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Religious Broadcasters Fear Fairness Doctrine Return

Religious broadcasters have major concerns about the new administration, warning members they see a possible return of the fairness doctrine, hate crimes legislation and other potential game changers.

While the National Religious Broadcasters said it supported recently-introduced bills to block reimposition of the doctrine, it also said in an announcement Monday that it was prepared to go to court, lobby Congress, or take its message to the public, which would suggest the electronic pulpit.

Sounding a little like David preparing for Goliath, the NRB said that it was "girding itself for a major battle over broadcasting freedoms." That came as the group prepared for its annual meeting next month in Nashville.

Warning of an "impending flood tide" of attacks, NRB General Counsel Craig Parshall listed those attacks: "reinvigoration of the so-called ‘fairness doctrine’; speech-suppression masquerading as hate-crimes legislation; employment regulations leaving little or no room for faith-based hiring decisions; and FCC regulations that would invade programming content decisions, such as localism mandates, adverse definitions of the ‘public interest’ obligation, and media reform rules that could disfavor Christian broadcasters."

Religious broadcasters have long

been concerned that reimposing the fairness doctrine

, which required broadcasters to air both sides of controversial issues. One of the concerns about speech restrictions, either affirmative like the doctrine or restrictive like regulations on hate speech or even indecency, is that they cut both ways.

The Fairness Doctrine, for instance, would require a broadcaster preaching about the evils of temptation to make airtime available to those preaching the virtues of sin, or indecency could depend on what kind of speech the reigning political majority found offensive.

Religious broadcasters are also concerned that hate crimes legislation could suppress speech from the pulpit

, like preaching on morals and values that might not square with some powerful politicians, say opposing homosexuality or branding Islam a false religion.