Ethical Dilemma: I Work at a Radio Station and Don’t Want to Read a Religious Ad!

Experiencing an ethical dilemma? Need advice from a humanist perspective?

Send your questions to The Ethical Dilemma at (subject line: Ethical Dilemma).

All inquiries are kept confidential.

Do I Have To Read The Script(ure)? I work as a promotions director and on-air talent for a local rock radio station. As part of my job, I occasionally voice commercials for local businesses that will air on our station and/or sister stations in our cluster.

Recently I was given a script for the Catholic Archdiocese to promote pre-planning burial and getting a plot in a cemetery. The language was flowery and full of “blessed eternal life” kind of crap.

Am I obligated to voice this commercial, even though it makes my skin crawl? It’s one thing to voice a spot for a car dealership or restaurant, but this crosses a line for me and makes me really uneasy. Please help.

—Cremate Me

Dear Cremate,

Advertising funerals on a rock station—just the topic for Friday the 13th.

I asked AHA Legal Director David Niose to weigh in on this. He said it’s too complicated to answer as a lawyer in the context of an advice column. There are employment laws that vary from state to state and lots of complicated issues that don’t lend themselves to quick answers. But if you want to contact him directly, David could discuss your particular situation in depth with you.

Consider that the legal disclaimer for my juris-imprudent suggestions that follow:

I see your situation as akin to that of the notorious clerk who doesn’t want her name on same-sex wedding licenses (no offense intended!). If it’s part of the job description, either do it, quit, or find an accommodation (such as getting a colleague to step in and voice the offending message in your place).

So the question is, is it part of your job description? Are there official advertising guidelines at your station governing criteria for refusing ads or modifying them? Is there anything in your contract that stipulates that you have the right to reject or edit scripts in keeping with your professional image? As a personality on a rock station, you’d be stepping out of character to flog the “blessed eternal life” between “Highway to Hell” and “Take Me to Church.”

Which leads me to wonder why a church would pick a rock station for this ad. Maybe the Archdiocese doesn’t understand the concept of marketing to strategically targeted audiences. As promotions manager, perhaps you could explain that your station and the flowery language message aren’t a match made in heaven. You could suggest ways to modify the ad to make it a bit more appealing to your listeners (e.g., “Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse—and have a drop-dead righteous funeral ready to drop if you drop dead”). Or suggest another local station—preferably one of your affiliates—to run the holy, not rock-and-roller version.

If all else fails, maybe you could take the script over the top with dreary hymnal organ music in the background and your best old-time religion voice, inspiring your listeners to hysterical giggles and your sponsor to clueless rapture.

Pray Stop: My daughter and son-in-law keep telling me I need to find god and pray. I’ve told them over and over to stop but they keep persisting. Short of cutting off all communication, how can I stop this?

—I’m The Mom, Not A Child

Dear Mom,

Sounds like you can’t. They are hell-bent on saving you, and nothing you say or do is likely to change that. So you can either cut off all communication—if you would find that preferable to putting up with their exhortations—or you can live with it so you can continue having a relationship with them.

As annoying and infuriating as it may be, this hardly seems like grounds for excommunicating family members. If you choose to live with it, I suggest you stop telling them to stop. Every salesperson knows the sale begins with “no.” By engaging, you open the door to debate, and the two of them are determined to win or wear you down. So don’t engage. Smile sweetly, nod, ignore, play deaf, change the subject, check your smartphone, see if dinner is ready, whatever. Don’t keep the ball in play. Be a brick wall where this discussion is concerned, and they may eventually lose their fervor for banging their heads against it.

I’m curious how your own daughter came to feel she must save her mom. Did you raise her in a faith and then you fell out, or did she marry a faithful man and get infected with his missionary zeal, with you as her mission? You might take her aside, just one last time, and tell her that her faith is her business—in which you would never presume to meddle—and you would appreciate the same courtesy. And then announce you will not say another word on the subject. Mum’s the word, Mom.