Written by Gregg Brekke
The following is a response from the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive director of the United Church of Christ's Office of Communication, Inc., to misleading and untruthful articles that have appeared this past week at The American Spectator about the UCC and the So We Might See interfaith media justice coalition:
A misleading series of online stories at The American Spectator has sought to attack efforts of the So We Might See Coalition to focus public attention on anti-immigrant hate speech. Our coalition partners have worked in good faith with a shared belief that people of diverse faiths oppose the escalating and vitriolic attacks on immigrants, even as we also support freedom of speech. Thus, we have sought to exercise our rights to ask for a broad and open discussion on these matters and to obtain as many facts as possible about the connection between hate speech and hate violence.
The So We Might See Coalition was launched in July of this year to promote interfaith awareness of shared media-related issues and concerns. At the invitation of the United Church of Christ's Office of Communication, Inc., several denominational and interfaith partners willingly and knowingly consented to join the coalition, including United Methodist Communications and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
On Oct. 20, United Methodist Communications requested temporary removal of its name and logo from the coalition's website until its board was given more time to consider the agency's involvement. This request was honored immediately. And, despite participation at a Sept. 30 coalition meeting when details of an anti-hate speech campaign were discussed, the USCCB felt it appropriate and necessary that it craft its own letter to the Federal Communications Commission regarding hate speech in the media, apart from the coalition's sign-on letter at SWMS's Media Violence Fast campaign site. And, at the USCCB's request, the following statement to this effect also was added to the site: http://www.ucc.org/media-justice/mvf2009/usccb-statement
Given the diverse constituencies and social positions that our faith traditions represent, interreligious coalition work is never easy nor expected to be, even though cooperation is our common aspiration and long-term goal.
Initial funding for the Coalition's work has been provided by the United Church of Christ's Office of Communication, Inc., an independently incorporated board of UCC members that has been working on media justice issues since 1959. Its primary sources of funding are no secret, with the bulk of its $270,000 annual budget coming from the Ford Foundation; the Media Democracy Fund; and corporate, religious and individual support of OC Inc.'s annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture held each fall.
Neither the United Church of Christ's Office of Communication, Inc., nor the So We Might See Coalition, receive any financial support from George Soros, as an individual, nor from his foundation, the Open Society Institute. While the Open Society Institute is one of multiple supporters of the Media Democracy Fund, neither the UCC, the Coalition nor its campaigns have been recipients of these funds directly.