Was It Fair for a Student-Run Campus Newspaper to Reject Ads from Creationist Groups? September 17, 2015

Was It Fair for a Student-Run Campus Newspaper to Reject Ads from Creationist Groups?

In order to promote a Creationist conference that was held at Boise State University last weekend, three organizations approached the student newspaper on campus, The Arbiter, in order to purchase advertising.

Creation Summit Inc., the Northwest Science Museum, and Engage Truth were willing to pay whatever the price was… but the students running the newspaper rejected the ads:

“If the paper had said, ‘Sorry, our ad space was all sold-out,’ that would have been one thing. But that’s not what they said. They told us that our content wasn’t acceptable,” said Creation Summit Executive Director Mike Smith, from the organization’s Oklahoma headquarters. “But they never saw an ad. They saw our website and made a decision based on that.”

“We actually contacted The Arbiter at the beginning of the school year,” said Doug Bennett, executive director of the Northwest Science Museum. “They told us, ‘Due to content, we choose not to run your ad.”

Is that censorship? Actual Christian persecution?

Not at all.

The Student Press Law Center makes clear that students are considered private individuals under the law and they are allowed to pick and choose their own advertising (unlike, say, the New York Times):

[Refusing to publish a lawful ad is okay] as long as students — and students alone — are responsible for rejecting the ad. Where public college officials, including an adviser, play a role in refusing the ad, the law can get murky, since they are government officials subject to the First Amendment. But students are private individuals and can accept or reject ads for virtually any reason.

So there you go. Not a problem.

But try telling that to the organizations, who seem to think the First Amendment allows them to do whatever they want, wherever they want:

Creation Summit sent an email to Idaho media stating, “We have contacted an attorney and yes, the law is on our side.”

For their sake, let’s hope they’re not paying that lawyer a lot of money…

But maybe the Creationists have a point. Is it fair (even if it’s legal) to reject their ads while saying yes to an atheist group’s ad?

Justin Kirkham, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, doesn’t think so and explained his decision this way:

When approached by The Origin Summit, our sales and advertising manager, Phil Daily, combed through the group’s website and found that many of their claims could be construed as overtly belligerent to our readership. After conferring with Daily, Connor Jones, student media business manager, decided not to run the ad.

If we run ads from one religious group and reflect their views, it is only fair that we offer the same chance to all groups. This is something that we aim to avoid. With all of this information in hand, Jones made his decision. And, at the end of all this chaos, it looks like we dodged a bullet.

So it’s not even picking and choosing non-Christian faiths over the Christian faith. It’s saying no to religious advertising altogether. That’s a decision public transportation agencies and billboard companies have to make all the time. As long as there’s a principle behind it that applies to everyone equally, it’s hard to argue against it.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to McSkeptic for the link)

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