, its parishioners, and the people of the City of New York."

"His 'public' apology fell short of apologizing in public," the New York Post noted, adding that he avoided reporters after the trial.

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Anglican woes:

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  • Offer of gay service is snubbed | An attempt by the Bishop of Manchester to rebuild relations with gay Christians by reinstituting a service he had banned in the city's cathedral backfired yesterday when they rejected his conditions and said they would hold their service in another local church instead (The Guardian, London)

  • S.C. diocese asks Anglican leaders to address rift | Sharp differences over gay bishop, same-sex unions divide Episcopalians (The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.)

  • Episcopal convention opposes gay bishop | Diocese of South Carolina votes against Robinson's recent election (The State, Columbia, S.C.)

Homosexual marriage:

  • Groups pledge to protect marriage | Two dozen conservative and religious groups yesterday pledged to use their bully pulpits, media outlets and grass-roots resources to rouse national and political support for traditional marriage (The Washington Times)

  • Also: Gay marriage used to spur voter drive | Organizers from more than two dozen groups, including the Southern Baptist Convention, the American Family Association, and the Christian Coalition, say they want to make gay marriage the No. 1 social issue in the 2004 election (Associated Press)

  • Also: Religious right joins forces against gay marriage | Constitutional ban is goal of coalition (The Times-Picayune, New Orleans)

  • Gay marriage stirs conservatives again | Right wing braces for Mass. ruling (The Boston Globe)

  • When courts reinvent marriage | While it is not surprising to see some on the political left embrace a radical new meaning of marriage, what has been surprising and disappointing is the confusion among some on the right who claim that a proposal to preserve marriage through a constitutional amendment violates the principle of federalism and restricts liberty (Gary Bauer, The Washington Post)

  • Gays right to marry? | As a staunch believer in fundamental rights, I can no more oppose gay marriage than equal access to education, housing or the right to vote regardless of gender or race (Suzanna Walters, The Baltimore Sun)

  • Save marriage in court | The problem is not with the Constitution, but the courts (Richard Lessner, The Washington Times)

More on sex and marriage:

  • California leads on civil unions | Vermont has 776 unionized couples. Compare that to 22,000 California couples who've already signed on to an earlier, spottier version of its registry, with more to come once the legal upgrade takes effect (E.J. Graff, The Boston Globe)

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  • Chile inches toward a law that would make divorce legal | After a 120-year battle, Chile is on the threshold of approving a complex law that would lift the prohibition on divorces (The New York Times)

  • Church groups confront archaic marital traditions | The Roman Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) and the Livingstonia Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), have mounted campaigns to rid traditions that enslave young girls and women into unwanted sexual and marriage relationships (African Church Information Service)

  • Gay church beginning to win acceptance | Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches marks its 35th anniversary with a series of weekend events beginning Friday (Associated Press)

  • N.Y. to seek dismissal of antigay suit | City attorneys are expected today to seek dismissal of a lawsuit that would strip a high school for homosexuals of its public funding, arguing that there is no merit to the complaint (The Washington Times)

Ten Commandments:


  • Unintelligent designs on academic freedom | The academic freedom that so incensed Bill Buckley as a student at Yale decades ago is now acting to protect a conservative scholar under fire at Baylor U. (The American Spectator)

  • Controversy over condoms; Inappropriate message sent | The Board of Regents of St. Olaf College, one of the region's highest ranked colleges in both academics and campus beauty, has recently decided to only further enhance this place of great prestige and reputation by installing condom vending machines in many of the restrooms around campus (Mike Erickson, Manitou Messenger, St. Olaf College)

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Religious liberty:

  • Protestants see rise in intolerance | Officials cite 10 arson attacks in the past two years and an incident in which the police violently broke up an anti-drug rally (The Moscow Times)

  • NEA affiliate hit on dues policy | The Ohio affiliate of the National Education Association is continuing to harass teachers who resist donating to causes against their religion, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says (The Washington Times)

  • Vietnam tightens control on religion | Activists and Western governments are turning up the heat on Vietnamese authorities ahead of the trial of a dissident monk whose apparent abduction while traveling abroad has tested the limits of Hanoi's self-proclaimed religious tolerance (Asia Times)

  • Nigerian Muslims support harsh punishment | But critics say the Shari'ahsentences are being handed down only to the poor and uneducated in a country where corruption is commonplace, armed robberies are part of the daily newspaper diet, and top officials are regularly accused of embezzling state funds (Associated Press)

Politics and prayer:

More politics and law :

  • Violence silence | Why no one really cares about prison rape (Robert Weisberg and David Mills, Slate)

  • House passes ban of abortion method | Senate action is likely to have to wait until after the weeklong break, which begins today (The Washington Times)

  • Colo. official: Jurors answerable to God | A county treasurer is handing out booklets to potential jurors saying they are answerable "only to God almighty" and not to the law when it comes to deliberations (Associated Press)

  • Faith-based programs beneath media radar | Last week, the Bush administration, thwarted in Congress, accelerated the regulatory revamping that will allow more religious groups to compete for government grants—and most media outlets hardly noticed (Marvin Olasky)

  • In Dow we trust | If Christians really want to see culture transformed, Alan Wolfe's new book shows they need to begin with their own transformation (Cal Thomas)

  • High court to look at tax credits given for parochial school tuition | The nation's high court has agreed to rule whether federal judges can interfere with an Arizona tax credit that gave $25 million to private schools last year (Arizona Daily Star)

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Pope John Paul II:

  • 'Detoxified' pope | Pope John Paul II is looking much better after his body has been detoxified from what seems to have been a bad mix of medication, according to a visitor the pontiff received in a private audience in the past few days (UPI)

  • African touted as Pope's successor | Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria has become the first possible successor to be publicly promoted (The Australian)

Missions and ministry:

  • Promise Keepers' VP ascends to presidency | Thomas Fortson, a former General Motors executive who has served as a Promise Keepers executive vice president through seven tumultuous years, was named Wednesday as president of the Denver-based Christian men's movement (The Denver Post)

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  • Also: Promise Keepers names its new president (Associated Press)

  • Action and adventure, by the Book | Two Guys and Big Idea think Christian gaming can make the same leap to the big time. All they have to do is create Christian games so good that even Neo, the "Matrix" hero, would want to play them (The Boston Globe)

  • Christians urged to support AIDS victims | The Assemblies of God Church has called for a positive shift in the attitude of Christians towards the plight of those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, by showing genuine concern and care (Ghanaian Chronicle)

Jonathan Edwards's birthday:

Church life:


Public television:

  • KOCE should stay public, TBN says | The Costa Mesa religious broadcaster is still a bidder, but a spokesman says the Huntington Beach station should remain a PBS affiliate (Los Angeles Times)

  • Students urge no sale of KOCE | The Golden West Academic Senate resolution comes after PBS affiliate KCET pulls out of a joint bid for the TV station (Los Angeles Times)

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