Focusing on the Tebow Family

Even if you live in a football-free zone, by now you’ve heard about Focus on the Family’s $2.5 million Super Bowl ad buy for a 30-second spot about how the mother of football star Tim Tebow, facing a possibly deadly medical condition during her pregnancy, rejected her doctor’s advice to have an abortion.

Pro-choice groups are calling on CBS to pull the ad because Focus on the Family is an “extremist group” and CBS’s decision to air an anti-choice ad was “outrageous.”

The United Church of Christ has entered the fray, not because it wants CBS to pull the ad, but to highlight how slippery the network’s position is. In 2004, CBS rejected an ad — not intended for the Super Bowl, but for general broadcast — which celebrated the denomination’s welcoming of LGBT people in its churches. At the time, CBS feebly deemed the ad “too controversial,” and claimed it had a policy against political advocacy advertising. NBC also rejected the ad, but several other broadcast and cable outlets ran it.

According to J. Bennett Guess of the UCC, even if CBS has now reversed that policy, the denomination doesn’t have $2.5 million for a Super Bowl ad because it’s devoting its financial efforts to Haiti relief. (Focus on the Family reportedly had a few generous donors who are bankrolling the Tebow ad.) Guess objects to the network’s “arbitrary” policy because it perpetuates a “common misunderstanding in this country that all religious people hold a monolithic view on certain issues, such as reproductive choice or same-gender marriage equality, and this is not the case.”

If the denomination were to approach CBS again, Guess wonders,”will our distinctive religious viewpoint be heard?”