We are used to political ads that lie. The First Amendment demands that the law tolerate them and probably demands that the bar tolerate lawyers who help make them.
But what do we do when political ads on radio and television also scare children about topics related to sex?
This political season, I am involved with a group of Republicans opposing a proposed amendment to the Minnesota constitution that would restrict the freedom to marry for persons of the same sex (state law already bans same sex marriage). Naturally, I am curious about radio ads run by supporters of the amendment, so one morning while driving my children to grade school I left the radio on to listen.
That was a big mistake.
The ad reported that after same sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts, churches were sued, and that children were forced to learn about gay sex in schools.
This ad – aired on radio stations shortly before 8 am – has one foreseeable result: loud exclamations from the back seats of minivans across Minnesota from kids demanding to know whether they will be forced to learn about gay sex at school if the amendment does not pass.
My response: “No. Remember how I tell you it is important to tell the truth? Well, this is election season and unfortunately some adults lie to get people’s votes. This amendment has nothing to do with what is taught in schools, and kids in Massachusetts learn much the same things as kids learn in Minnesota. Our church opposes restricting the freedom to marry, and nothing about sex is taught in Sunday school. Churches also sometimes get sued, but not for anything having anything to do with the marriage amendment.”
And I decided to end it there. What I won’t tell my kids is that some of the largest settlements of child molestation lawsuits in the history of Massachusetts and other states have been paid out by religious organizations that staunchly oppose the freedom to marry and that also have spent millions of dollars to support amendments like this one. And the amendments won’t stop the lawsuits because it is hypocrisy not same sex marriage that caused the lawsuits.
Meanwhile, in a free country I have to live with these ads and the lawyers who help organize the campaigns that broadcast them. Regardless of what happens in the vote on this amendment, I hope the next generation of adults will remember what grade school children learn in Massachusetts and Minnesota: to be considerate of others and to tell the truth.