Civil rights and the Super Bowl

By Lauren Vincent

The CBS television network is choosing to squeeze a wholesome, family-centered commercial in between the rest of its Super Bowl advertising this coming Sunday. Alongside the infamous Bud Light and Smirnoff advertisements, a public service announcement from the Focus on the Family organization will run.

According to their website, Focus on the Family “is a global non-profit Christian organization with a vision for healing brokenness in families, communities and societies worldwide through Christ. The purpose of the ministry is to strengthen, defend and celebrate the institution of the traditional family and to highlight the unique and irreplaceable role that it plays in God’s larger story of redemption.”

In the past, CBS rejected ads by PETA and The reason for this is that the broadcasting station claimed that they do not run “advocacy ads” at their network level – and they have stuck with this policy for years. But this Super Bowl, it is expected that CBS will air the PSA from Focus on the Family, with its clear advocating tendency.

The 30-second ad features University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother, Pam, sharing their story of how, on a missionary trip to the Philippines, Pam became ill and was encouraged by doctors to have an abortion. Instead of listening to these recommendations, Pam listened to her “personal faith” and decided to carry the pregnancy to term.

There are some oddities in this story, like the fact that abortion is completely illegal in the Philippines and any Filipino doctor who performs one receives jail time, which brings one to question whether the doctor was completely ignorant of the law, or just didn’t care. But whether the story is true or not, I have several problems with CBS allowing this PSA to air at all, let alone during the Super Bowl.

If we say the Tebow story is true, even though some doubt it, it is the exception, not the rule. Though there are women who decide to take the risk of a complicated delivery and end up surviving and delivering healthy children, there are still many women who suffer many complications during pregnancy and childbirth – death, included.

The Focus on the Family PSA also leaves out cases where the child itself has severe or fatal birth defects. It not only encourages women to disregard their doctor’s recommendations for their own safety, but it also cheapens the emotional struggles these women have gone through in their decisions to terminate the pregnancy. The decision process to end a pregnancy is surely not an easy one for any woman, and Tebow proudly proclaiming her choice to deliver her son Tim is an insult to women who have been through it.

For years, CBS has had a policy stating they would not run any ads that “touch on and/or take a position on one side of a current controversial issue.” This was announced by the Boston Globe in a letter from CBS to the United Church of Christ in 2004, after CBS rejected an advertisement from them. The ad was to promote the church being inclusive of everyone, including the gay and lesbian community. Apparently, CBS didn’t want to take a position on that issue. Fine.

However, Focus on the Family’s website has a special section on sexual identity in which they offer advice with dealing with the “challenging situation” of finding out that a loved one is gay. The advice is in the form of an arrow pointing to a set of books, one of which can help you “overcome the influence of homosexuality.” They then conclude with their position on homosexuality: “We oppose the ordination of non-celibate, self-identified homosexuals and the celebration of homoerotic sexuality as one of God’s gifts.”

Now, by CBS running an advertisement from Focus on the Family, who have a clearly spelled out opposition to homosexuality, and rejecting one by the United Church of Christ, who has a clearly spelled out opposition to rejecting anyone based on their sexual identity, CBS seems to have taken a position. This position is not only on abortion, but on gay rights as well. Equal rights and tolerance are apparently not things CBS is interested in, and consistency doesn’t seem to interest the network either.

More recently, CBS rejected an ad for a gay-male dating site,, in which two men are depicted kissing. It seems like their conclusion is they find anything which doesn’t fit with their definition of “family values” to be indecent.

If you ask me, “family values” is a pretty poor subject for a Super Bowl commercial. In the last Super Bowl I watched, the majority of the advertisements were for beer and alcohol. When did excessive drinking become valuable to the family? Last I checked, alcohol harms families more often than it helps them, and it does more harm to families than the LGBT community.

The executives at CBS have clearly taken a stand, though they previously said they wouldn’t. And as viewers, we reserve the right to take a stand against them, by not watching the Super Bowl on CBS.

Lauren Vincent is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]