CBS Rejects FFRF Commercial Starring Ron Reagan

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been airing a commercial on television featuring Ron Reagan urging people to support the organization, but CBS has refused to air it. According to a press release from FFRF, they were told by CBS that they were rejecting the ad “for words and tone.” The words:

Hi, I’m Ron Reagan, an unabashed atheist, and I’m alarmed by the intrusion of religion into our secular government. That’s why I’m asking you to support the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation’s largest and most effective association of atheists and agnostics, working to keep state and church separate, just like our Founding Fathers intended. Please support the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.

You can judge the tone for yourself by watching the commercial:

httpv://youtu.be/7INIhD9P0Pw

I see nothing wrong with the tone. I do think the words tend to oversimplify — any time you say “the founding fathers intended (fill in the blank)” you’re almost certainly oversimplifying, and always so on the issue of separation of church and state, upon which they were strongly divided — but if that’s the standard, CBS would have to be commercial-free. No, this is just plain anti-atheist discrimination.

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  • grumpyoldfart

    Land of the free.

    Home of the brave.

  • Kevin Kehres

    “Not afraid of burning in hell” = not getting on network TV.

    Seriously, did you think this stood a chance in no-hell of getting approved?

  • https://www.facebook.com/jesse.webster.129 Van Webster

    I’m not sure I see anything wrong with CBS rejecting a FFRF ad. If I, an atheist, don’t want to ever see a FFRF ad, since they’re usually obnoxious and confrontational, I highly doubt the rest of CBS’s audience would care to see it either.

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    If it had aired, CBS affiliates across the country would have been inundated by mobs of angry religious fanatics, screeching at how the network DARED to challenge their god-given right to dominate every aspect of national life. Very likely, windows would be broken. Employees trying to enter or leave the building would have been harassed. Maybe shots would be fired.

    So, in an effort to keep the public peace, CBS decided not to inflict religious injury on the delicate fee-fees of fundamentalists. A decision that is quite ironic, coming so close to Blasphemy Day, commemorating the Danish editorial on self-censorship that caused exactly this scenario.

  • erichoug

    Just from a purely marketing/sales standpoint this video is a disaster. First of all it is preaching to the choir. It is completely designed to appeal to the Atheist/Freethought community that is already on board.

    Second, The language will antagonize the other 85-90% of people out there as they will see it as a direct attack on their belief system. The truth is that nearly everyone DOESN’T want government getting involved in their religion. Rather than turning off people who are religious but moderate, you need to co-opt them and get them on your side

    Frankly, CBS did everyone who is interested in keeping church and state separate a big favor by not airing this video.

  • Crimson Clupeidae

    I somewhat agree with the above. The actual video is rather…pointless. With the possibly exception of demonstrating once again that atheists are rather casually discriminated against, there’s no real point.

    If they want to make a commercial that appeals to a wide audience, make one that demonstrates why it is dangerous to both religion and government (and emphasize the former) when there is too much entanglement.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R2XG9CnOj8 Olav

    Erichoug #5:

    First of all it is preaching to the choir. It is completely designed to appeal to the Atheist/Freethought community that is already on board.

    I don’t see anything wrong with that. Why should atheists not be allowed to reach out to other atheists to get support for this or that cause? Should every communication be carefully designed to not offend the “religious but moderate”?

    If a religious person is feeling attacked or offended by Mr. Reagan’s harmless message, they are not a moderate.

  • teawithbertrand

    The ad preaches to the choir, to be sure, but as a long-time FFRF member, I might just double my next contribution.

  • http://www.godlessmom.com godlessmom

    A sure sign atheism is a legitimate threat to religion.

  • Michael Heath

    Van Webster writes:

    I’m not sure I see anything wrong with CBS rejecting a FFRF ad. If I, an atheist, don’t want to ever see a FFRF ad, since they’re usually obnoxious and confrontational, I highly doubt the rest of CBS’s audience would care to see it either.

