Center for Inquiry Opposes Focus on the Family Super Bowl Ad.

February 1, 2010

Today, CFI sent a message to top executives at CBS roundly condemning their decision to air a controversial and politically charged advertisement from Focus on the Family during Super Bowl XLIV this coming Sunday, February 7th. The ad, which features college football star Tim Tebow and his mother, will use Tebow’s personal story to as the basis for an overall pro-life stance. While the Center for Inquiry fully defends CBS’s right to free speech to air whatever ads they choose, we also unwaveringly support a woman’s right to choose. Therefore, we cannot simply let an ad that advances an overtly Christian religious position at the expense of women’s rights air to over a hundred million people without a response. Below is a copy of the letter sent to executives earlier today:

Dear CBS Executive,

The Center for Inquiry wishes to convey to you our concern over CBS’s decision to air an anti-choice advertisement sponsored by Focus on the Family during Super Bowl XLIV. The Center for Inquiry is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering a secular society based on the principles of science, reason, and humanist values. While we fully support and defend CBS’s free speech right to air any ad it chooses to, we must oppose the decision to air the Focus on the Family ad on the grounds that CBS has refused to air ads by other organizations—including PETA,, and the United Church of Christ—that were deemed "too political." CBS has shown a troubling ideological bias by choosing to air a divisive political ad by Focus on the Family while also refusing to air ads by other organizations, many of which are politically progressive.

The Focus on the Family ad is at least as divisive and politically charged as ads that CBS has refused to air in the past. The content of this ad endangers women’s health and subjugates their rights under Roe v. Wade by asserting that Christian religious beliefs should overrule the freedoms and well-being concerns of half the American population. While we recognize that the decision to have an abortion is never an easy one, the Center for Inquiry holds as its position that the decision of whether or not to have an abortion should be made between a woman, her family, and her doctor. This position is shared by approximately 70% of the American population, the Supreme Court, and the one-in-five American women who will need an abortion at some point in their life.

The Super Bowl is an entertainment event that brings people together regardless of background, faith, ideology or political affiliation. In the past, CBS has shown great discretion in rejecting overtly political or controversial ads for airing during nationally televised events. It has prohibited advocacy from such groups as PETA,, The United Church of Christ, and other groups that carry an implicit endorsement for one side in a public debate. Additionally, NBC made the decision last year to not air anti-choice messages during the Super Bowl on the grounds that they were overtly political. By offering one of the most prestigious advertising spots to Focus on the Family this year, CBS is breaking with a longstanding tradition of keeping politics and religion out of national sporting events.

We sincerely hope that you will reconsider your decision to air this divisive, misleading, and overtly political and religious ad during Super Bowl XLIV.

Thank you for your consideration.


Ronald A. Lindsay
President and CEO
Center for Inquiry

Toni Van Pelt
Vice President and Director of Public Policy
Center for Inquiry, Office of Public Policy

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#1 SimonSays on Monday February 01, 2010 at 12:08pm

Bravo! Like I mentioned on Derek’s blog post, perhaps a similar letter can be sent to the FCC? This would appear to be an issue under their jurisdiction.

#2 Laura Hay (Guest) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 at 11:29am

I applaud your communication with CBS and am inspired. I just sent the following letter to all of the links you provided:

Dear Ms. Wade –

I am writing this e-mail after having learned that CBS has decided to air an advertisement during the Superbowl that advocates anti-choice views regarding abortion. I and my family are extremely disappointed that CBS has made the decision to air something so politically divisive during a time when people are excited and coming together to celebrate the achievements of two incredible football teams.

I was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. As you no doubt know, our home team is going to the Superbowl for the first time in their history. New Orleans is jubilant – and this relatively inconsequential development has transformed the city.  People are talking on the street, smiling and greeting each other like never before. After suffering such loss in the last five years, the very fact that the Saints are going to compete in the Superbowl has brought another level of healing to our beautiful city.

Your decision to run this advertisement will divide many households; it will add tension and upset to what would otherwise be a time of excitement. You are putting this issue ‘on the table’, as it were, inviting argument and ill feeling.

Why CBS has made this decision is beyond my understanding. I strongly urge you, however, to reconsider. You are doing a disservice to football fans all over the U.S., to family and friends sharing a Sunday that should only be about sports and good sportsmanship, not political agenda.

Thank you for your attention.

Laura Hay (& Jason Jones)
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

#3 JohnnyCrash on Tuesday February 02, 2010 at 1:30pm

I wrote an eMail as well.  The crux of my argument to them was with the airing of a commercial that neither sells a product nor a service, and instead is preaching politics from a religiously based organization.

I just saw on CNN that the commercial CBS dropped is receiving a lot of publicity just for the news about them being kicked by CBS.  Good for them and their business (a gay dating website)!

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