The newest member of the Federal Communications Commission is urging fellow commissioners to throw out the long-standing policy that encourages radio and television stations to devote a segment of program time to religious topics. Lee Loevinger, apparently embarking on a campaign to revise FCC regulations, says he regards the policy on religious programming as unconstitutional. His statements mark the first time the commission’s policy has been put on the spot.

Loevinger fired the opening barrage in a speech before a National Association of Broadcasters’ meeting. He followed that up with an address last month at the twenty-second annual convention of National Religious Broadcasters, an evangelically oriented group, in Washington’s Mayflower Hotel.

“The commission has gone far beyond the limits that have been marked by the Supreme Court as permissible government action in the field of religion.” Loevinger told the NRB.

For years the FCC has granted and renewed radio and television licenses only to companies and individuals that show evidence of serving community needs. The FCC has consistently regarded religious programs as one of the community needs. Station owners have therefore assumed it necessary to carry at least a few religious programs in order to retain a license to operate.

Loevinger is a Unitarian. A Kennedy appointee, he took oath as a member of the FCC on June 11, 1963. His outburst against the prevailing FCC policy coincided with an article in the Reporter magazine by Marcus Cohn, a lawyer who specializes in communications cases, also challenging the policy on religious programming. Loevinger’s forty-minute NRB speech was a condensation of a specially prepared paper, “Religious Liberty and Broadcasting,” which covered twenty pages of text and a dozen pages of footnotes, all single-spaced.

Said the 51-year-old Loevinger:

“The FCC rushes in where government agents are forbidden to tread when it requires religious programming and determines that a certain amount of religious broadcasting is or is not adequate or excessive, or that the public interest is or is not served by the broadcasting of particular views on religion or of the views of particular church or sects, and when it awards a preference or demerit on the basis of an official judgment as to the quantity, quality, or content of religious broadcasting—all of which it has done in reported cases.

“It is notable that most of the public criticism of Supreme Court decisions in this area urges that the court has been too stringent in forbidding government relations with religion. All commentators agree that both the words and principles of the Supreme Court decisions in this field warn government agencies against any intrusion into the area of religion. Surely if the Supreme Court is in error in its views, it is not for the FCC to declare or correct that error. The plain and unavoidable duty of the commission is to follow the letter and the spirit of the law as declared by the Constitution, enacted by Congress, and interpreted by the Supreme Court.”

Article continues below

Loevinger’s presentation does him justice as a lawyer, but it omits at least one key consideration. It can be argued that the FCC is not requiring religion as such but is upholding the rights of religious interests in an industry that is legally subject to federal control exerted in the public interest. The policy protects religious interests against discrimination.

Battle Over Air Rights

A wide-ranging controversy erupted over a bid by Faith Theological Seminary to acquire control of a Philadelphia area radio station. Among protests received by the Federal Communications Commission in Washington were statements from some forty Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Jewish groups charging that the proposed transfer of ownership would put the station under control of Dr. Carl McIntire of the International Council of Christian Churches. They said that McIntire already airs widely enough over numerous stations “his frequently irresponsible and unwanted criticism of religious groups and political figures with whom he disagrees.”

The Minneapolis Star came to McIntire’s defense by rebuking the protesting groups in an editorial. The editorial, subsequently endorsed by the Christian Century, said:

“You cannot convict the man in advance, however much you may disagree with his views or distrust his intentions. It is a strange situation indeed when religious and civil rights organizations, which ought to be—and usually are—in the forefront of the battle for tolerance in public life, behave so intolerantly themselves.”

The Century said the charges against McIntire’s application to purchase the station “are understandable but irrelevant.” The magazine declared that for years it “has been one of McIntire’s whipping boys,” but added that “none of this weighs for or against McIntire’s right to own or control a radio station.”

The president of the Greater Philadelphia Council of Churches came back at the Star with a letter to the editor. The Rev. Herbert G. Gearhart said that his council is “concerned that the license to operate a substantial public property in our area, serving our people, be vested in a responsible person.”

Article continues below

“In our opinion, McIntire has shown himself not to be such a person, though he will have ample opportunity to defend himself against our opinion,” Gearhart wrote.

Flying Mishaps

Churchmen were involved in several airplane accidents during recent weeks.

Robert C. Neal, 50, a member of the Methodist Board of Missions, and a son, Robin, 22, were killed in the crash of a rented Piper Cherokee near Terry, Montana. The single-engine craft disappeared in bad weather and was found two days later.

