Printer Pressured by Religious Right to Drop "Southern Voice"

by David R. Parvo

The Gainesville Times, part of the Gannett newspaper chain, announced on May 19 that its Southland Publishing plant will stop printing the South's leading gay and lesbian newspaper, the Atlanta-based "Southern Voice." The "Southern Voice" believes that this action was the direct result of a campaign by local churches to stop the printing and dissemination of the paper. The "Southern Voice," which is contemplating a lawsuit, began its contract with the Gainesville Times on April 23. Immediately after, the Free Chapel Worship Center and the Flowery Branch's Blackshear Place Baptist Church began their campaign with announcements and flyers that rallied church members to cancel their subscriptions and to boycott advertisers. The notices said that "They may not understand morality, but they understand money." The campaign grew to involve 47 area ministers who criticized the homosexual paper. Blackshear Place Baptist's pastor Jim Austin said "We are speaking out in opposition to a deviant lifestyle. The Bible clearly addresses the issues of homosexuality as a lifestyle. This is not a rights issue, this is a moral issue." The Times denies that the churches' campaign had anything to do with its decision. The effects of the churches' campaign predictably extend beyond the Southern Voice. One 16 year old girl, a daughter of a lesbian, had copies of the campaign petition thrown into her face by other students.

Actions and campaigns such as this are becoming increasingly common as of late. Church groups recently have been active in banning the Indigo Girls and Marilyn Manson from local communities. No matter how much we disagree with their goals and agenda, they are well within their rights to act as they have with boycotts and petitions. It is protected by the First Amendment and we are in no way saying that these groups should not be allowed by law to conduct campaigns such as these. This is, however, a perfect example of how the Religious Right in this country is so insecure in their beliefs that they cannot so much as allow anyone with differing ideology or lifestyles to express their opinions. Often, biases such as these directly translate into attempts at legislation to unconstitutionally make their opinion the law of the land. This is yet another example of how powerful the Religious Right in this country is. This is a local event that mirrors a disturbing, close minded national trend. Please use the contacts provided below to give your support to the Southern Voice and to show your disproval of the publishing practices of Gannett Publishing (the Gainesville Times does not have a website and therefore we could not find any contact information for it-sorry).

Southern Voice
1095 Zonolite Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30306
phone: 404-876-1831
southvoice@sovo.com

The Gannett Companies
1100 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22234
phone: 703-284-6000
gcishare@info.gannett.com

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