January 29, 2005
Earlier this week, the new U.S. Secretary of Education denounced the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) for spending public money on a cartoon with homosexual characters. Although the episode, which has not yet aired, focuses on an animated bunny named Buster and a visit to a maple sugar farm in Vermont, it also features a lesbian couple and their children.
The controversial installment of the popular "PBS for Kids" show Postcards from Buster was produced with Education Department funding from a literacy initiative grant through the federal government's Ready-To-Learn program. The episode -- which is entitled "Sugartime!" -- was originally scheduled to air in classrooms across the U.S. on February 2, but it was pulled for review after some affiliates complained about its content.
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings feels "Sugartime!" is inappropriate for several reasons: She contends the episode is not what Congress had in mind for federally-funded educational programming for children, and she doubts it is what most taxpaying adults have in mind for their children as well. Moreover, she feels the episode actually undermines the effort to promote literacy and runs the risk of "embroiling the Ready-to-Learn program in a controversy that will only hurt it."
In a letter sent to PBS president and CEO Pat Mitchell last Tuesday, Spellings noted, "Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode." Likewise, she wrote, "Congress and the Department's purpose in funding this programming certainly was not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children, particularly through the powerful and intimate medium of television." She also told the PBS executive that "in the future the Department will be more clear as to its expectations" for any programming it chooses to fund.
In the letter, the Education Secretary requested that PBS refund taxpayer dollars used to create and distribute the cartoon program, and that the network notify its member stations of the nature of the "Sugartime!" episode so they can review it before airing it. Also, Spellings insisted that the official seal of the U.S. Department of Education and any statement linking the department to the PBS show be deleted from the program credits and from "any other materials about the program," including teacher guides and student workbooks.
According to Associated Press reports, PBS representative Lea Sloan said late Tuesday that the nonprofit broadcast network has decided not to distribute the Postcards from Buster episode "Sugartime!" to its 349 stations. Sloan, vice president of media relations for PBS, stated that the objections from the Education Secretary had not factored into the network's decision. Rather, she says PBS officials ultimately recognized that the issue of homosexuality is a sensitive one and "wanted to make sure that parents had an opportunity to introduce this subject to their children in their own time."
Sloan says the concerns of PBS and the Department of Education are closely aligned and therefore, the network will not be distributing the controversial Postcards from Buster episode and will provide another in its place. However, she noted that WGBH, the Boston public television station that produces the show, does intend to air "Sugartime!" on March 23, and also plans to make the episode available to other stations.
Evangelist Applauds DOE Official's Stand
Stephen Bennett, a Christian musician and evangelist whose ministry involves outreach to homosexuals, was supposed to appear on "Live with Diane Sawyer" on ABC's Good Morning America news program to discuss the controversy over the pro-homosexual cartoon episode. The segment scheduled for Friday morning (January 28) would have featured Bennett along with the two lesbian "moms" featured in "Sugartime!" However, the lesbian women reportedly expressed discomfort with the idea of being on the show with the Christian spokesman, and his appearance was cancelled.
Bennett, a former homosexual whose current ministry involves traveling around the U.S. to share his music and his message about freedom from homosexuality through Christ, says he was willing to be in a separate studio for the Good Morning America segment. But unfortunately, he says, "it seems they did not want me to even be on that show, period."
The ministry leader says he has no hard feelings towards ABC, but he still believes "we have just seen the media elite in action, in full swing." He contends that, due to pro-homosexual bias in contemporary culture and mainstream media, the people who really bear "the brunt of bigotry and intolerance" are Christians and other "people who stand for pro-family, traditional values."
Bennett feels DOE Secretary Margaret Spellings was completely correct in her reaction to the "Sugartime!" episode. "I admire that woman for taking the stand that she did, as well as PBS in pulling that segment," he says, "because ... yes, this [issue of homosexuality] is inappropriate to address to little children, and parents have got to address this in their own time. Let little kids enjoy their childhood and innocence."
The executive director of Stephen Bennett Ministries insists that it is entirely possible to love and respect homosexuals without endorsing, promoting, or tolerating homosexual behavior. He draws a comparison between tolerating someone who is living that lifestyle and relating to a family member who is an alcoholic.
"I love and respect that individual more than anything, and I would give my life for that individual," the evangelist says. "But I do not tolerate that person's alcoholism. I will not be around that person when they drink, nor do I allow my children to be around that person. Does that mean I don't love or respect them? Absolutely not."
The same principle applies to loving homosexuals but refusing to be tolerant of homosexual sin, Bennett contends. He says "tolerate" is a very strong word in today's culture, and tolerance of homosexuality is something that is being forced upon Americans and forced upon their children.
Stephen Bennett Ministries (http://www.sbministries.org)
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