USCCB Clarifies Its Position on the Regulation of Hate Speech

Deal W. Hudson
October 29, 2009

This past Monday I reported that the USCCB Department of Communications is listed as a “principal partner” on the “So We Might See” Web site. So We Might See is a coalition of religious groups that are petitioning the Federal Communications Commission to investigate “hate speech.”

Since the page on the organization’s Web site displaying the petition also contained specific allegations that Rush Limbaugh incited violence against two Mexican men in 2006, I reported that the USCCB was also supporting an investigation of Limbaugh.

Helen Osman, Secretary of Communications for the USCCB, responded to my article in a series of e-mails, denying that the USCCB was “participating in any campaign to censor any news organization, program, or commentator.”

According to Osman, the USCCB “shares So We Might See’s general commitments to improving access to broadband among the under-served; to reducing violence in all media; and to reducing the excess of advertising in children’s programming.”

Osman also sent me a copy of the USCCB’s July 29 petition to the FCC, which she said was prompted by a request from the National Hispanic Media Coalition to the FCC asking for an inquiry into hate speech. The NHMC was alarmed by what is considered to be the demonizing content of talk radio hosts directed at Mexicans, and the rise in violence that may have been prompted by it.

The USCCB petition mentions its own concerns about a “variety of questions” raised by the NHJC petition. For example, “Would expressions of religious teachings be deemed hate speech?” Or, “Would Roman Catholic teachings on marriage or homosexuality be deemed hate speech by some gay rights advocates?”

The USCCB petition also asks about the FCC’s legitimate role in defining and regulating hate speech. It asks, “When does speech criticizing, or even demonizing an identified group of people, become an incitement to violence?” And, “Is defining the term ‘hate speech’ a legitimate exercise of the FCC’s statutory authority to regulate broadcasters in the public interest, convenience, and necessity?”

It’s safe to say that the USCCB petition in no way reflects the attitude expressed on the So We Might See Web site, or in the blast e-mails sent by one of its staffers, Rev. Ben Guess. Osman explained the intent of their own petition: “One reason we are eager to see the inquiry opened is that it will present an occasion to alert the FCC to the serious constitutional and regulatory problems associated with regulating hate speech.”

Because the tenor and content of the USCCB petition differed so starkly from that of the So We Might See Web site, I asked Osman if there were any plans to remove the “principal partner” identification of the USCCB Department of Communications from the Web site. She wrote in response:

We continue to be in dialogue with other members of the So We Might See coalition on ways that we can continue our collaboration on the key issues of the coalition… We are also working with the coalition to help make clearer to the public the USCCB’s distinct reasons for supporting the FCC’s opening a Notice of Inquiry.

When I asked her whether she meant there would be no change in the USCCB relationship with So We Might See, Osman replied, “No, I couldn’t guarantee what the future holds.” It appears, then, that there are presently no plans to remove the USCCB’s “principal partner” designation from the Web site.

It will be interesting to see whether the conversations presently underway between the USCCB and the So We Might See coalition will encourage the latter to drop their allegations against Limbaugh. Without changes to the Web site, however, the ongoing “principal partner” designation of the USCCB Department of Communications will continue to confuse Catholics regarding the bishops’ concern about the regulation of hate speech.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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