This letter is in response to a full page advertisement that has appeared in some Loudoun newspapers, including the Leesburg Today, Ashburn Today, and Loudoun Easterner. As one reader commented, “When I first saw this ad, I thought it had been placed by Fred Phelps.” We will certainly keep you apprised of where this patently offensive ad was and was not accepted for publication as new information becomes available.
June 25, 2007
By David Weintraub
President, Equality Loudoun
Last week, this newspaper chose to accept for publication a full-page advertisement paid for by an organization calling itself “The Church of the Valley.”
The ad made the astonishingly false claim that a bill currently before Congress will “make it a crime to preach from” specific Bible passages, or to “say anything negative about homosexuality.”
Readers with even the slightest familiarity with the U.S. Constitution looked askance at this ridiculous statement, realizing that this can’t possibly be the case.
They are correct. The bill in question, H.R. 1592/S. 1105 (the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act/Matthew Shepard Act), not only applies exclusively to violent physical acts — not speech — it also contains an explicit and redundant clause that reiterates the freedom of religious expression protected by our Constitution.
Newspapers are not held responsible for the factual accuracy of the ads they accept. Jay Ahlemann, the leader of this nominally Christian organization, will have to answer for his behavior in this very public instance of bearing false witness.
Newspapers are, however, accountable for what they choose to put in print. No paper is required or expected to accept every ad it receives, and ads that are inappropriate, offensive, or obscene are routinely rejected.
A paid advertisement with the banner headline “Will you ask your Pastor to take a stand against the sinful practice of homosexuality?” is an open attack on Loudoun’s many gay families. It is no more acceptable than would be an ad asking that people “take a stand against the sinful practice of” interfaith marriage, followed by a litany of inflammatory lies about “the Jews.” Would this paper have accepted an ad singling out any other group of people for such outrageous treatment?
You have shown very poor judgment in choosing to print this open invitation to attack a segment of your readers and advertisers. It is extremely disappointing, and an apology is in order.