After insisting the pre-emption of Hal Lindsey’s television show had nothing to do with content, a Trinity Broadcasting Network spokesman retracted his statement, admitting officials were concerned, at least secondarily, about offending Arabs and Muslims.
As WorldNetDaily reported, John Casoria, general counsel for the network, responded yesterday to Lindsey’s contention that the weekly program “International Intelligence Briefing” had been canceled for December, and possibly permanently, because its message was deemed “too pro-Israel and too anti-Muslim.”
Casoria initially replied, “That is absolutely, 100 percent false.”
But now, after talking with network programming officials, he says a secondary reason for pre-empting the show was that it “placed Arabs in a negative light.”
The overwhelming reason, he still insists, is TBN requires all its programming during December to have a Christmas theme.
“When a programmer chooses not to do so, they are pre-empted so that TBN can focus its attention on the holidays,” Casoria said. “Hal is very well aware of this.”
Casoria said a “letter generally goes out to all the programmers letting them know this is the case,” pointing out at least 20 other programs have been pre-empted because they didn’t have a Christmas theme.
But Lindsey told WND this was the first time he had been pre-empted for the entire month of December, noting his program previously had been replaced only the week before Christmas.
He also pointed out TBN had him come in Tuesday to tape this week’s show but informed him afterward, “through the chain of command,” to stop production because they didn’t like the script.
Lindsey, a WND columnist, said he has to drive 130 miles to the network’s studios in Orange County, California, to record the show.
Casoria said he could not recall specific examples from Lindsey’s programs that were anti-Arab or anti-Muslim, but he expressed the network’s concern about how Muslims are portrayed.
“TBN is a worldwide ministry; we have an entire channel that airs 24 hours a day, seven days a week in Arabic,” he said. “We are trying to reach the Islamic world and open a dialogue with them regarding Christ and Christianity.”
Casoria explained, “We do not feel that the best witness of Christ is to bash them but rather to show them the nature of Christ – the way Christ said to present himself – and that is through love, understanding and the presentation of the gospel to them.”
Lindsey argued, however, his program is not shown in the Middle East.
“My show is produced for the Western world and for Christians who are at the most risk from radical Islam,” he said.
Lindsey said that in the show that was canceled this week, he made a clear distinction between Muslims seeking jihad and those who want only a job and normal life for their families.
“I cast radical Muslims in a bad light,” he said, “showing how they are intimidating and persecuting moderate Muslims in the Middle East.”
Casoria said he believes the extremists are not Muslims at all but have “hijacked the religion.”
As a Christian, he sees Islam as a false religion – believing there is only one way to God, through Jesus Christ – but he says Islam basically is peaceful.
“That’s where we violently disagree,” Lindsey said. “Islam is not a peaceful religion; although there may be moderate Muslims, it’s because they have not become followers of the Quran.”
Lindsey said in a message to supporters on his website that TBN’s decision is “confusing to me because my message is the same as it has been for the entire 12 years of presenting the IIB program. It has not changed one iota.”
Asked to respond, Casoria said, speaking personally, “Hal Lindsey’s program has clearly changed over the last 12 years, as has Hal Lindsey.”
“If you look at his earlier writings and you look at what he writes today, there is definitely a hard edge,” he said. “That’s my personal feeling.”
Lindsey responded, “I doubt if he’s read anything I’ve ever written.”
“If there is any hard edge to what I’m saying now, it’s post 9-11, when the threat from radical Islam has became readily apparent,” Lindsey said. “It’s been since that time that my program has soared in the ratings.”
After the program didn’t turn up in its usual Wednesday time slot, viewers began contacting the network, and by yesterday afternoon, a flood of calls had shut down the switchboard, Lindsey said.
Casoria said “International Intelligence Briefing” would be back on the air in January, but Lindsey claims he was told the show’s future would be discussed in the new year.
Asked to respond, Casoria said, “If that statement was made by Hal Lindsey, I think it’s a little paranoia on his part.”
Casoria said Lindsey and TBN chief Paul Crouch, who founded the network with his wife Jan, have been friends for a long time.
“I’m sure these very reasonable men can resolve these issues,” said Casoria, a nephew of the Crouches.
Lindsey said he has “no axe to grind.”
I’ve been happy with my opportunities at TBN,” he said. “I’m happy with the platform I’ve had.”