NY Times Allows Atheists' Full-Page, Anti-Catholic Ad; Rejected 'Anti-Muslim' Ad in 2012

The Federalist's David Harsanyi pointed out the New York Times's clear double standard when it comes to advertising in a Thursday post on Twitter. The writer recounted that the liberal paper "rejected an ad aimed at one religion" in 2012, but printed a full-page ad in Thursday's edition from the far-left Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), which blasted the "all-male, all-Roman Catholic majority" on the Supreme Court for its decision in the Hobby Lobby case.

Harsanyi linked to a March 15, 2012 item on the ultra-liberal Think Progress blog that spotlighted how the Times "rejected a full-page anti-Islam advertisement submitted by anti-Muslim activists Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer." What Think Progress left out was the fact that Geller and Spencer's ad was a response to a previous anti-Catholic ad from FFRF, as libertarian blogger David Volokh documented at the time:

...Here is the New York Times' response to the [ad] submission, according to Geller:

Bob Christie, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for the New York Times, just called me to advise me that they would be accepting my ad, but considering the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, now would not be a good time, as they did not want to enflame an already hot situation. They will be reconsidering it for publication in "a few months."

The Times is of course entitled to choose what ads to run. But, assuming Geller's account of the Times' response is correct, that response simply proves one of Geller's points: Almost no Catholics are likely to respond violently even to harsh criticism of the Catholic Church — but enough Muslims are likely to respond violently to harsh criticism of Islam (whether the response is against the critic or against others) that the Times itself views such criticism as unsafe. There are plenty of peace-loving Muslims, but unfortunately there are also enough extremist Muslim thugs to affect what the Times is willing to publish.

The 2012 ad from FFRF was more explicitly anti-Catholic than their more recent one (see image at right). The atheist group called on "liberal" and "nominal" Catholics to "quit the Catholic Church" over its supposed "declaration of war against women's right to contraception" and its "pernicious doctrine that birth control is a sin." The ad later asserted that "U.S. health care reform is being held hostage to...[the] church's irrational opposition to medically prescribed contraception" and that parochial schools "indoctrinated....[children] into the next generation of obedient donors and voters." It ended by calling on Catholics to "free yourself from incense-fogged ritual, from ideas uttered long ago by ignorant men, from blind obedience to an illusory religious authority."

On Thursday, the Catholic League's Bill Donahue slammed FFRF for "trotting out the old canard that Catholics are not independent thinkers" (MRC President Brent Bozell is on the Catholic League's board of advisers).  He later connected the radical atheist group's present anti-Catholicism to that of the past:


From the middle of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century, Catholics had to deal with the Ku Klux Klan. Now they must deal with more sophisticated bigots. What unites the Klan and FFRF is their maliciousness. Unfortunately, as we have seen this week, anti-Catholic bigotry has erupted in many quarters, all of them urbane.

In a July 1, 2014 press release, Donahue cited several examples of "the reaction of bigots to the Hobby Lobby case," which included articles from the Boston Herald, Huffington Post, and the Kansas City Star.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center