Hispanic leaders in the United Church of Christ expressed "deep sadness and disappointment" that the denominations newest television ad had been rejected by Telemundo and Univision two widely-popular, Spanish-language networks that reach nearly 100 percent of U.S. Hispanic households.
The UCC reported this week that the Spanish version of its 30-second commercial, "Ejector," was turned down last Thursday by NBC Universal, a family of broadcast and cable networks that includes Telemundo. A separate company, Univision which also owns the Telefutura and Galavision networks similarly rejected the denominations ad on the same day.
"We've been asking for advertising in Spanish from the [UCC's] national setting and, now, it's been rejected," said the Rev. Persida Mendez, national president of the UCC's Council for Hispanic Ministries, in a statement released on Apr. 6.
Mendez characterized the networks' decisions as a "significant step backward" for the UCC's attempt to spread its message of "extravagant welcome" within the Hispanic community.
The ad which has also been rejected by CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox shows a gay couple, a single mother, a disabled man and others flying out of their pews as a wrinkled hand pushes a red button.
The text on the screen that follows reads: "God doesn't reject people. Neither do we."
The UCC, which became the first mainline denomination to sanction homosexual marriages last July, has a tradition of support for gays and lesbians, becoming the first major Christian denomination to ordain an openly gay minister in 1972. By 1985, the UCC adopted an open and affirming position toward homosexuals, though less than 10 percent of the congregations adopted that policy, according to the Rev. Dr. Bob Thompson, head of Faithful and Welcoming Churches.
UCCs endorsement last year of same-sex marriage, however, has drawn notable criticism from Christian conservatives both outside the denomination and within, stirring debate and dividing dozens of its congregations.
According to figures released last month by Faithful and Welcoming Churches of the United Church of Christ, an evangelical renewal organization that offers an alternative to withdrawal from the UCC, some 97 local parishes have already severed their financial and membership ties to the denomination since its decision last July.
Despite the divisions within the church over the issue of homosexuality, which has been one of the most divisive topics in a number of mainline church groups, the UCC spent $1.5 million on the Ejector ads, which will run through the Easter season on CNN, USA, TNT, BET and eight other cable networks, along with three Spanish-language stations.
The UCC tried to run a similar ad in December 2004 in which bouncers outside a church stopped gay couples, racial minorities and others from entering. A complaint filed by the church against CBS and NBC affiliates in Miami after the networks rejected the first ad in 2004 is still pending.