Michael Gerson raises some interesting points about how PBS is now enforcing (with some odd exceptions) ban on religious programming:
On Tuesday, the Public Broadcasting System’s board of directors decided that member stations could no longer add religious programming. The board was applying a 1985 rule that all PBS shows must be “noncommercial, nonpartisan and nonsectarian.” But the decision was a compromise — allowing stations that currently run religious shows (mass for shut-ins, Mormon devotionals, etc.) to continue existing programming. . . .
Yet the PBS board’s decision on religion has some consistency problems. If its concern was constitutional — a belief that publicly-funded institutions should never accommodate sectarian institutions — then the decision was timid and hypocritical. If Catholic mass for shut-ins on PBS violates the separation of church and state, why isn’t existing programming banned? If it doesn’t violate the First Amendment, why forbid such shows in the future?In addition, the strict application of the “nonsectarian” standard would seem to require the strict application of the “nonpartisan” standard. For all its virtues, PBS has occasionally been a platform for political leftism. In November, 2002, for example, Bill Moyers used his show NOW to argue:
The entire federal government — the Congress, the executive, the judiciary — is united behind a right-wing agenda for which George W. Bush believes he now has a mandate. That mandate includes the power of the state to force pregnant women to give up control over their own lives. It includes using the taxing power to transfer wealth from working people to the rich….And if you like God in government, get ready for the Rapture.
Whatever you think of his arguments (and I don’t think much of them), it is difficult to deny that they were partisan.