The New York Times has come under fire for running an anti-Catholicism ad while at the same time postponing an ad that attacked Islam, exposing what critics are calling a religious double standard from the newspaper.
The controversy began when the New York Times chose to run an ad created by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The ad, framed as "an open letter to 'liberal' and 'nominal' Catholics," lists several attacks against church policies, largely centered on women's rights, child molestation, and contraception.
"Why are you propping up the pillars of a tyrannical and autocratic, woman-hating, sex-perverting, antediluvian Old Boys Club?" the ad asks. "When it comes to reproductive freedom, the Roman Catholic Church is Public Enemy Number One. Think of the acute misery, poverty, needless suffering, unwanted pregnancies, social evils and deaths that can be laid directly at the door of the Church's antiquated doctrine that birth control is a sin and must be outlawed."
The ad then concludes by imploring readers to "join those of us who put humanity above dogma," and "please, exit en Mass."
Although the Times required that the FFRF change the ad's title from "It's Time to Quit the Catholic Church" to "It's Time to Consider Quitting the Catholic Church," the newspaper published the ad in its Friday, March 9 edition.
In response to the FFRF's ad, Pamela Geller of Stop Islamization of America offered the Times $39,000, the same amount the FFRF paid, to run an ad titled "It's Time to Quit Islam."
Geller, a conservative blogger and author, is also the executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative.
Geller's ad begins with a similar appeal "To 'moderate' Muslims," and lists several attacks on Islam's human rights record, treatment of women, and connections with terrorism.
"Ask your imam," Geller's ad reads, "Does he support Hamas? Hizb'Allah [sic]? The destruction of Israel? Does he condemn the slaughter of Christians in Egypt, Pakistan, Nigeria, Iraq, etc. Does he vocally denounce Islamic killings, FGM, forced marriages, child marriage, polygamy?"
It also imitates the closing of the FFRF ad by asking readers to "join those of us who put humanity above the vengeful, hateful, and violent teachings of Islam's 'prophet,'" and "please, exit en mosque."
According to Geller's blog, she received a call from New York Times Director of Communications Robert Christie informing her that the ad would be considered, but not published immediately.
Christie later expanded on the Times' stance in a letter, which explained that the newspaper could publish the ad "in a few months," but did not want to do so immediately "in light of recent events in Afghanistan, including the Koran burning and alleged killings of Afghani civilians by a member of the U.S. Military."
"It is our belief," Christie added in the letter published on Geller's blog, "that fallout from running this ad now could put US troops and/or civilians in the region in danger."
Christie ended the letter by saying, "As you know, we have accepted many advertisements from organizations making opposing statements about various religious faiths."
Still, some critics are not satisfied with the Times' reasoning.
In an interview with the Daily Caller, Bill Donohue of the American Catholic League said that the Times' exhibited a double standard on this issue, and the decision about which ads to publish was made with "either [anti-Catholic] bigotry or fear [of Islamic violence], and they've painted themselves into that corner."
Mark Steyn of the National Review called the Times' response "The courage of the secular left: If you're going to be 'provocative,' it's best to do it with people who can't be provoked."