    I don’t think you thought your initial reaction very well. Do you really believe CBS is screening all ads to screen out those ads its audience wouldn’t “care to see”? And somehow, magically, censored the FFRF ads but not those ads that promote hatred and bigotry?

    CBS not only broadcasts ads I find extremely offensive, they also air programs I find extremely offensive. That’s OK, but it’s not if the audience getting offended hate atheists or secularism and want to keep them in the closet?

    And let’s also be clear about the framework here. CBS is broadcasting on the public airwaves, and they’ve decided that those who support a founding American ideal are not to treated equally to the Christianists who yearn for a theocracy and run ads accordingly. And that’s OK? Sheesh.

  • tomh

    @ #5

    “The truth is that nearly everyone DOESN’T want government getting involved in their religion.”

    I don’t see any evidence of this. As far as I can tell nearly everyone WANTS the government to be involved, witness the extraordinary number of religious exemptions, granted by the government, to supposedly secular laws. Most people seem to want religion privileged over non-religion, which can only happen with government involvement.

  • Melvosh

    I have no problem with the tone of the ad. Ron actually comes across as fairly personable. The ad does raise a couple questions for me. First, does the FFRF only accept atheists and agnostics as members? That’s what the ad seems to indicate. If their intent is to appeal to or be inclusive towards religious people who seek to keep religion out of government, they are failing with this ad. The second question I have is why would anyone feel it necessary to proclaim their lack of fear of something they don’t believe in? Saying you’re not afraid of burning in hell seems to indicate you at least think it’s a possibility. And that doesn’t exactly jibe with atheism.

  • Michael Heath

    erichoug writes:

    Just from a purely marketing/sales standpoint this video is a disaster.

    I agree where this isn’t an isolated incident but instead an attribute of the FFRF.

    Perhaps this approach is effective with younger demographics and therefore smart long-term strategy. But in the near-term they appear to be punching their cause, that’s also my cause, in the face.

  • Doug Little

    Adding the Michael’s point in 10.

    They air the bejesus out of boner pill ads and I can guarantee you that even less of the audience wants to see these ads than the FFRF one.

  • Doug Little

    Saying you’re not afraid of burning in hell seems to indicate you at least think it’s a possibility. And that doesn’t exactly jibe with atheism

    I think this is said with the tongue firmly in the cheek.

  • abb3w

    So, is an FCC complaint appropriate? Aside from politically, which is obviously “yes”; but rather I’m wondering if there is there any federal law or regulation being broken by this.

    He’s not a candidate, so a 47 USC §312 “death penalty” doesn’t apply; the ad is merely to “express the views of any person with respect to any matter of public importance or interest”. And while it looks from this that there may be discrimination rules on race and sex, religion isn’t one.

    @5, erichoug

    Just from a purely marketing/sales standpoint this video is a disaster. First of all it is preaching to the choir. It is completely designed to appeal to the Atheist/Freethought community that is already on board.

    Preaching to the choir seems a good strategy when one of the problems is that the choir aren’t singing loud enough.

  • eric

    Didn’t this same ad get shown during the last Superbowl, on Fox? If so, yeah, the commercial itself wasn’t very good in terms of quality. But I see no reason why CBD should reject it – I agree with Ed that CBS’ “words and tone” rejection is just an excuse.

  • erichoug

    Here’s the thing, it’s great to rally the troops and let other people know that there are like minded individuals out there. But, even if you get everyone out there who is a closet Atheist/sceptic then you are still a minority, by a large Margin. The only way you will make progress on this is by showing that it is in EVERYONE”S best interest, which it is, to keep government and religion separate.

    TomH @#11 It may seem like that sometimes. Here again they don’t think it through. The Protestants don’t want Catholics in the schools and vice versa and nobody wants the Scientologists or the Mormon’s pushing their crap. I have actually had a lot of success convincing my religious friends that separation of church and state is the best for all of us, religious or non-religious.

  • mistertwo

    I think I’d have left off the “not afraid of burning in Hell” part. Tongue-in-cheek though it may be, it completely unravels the message. The idea of FFRF is ostensibly to support secularism, and there are believers who support FFRF because they understand that their version of Christianity is not the dominant one.

