TV-Hate

Scientology’s ‘STAND’ group and AME minster Rev. Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray ask Disney head Bob Iger to take action against incendiary programming.

In November 2018, the FBI reported hate crimes increased by 17 percent last year – and religion-based hate crimes by 23 percent. Of 1,564 crimes reported in 2017, religion-based crimes ranked second with the number surpassed only in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The sharpest increase in hate crimes were those against African Americans and Jewish Americans.

The report "provides further evidence that more must be done to address the divisive climate of hate in America. That begins with leaders from all walks of life and from all sectors of society forcefully condemning anti-Semitism, bigotry, and hate whenever it occurs," said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

In October, the BBC published a news story about a 40% increase in religious hate crimes in the UK and Wales stating "Hate crime is defined as an offence which the victim considers to be driven by hostility towards their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity. It can include verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, harassment, assault and bullying, as well as damage to property."

Hate Crime Trending, UK

It’s not every day we see Christian clergy come to the defense of the controversial and always in the news Church of Scientology, but recently, the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), equivalent of Scientology, ‘STAND,’ (Scientologists Taking Action Against Discrimination), published a plea to the Disney corporation, the parent company of A&E, surprisingly, from a Christian reverend, to re-think their reality show ‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ and its seemingly negative effect on the religions targeted by the show.

USC fellow Rev. Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray spoke on the influence television may have on increase of hate crimes in a letter to The Disney Company’s Bob Iger. Rev Murray asked him to consider the effects of anti-religious content on the Disney-owned A&E Network reality series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.

In the Google Trends chart below, there does appear to be an interest correlation on November 14th, but is correlation causation?

Rev. Cecil Murray has a history as a proponent of religious unity and coordinated action to achieve social reform. On retiring from his position as pastor of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME) of Los Angeles, Rev. Murray was appointed as the John R. Tansey Chair of Christian Ethics in the School of Religion at the University of Southern California. In addition, Rev. Murray was named a senior fellow of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture. He chairs the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement. Murray holds a doctorate from Claremont School of Theology and has many years of experience as a senior statesman in the African American community and in the city of Los Angeles as a whole.

In the letter, Rev. Murray questions the marginalizing of minority religions on TV and its possible connection to increased violence.

“I have recently become aware of a program being aired on the A&E Networks, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, which is hateful towards several religions. This is Leah Remini Aftermath reality series. This is apparently its third season. A&E’s recent programming persecutes American religions—Scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses and many other denominations. They say they are ‘looking’ into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their programming is one-sided and does not attempt to show the other side.”

He alerts Iger to what he fears is the relationship between this show and recent violence against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. There have been a string of hate crimes against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Washington. Three cases of arson occurred in the months following the announcement of a Jehovah’s Witnesses episode of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. Additionally he acknowledges church shootings and the rise of anti-Semitism, particularly in the U.S. with the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in October.

By condoning the airing of this series, Disney makes itself a party to the violence resulting. I understand that the Church of Scientology has had hundreds of threats of death, violence or vandalism incited by the show. Including their Church in Twin Cities being set on fire, another church having a car driven purposefully through their front windows, etc. Since the Jehovah’s Witnesses episode was announced there have been five of their Kingdom Halls burned down. I am sure you are aware of the recent shootings in the synagogue in Pittsburgh and other such incidents against churches around the US. That Disney would sponsor programs that incite hatred against religions from my perspective is unconscionable.

He also endorses the Scientology religion in the letter:

“I have worked beside the Church of Scientology for over 25 years when they helped greatly to bring calm during the Rodney King riots, with their tutoring of underserved children, work to get the anti-drug messages out as well as teaching human rights.”

Rev. Murray calls on Iger to “act with courage and compassion—as would the great Walt Disney and many of his contemporaries—and not merely turn a blind eye to the discrimination and persecution by the few with a mouthpiece, against the many who diligently seek to follow their religious convictions.”

Earlier today, on Twitter, the ADL’s Greenblatt said “No matter who you are, there is nothing 'brave' about bigotry and promoting those who incite hate.”

The full text of Rev. Murray’s December 13 letter can be read on the STAND (Scientologists Taking Action Against Discrimination) website.

What do you think? Can television drive religious hate and violence? Give us your opinion on Twitter with hashtag #ReligiousHate

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