The Religious Left and liberal groups are currently defending the “Red Lion” doctrine, under which judges allow the government to restrict speech on the radio because of the alleged scarcity of broadcast outlets, contrary to the First Amendment’s plain text, which bars the government from abridging freedom of speech. Even staffers at the FCC, which won the Red Lion case, admit this is a bogus rationale for restricting speech, since radio stations are not scarce: indeed, there are more radio stations than newspapers, and the government is not allowed to restrict speech in newspapers.
But left-wing groups like the United Church of Christ’s Office of Communications have asked the Supreme Court to uphold the controversial 1969 Red Lion decision that gave birth to this discredited doctrine, in their amicus briefs in FCC v. Fox Television Stations. They want to restrict depictions of guns and violence, believing that people are too stupid to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. They also want to shut down conservative radio talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh by using the so-called Fairness doctrine, which prevents a radio station from airing political commentary unless crackpots and bores with opposing viewpoints are given equal time to respond, on the radio station’s nickel.
The Religious Left is far more active in pursuing its authoritarian social agenda in the courts than is the Religious Right. For example, the United Church of Christ’s Office of Communications has filed far more court briefs than any “conservative” religious denomination like the Southern Baptists. It has been especially aggressive in pushing racial quotas and speech restrictions. For example, it defended the racial-preference regulations struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod v. FCC, 141 F.3d 344 (D.C. Cir. 1998), which made it more difficult for radio stations to hire qualified employees. The Religious Left routinely brands people who oppose racial quotas as being racists.