    While Reagan makes it clear that he’s an atheist, adding that bit at the end really changes the tone. It takes an informative ad and turns it into something that pokes fun at religion.

    Not that that’s always a bad thing, and the people the ad is aimed at aren’t likely to be offended, but unfortunately, the ad is aimed at a significant minority. Really, who is it for? Secularists who don’t know about FFRF? Maybe so.

    Even without the ending, it’ll likely get a huge amount of complaints. Remember the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Back Card ad with Samuel L. Jackson where he used the words “every damn day”? Capital One changed that one in a hurry! I’m a bit surprised the networks approved it, but the bank itself quickly realized they didn’t want the backlash and they self-censored.

    The networks are extremely sensitive to their very vocal audiences. If FFRF wants to run an ad on over-the-air television, they need to figure out how to word it in such a way as to 1) get it on the air in the first place, and 2) minimize the complaints that they know they’re going to get.

    @15 Doug Little, it’s true about the boner pill ads, but those are subtle enough that parents can think their little kids don’t know what they’re about. “Not afraid of burning in Hell” is going to start some conversations, and nobody wants conversations.

  • tomh

    @ erichoug

    “The only way you will make progress on this is by showing that it is in EVERYONE”S best interest, which it is, to keep government and religion separate.”

    I don’t think that’s the “only” way, but more importantly, it’s not a question anymore of “keeping” government and religion separate, it’s a matter of regaining the separation of church and state that once existed. When today’s politicians were growing up it could be said that that the two were generally separated, but that is no longer the case. The inclusion of untold numbers of religious exemptions, in just about every section of US laws and regulations, at every level, from local to federal, shows this. And the majority of the population supports this, which simply shows, that in spite of what people say, they actually want government involved in religion, to the extent of extending privileges to the religious. And while individual religions may squabble amongst themselves, they are united in their (successful) quest for privilege.

  • freemage

    I think the ad would be better with two things:

    1: Dropping the ‘not afraid of Hell’ bit, for reasons others have expressed.

    2: Someone famous who isn’t yet out of the atheist closet. Reagan is well-known for having abandoned his parents’ belief system, and is pretty much solidly demonized among the sorts of Christians atheists have to oppose most directly. He can do a lot of good rallying the committed, but the punch of a soft-spoken ad like this lies in forcing people to think about the fact that they have to conflate their mental image of an atheist with the personable charisma of a person who hasn’t before publicly claimed the label. Find an actor or other celebrity who is known and well-liked in middle America, and have them make the same statements, and it will be FAR more potent.

  • sandradee

    I think the end quote “And I’m not afraid of burning in hell.” is what did it. Really, was it necessary? Instead of simply relaying the message, the end quote completely undermines the FFRF’s message but stooping to childish mockery. If this ad’s purpose was simply so that atheists could smirk at the believers (and, more specifically, at Christians, since Christians are really the one religion that unilaterally believes in hell) and self-righteously pat themselves on the back for being smarter, then I think it accomplished it. But if that was the purpose, it had to place on networks with a mass audience like CBS.

    Just as religious individuals are often mean-spirited and nasty towards both people of other religions and atheists, this ad was mean-spirited towards religious people, and especially Christians. Why? What’s the point? The separation of church and state was so that people could be atheists if they wanted to, OR they could also believe in whatever religion they wanted to.

    I’ve had and have atheist friends who couldn’t care less what someone else believed, and they certainly weren’t going to go around mocking them. I am not a Christian, but I can see how this would be insulting to even moderate Christians, based on the mocking tone of the final quote.

  • my2cents

    While the add wasn’t really anything spectacular this really irritates me. Just another example of people hating, fearing, and misunderstanding atheists. I guess the only silver lining is I can use this as more evidence that Christianity receives special privileges that others do not and the so called “War on Christianity” is a figment of peoples imaginations. I’m curious how many anti-abortion or other pro christian commercials that are extremely offensive have been pulled by CBS.