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.
- Zahl alleges plan to stifle conservatives | A prominent Birmingham theologian said he was given documents that show a plan to stifle conservative dissent on homosexuality when the world's Anglican archbishops meet in London this month (The Birmingham News)
- New bishop won't make big changes for now | Episcopal leader to begin at Square 1 (The Rocky Mountain News, Denver)
- 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.)
- 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)
- 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)
- Liberty, justice icons are more appropriate | Religion makes stranger comrades in arms than politics (Editorial, The Macon Telegraph, Ga.)
- More Moore | Chief justice makes case to U.S. Supreme Court (Editorial, The Birmingham News)
- Lufkin rally backs Commandments | More than 2,000 people gathered for a rally in East Texas as part of a national movement to protest the removal of a monument depicting the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building (Associated Press)
- Commandments trial starts Oct. 20 | A trial scheduled to begin Oct. 20 before a federal judge in Gainesville could decide the future for Ten Commandments displays in government buildings (The Gainesville Times, Fla.)
- Americans approve of public displays of religious symbols | Majority of Americans favor displays of all religions, not just Christian (Gallup News Service)
- 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)
- 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:
- Md. Senate reviewing its prayer guidelines | Some have been offended by Christian invocations (The Baltimore Sun)
- Prayer praising premier pummeled | A child's poem, to some, has elevated Limpopo Premier Ngoako Ramatlhodi to the levels of the Almighty (The Star, South Africa)
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)
- Religious leaflets at issue in race | Spotsylvania foes argue election law (The Washington Post)
- Also: Religious flier draws election complaint | Spotsylvania supervisor raises questions about opponents' campaign finance reporting (The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.)
- Panel backs Pickering for appellate bench | Democratic filibuster may doom GOP effort (The Washington Post)
- Also: Pickering nomination goes to full Senate (The Washington Times)
- Fight looms over Christianity in Constitution | Despite the fact that the European Convention chaired by the former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing did not make a reference to the Christian heritage of Europe in the draft EU Constitution, some governments still see room for maneuver regarding the sensitive issue (EU Observer)
- Ex-church panel chief accuses clergyman | Keating says clergyman circulating a letter that accused him of keeping a mistress and never attending Mass (Associated Press)
- 'Brother Stephen' to face trial on child sex charges | Campus preacher was arrested during the summer and is awaiting trial for allegedly offering to perform oral sex on a 14-year-old boy (Daily Princetonian)
- Clergy in the loop, but poorly trained to help the battered | Church leaders are the "first line of defense" for many families against domestic violence, a Mesa-based counselor says (The Arizona Republic)
- 15 cases of priest abuse settled | $8 million payout by archdiocese (Chicago Tribune)
- Milwaukee diocese loses bid to get out of O.C. suit | Decision could affect scores of lawsuits involving alleged sexual misconduct by Roman Catholic priests (Los Angeles Times)
- Killing the messenger | Many Catholic bishops have not learned any lessons from the abuse scandals that have rocked the Church in America (Editorial, The Washington Times)
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)
- 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:
- America's Theologian turns 300 | Jonathan Edwards has always provoked extreme reactions (Gerald R. McDermott, UPI)
- Religion Today: Edwards at 300 | Theologians and historians warn not to sell Edwards short (Associated Press)
- A 40-day campaign in spiritual growth | Thousands of churches across America are participating in 40 Days of Purpose (The Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)
- Blessing of animals has wide meaning | For the first time, the American Academy of Religion, the world's largest organization of religion professors, formed a group to study non-human animals in religion—a large, complex topic (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
- Religion in the News: Messianic Jewish Presbyterians | Local Jewish groups see the church as an attempt to evangelize them (Associated Press)
- Hindu ceremony in a Kerala church | The St. George's Orthodox Syrian Cathedral here will conduct 'Vidyarambham' on October 5, a day the Hindus traditionally initiate their little ones into the world of letters (Hindustan Times, India)
- Any plans for the inaugural 'Orphan Sunday?' | Religious leaders respond (Los Angeles Times)
- P.O.D. 'pays' back fans with video-game bonus | New album will contain a version of the Playstation 2 game Amplitude, which allows users to recreate the song using its individual tracks (Reuters)
- P.O.D. go back to their roots, insist they're not preachers (MTV)
- Singing sacred praise | Seattle musicians and Oregon singers will team up on religious songs composed by Duke Ellington (The Oregonian)
- 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)
Other stories of interest:
- Religion news in brief | Nebraska archbishop resigns, Missouri school district ends Bible distribution, and other stories (Associated Press)
- A film of biblical proportions | Controversial evangelical cartoonist Jack Chick makes film debut with "The Light of the World." (Rancho Cucamonga Voice, Calif.)
- Mahony says civic and religious leaders fail to act on homelessness | Cardinal's positions are likely to lend moral authority and political heft to an issue that has become an increasing focus of attention as Los Angeles attempts to remake its urban core (Los Angeles Times)
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