The Hallmark Channel's Facebook page is usually a magical place, filled with requests for marathons of The Waltons, technical questions, and praise for the channel's non-stop parade of "inspirational" programming. But last weekend, the channel's decision to mute the word "God" in a broadcast of the 1994 movie It Could Happen to You has prompted many viewers to leave notes of outrage on the channel's social network presence.
"Why does Hallmark hate GOD????" one user posted on the Hallmark Channel's wall after an airing of It Could Happen to You. "Would you delete Allah???" another user asked. "REALLY HALLMARK!!!! BLEEPING OUT THE WORD GOD!!!! HAVE WE FORGOTTEN THAT YOU USED TO BE A CHRISTIAN NETWORK!!! WTH!!! HOW ABOUT NOT OFFENDING CHRISTIANS!!!!," said a third outraged viewer. Others promised to start a boycott of the channel, which starts a solid two months of Christmas programming in November. "I think it is time to block your channel. You make a lot of money off the rising of God's only son who died and rose again day of rising, yet you bleep his Name.I am beyond disgusted," one comment reads.
What those viewers didn't know, however, was that the channel muted the word for a very brand-appropriate reason: they didn't want to take the Lord's name in vain, something that the channel thought might offend its Christian viewership. Here's a statement from Hallmark, left in response to several of the angry comments on their wall (emphasis ours):
As the leader of family programming, Hallmark Channel strives to provide quality programming with a balance that includes both current and contemporary shows. In the recent airing of, It Could Happen To You, the word God was omitted as staying on the side of caution to not offend, as our Standard & Practices department categorized it as God was being used in vain. We appreciate our viewers, and thank you for writing and sharing your comments with us.
As the Friendly Atheist wrote in his post on the kerfuffle, "Damned if you do, damned if you don’t." The prohibition against taking the Lord's name in vain, of course, comes from Exodus 20:7. It's one of the Ten Commandments, generally interpreted as a prohibition on using the name of God in any way that diminishes his significance. Saying "God bless you" is not an example of this, but, say, "Oh my God" or "God damn it" are.
Although those who were outraged by the omissions enough to threaten a boycott might want to use this as an opportunity to loosen a hair-trigger response, Hallmark's decision to censor the 1994 film in that way does seem a bit overthought. At least one viewer, however, appreciated it:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.