James H. Drake, 50, field director of the Broadway Plan of Church Finance for the California Baptist Foundation, was found dead in the wreckage of his single-engine Cessna 150 in a vineyard near Caurthers, California. Drake was flying alone to fulfill preaching engagements, and his plane had been in the air only ten minutes when the crash occurred.

A Mooney Mark 21 crashed at Woodville, Texas, killing the pilot, Len Rogers, and injuring Southern Baptist evangelist T. V. (Corky) Harris. In the Bahamas, Assemblies of God missionary Finis E. Bradshaw survived the forced belly landing of his Beechcraft Bonanza. Both are single-engine planes.

Efma-Ifma Congress

A week-long Congress on the Church’s Worldwide Mission is being planned jointly by the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association and the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association. It will be held at Wheaton College, April 9–16, 1966.

The congress will be designed to promote an intensive study of current issues facing the Church in world evangelization.

The two sponsoring groups represent the bulk of the evangelical missionary task force. They will invite to the congress some 600 missionary executives, professors of missions, and other key personnel.

New High For Low Churchmen

Regret that some evangelical clergymen had recently left the Church of England was the reaction of many who attended the Islington Clerical Conference this month at Westminster. “The call to us as evangelicals,” said the Rev. R. Peter Johnston in his presidential address, “is to stand fast and stand together, to resist all that we believe to be contrary to the teaching of Scripture, to see that our voice is heard at every level of church life.”

Referring to the tendency of many to regard the Church as a kind of “exclusive middle-class club,” Mr. Johnston suggested that there were two ways of keeping people out. One was to display a “No Admittance” notice; the other was to let them in but make them feel thoroughly out of place. But Christ was a working-class man who preached in the language of common life, Mr. Johnston said.

Article continues below

Another prominent evangelical, the Rev. Maurice A. P. Wood, pointed out that the humanists were not in fact asking the sort of questions that the Bishop of Woolwich set out to answer for them. He quoted from the 1965 Rationalist Annual to illustrate that the topics which concern humanists deeply are precisely those to which the “orthodox” Gospel is most relevant—pain, death, the cross, sin—and added, “We can speak to these conditions from the strong citadel of the Word of God.”

London is far from the geographical center of England, but the 600 clergy in attendance constituted the largest gathering in the history of this 136-year-old annual meeting of evangelicals. One onlooker attributed this to “the post-Graham bulge in the evangelical theological colleges.”


Altering The Approach

Are anti-religious forces in Moscow changing their tactics?

The Soviet ideological organ Kommunist is now urging a revision of the attitude toward Christians. According to Religious News Service, the January edition of the Communist journal says that it would be “shortsighted” not to accept the changes within the church in recent years.

It pointed out the “deep changes” within the Roman Catholic Church “which tries to rejuvenate by a crisis of religious doctrines.”

Kommunist held that it must be the aim of Marxist studies of religion “to find an objective analysis of reality,” charging that some atheist indoctrinations continue to emphasize the “antiquated qualities of the church” at a time when some changes are apparent.

The Communist organ pointed out that “the clergy try to find new solutions and possibilities in a dialogue with the world in order not to lose their faithful.” It added that “realistic representatives” of the Catholic clergy recognized the necessity of peaceful co-existence between different social and political systems. “Pope Paul stands in the middle between these realist members of the clergy and reactionaries.”

“Such developments cannot be rejected with slogans that they are counterrevolutionary or reactionary,” the journal said, urging atheists to give up “their primitive generalizations.”

Kommunist advocated “close collaboration between Communists and church people in the struggle for progress and humanity.” The solemn warning, however, was that “the changing church must be considered a dangerous foe.”

Article continues below
Greece: The Clergy Payroll

The politically moderate government of 77-year-old Premier George Papandreou is extending a salary increase to Greek Orthodox priests. The priests are considered as public employees under Greece’s union of church and state.

As of January 1, priests who minister in villages of fewer than 1,500 people (5,000 out of a total of 8,000 priests) became eligible for wage hikes of 500 drachmas ($17). Their last increase was in April, 1963, when all priests received an increment of $10 in their monthly pay.

For purposes of remuneration the Orthodox priests of Greece are divided into four I categories. Education is one of the things taken into consideration. It is estimated I that 6,500 of the priests have not had a high school education, and it is the priests in this category who are now getting an increment that will give them a total of $59 to $77 a month. A bishop in Greece gets $600 a month.

The income of all priests is augmented by the revenue they collect for administering ordinances such as infant baptism, marriage, funeral, and prayer for the dead.


Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.