- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — Two television stations are refusing to broadcast a new NBC series about an Episcopal priest who abuses painkillers and has a homosexual son, a promiscuous straight son, a daughter who deals marijuana and a wife who drinks too much.

Conservative Christian groups call the depiction of Jesus blasphemous, accusing the writers of portraying Christ as tolerant of sin in talks with the priest.

“I don’t think NBC would have portrayed a Muslim cleric or a Buddhist monk, the Dalai Lama, in a show this way. Why? Because they know to do so would be mean-spirited and insensitive,” Bob Waliszewski, of Focus on the Family’s teen ministries.

NBC affiliates KARK in Little Rock, Ark., and WTWO in Terre Haute, Ind., said sensitivity to viewers led them not to air “The Book of Daniel,” which debuts tonight. In Little Rock, the WB affiliate has arranged to show the drama instead.

“If my action causes people in our community to pay more attention to what they watch on television, I have accomplished my mission,” Duane Lammers, WTWO’s general manager, said on his station’s Web site.

The series stars Aidan Quinn as the Rev. Daniel Webster, who discusses his many troubles in regular chats with a robe-wearing, bearded Jesus. The American Family Association, in Tupelo, Miss., and Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs group led by James Dobson, are asking supporters to lobby their local NBC affiliates to drop the show.

NBC said yesterday, “We’re confident that once audiences view this quality drama themselves, they’ll appreciate this thought-provoking examination of one American family.”

But the American Family Association said the series was another sign of NBC’s “anti-Christian bigotry.” Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, an anti-defamation group, called the series the “work of an embittered ex-Catholic homosexual.”

The show’s creator and executive producer, Jack Kenny, said he drew on the emotionally guarded family of his male partner. He said his goal was to depict how “humor and grace” help a flawed man struggle with his faith and family. He said the writers never meant to mock religion or Jesus.

James Naughton, a spokesman for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, said a California Episcopal church is advising the series and that he has read scripts for eight episodes.

He called the show “a tremendous opportunity for evangelism for Episcopalians.” The Washington Diocese has started a Web log for comments on the show and to invite discussion.

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