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Skittish networks
ban gay-friendly UCC commercial

Skittish networks
ban gay-friendly UCC commercial

Ad featuring male couple ejected from church to air on cable.

A male couple is forcibly flung out of a house of worship in a commercial from the gay-friendly United Church of Christ that has been rejected by all the major broadcast networks but will soon air on cable.

UCC's 30-second spot, known as "Ejector Seat," features a gay couple being subjected to glares at an unnamed church before being launched out of their pew as if it were an ejector seat. Others, including a crying baby and a handicapped man, are also shown being ejected until a message of "God doesn't reject people. Neither do we" appears.

Though ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox refused to air the ads, networks including CNN will begin broadcasting the commercials for three weeks beginning April 3. CBS and NBC refused an earlier UCC ad in late 2004, saying it was too contentious.

Ron Buford, the director of UCC's Stillspeaking media campaign, which consists of posters and radio spots as well as the commercials, met with network representatives to persuade them to run "Ejector Seat."

"CBS essentially said they couldn't run our ad because it was an advocacy ad," said Buford. "I asked, 'What would it take to make our ads not advocacy ads?' They said, 'It would have to become commonplace for churches to welcome gay and lesbian people.'"

Aside from the network reaction, response to the ads has been very positive, Buford said.

"People are kind of surprised by it--they laugh," he said. "The primary message is, everyone is welcome."

The message is apparently being heard, said Buford. Before the first ad--with the same inclusive message--aired in 2004, UCC's Web site recorded 950,000 hits a year, but in the following 15 months after the initial broadcast, 7.1 million visitors viewed the site.

"Everywhere I've gone, somebody meets me at the door and they say, 'I came to this church because I saw that ad,'" Buford said. "A lot of them are gay and lesbian people, but a lot of them are straight people who increasingly don't want to be part of anything that excludes."

Established in 1957 as a liberal-leaning Protestant denomination, the UCC has approximately 1.3 million members and 6,000 congregations. (The Advocate)

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