Ousted Christian TV Network Takes Case to Israeli High Court

A major Christian TV network that runs missionary advertisements targeting Jews has filed a petition with the Israeli Supreme Court after the country's cable television company decided to pull the plug on the station.

The petition calls the decision by the HOT Cable System "a severe violation" of freedom of expression and freedom of religion, according to the Jerusalem Post.

"You cannot close down this station just because it is a Christian station," argued Israeli attorney Amir Vitkon in July when HOT made the decision to drop Daystar TV Network. According to the petition, the decision came one month after HOT renewed their contract.

On Tuesday, Vitkon said the Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting, which was due to authorize the move to cancel the station, had met but failed to make a decision on the issue.

Despite the council's failure to approve HOT's plan to cancel the station, the cable company decided to pull the plug and subsequently returned the fee that Daystar had paid for the year.

The HOT spokeswoman explained in a statement that the company's decision was derived from "editorial and content considerations," combined with complaints the company received for broadcasting the network.

In particular, there concerns were raised over Daystar's broadcasting of 15-minute infomercials from the Jewish Voice Ministries International organization, which direct the message of Jesus to a Jewish audience.

The Phoenix-based group calls itself "a worldwide outreach that is dedicated to bringing the Gospel of Jesus to the Jew first and also to the gentile throughout the world," according to its Web site.

While Yoram Mokady of the Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting says there are clear regulations for religious programming – including misinformation, frightening programming and programs directed at minors – the council chairman acknowledged that there are no guidelines for missionary activity.

As for the state of Israel itself, however, Christian evangelism is banned and Israel's parliament has condemned groups that share the Gospel.

For this reason, Pastor John Hagee, president of Christians United For Israel, had called Daystar's launch last year into Israel "a phenomenal event."

"This is like Christmas day," the Christian Zionist said, according to Daystar.

Before Daystar's announcement, Israel had never granted a license for a 100 percent Christian Channel to broadcast into all of Israel, according to Marcus D. Lamb, president of Daystar Television Network.

"Up until now, it has either been: illegal, impossible, or impractical," he said last year.

The opportunity came after a year of negotiations with Jewish leaders and a six month trial of Daystar's flagship shows – Celebration and the Joni show.

"A lot of people have tried; I don't know why the Lord let us do it. There are many out there that are more qualified than us, but I am grateful to the Lord..," commented Lamb.

After receiving the green light, Daystar began broadcasting in Israel on the HOT Cable System on channel 98, which covers about 1,000,000 homes; on the YES Direct to Home Satellite system in Israel on channel 110, which covers about 635,000 homes; and on the Hotbird 6 Satellite, which covers about 185,000 homes in Israel.

In the United States, Daystar has 128 million viewers, including 60 million viewers on cable and satellite. The network is also available in more than 200 countries around the world.

Despite the current cable controversy, the station is still broadcasting on Israeli satellite TV.

The network is looking to get back on HOT with the first hearing on the case scheduled for Oct. 31.

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