The Michigan Daily newspaper first intended to reject the ad shown, but faculty decided to take action . . . and the ad, which included the names of 62 faculty declaring belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, was in the paper before Easter.
"Hello, this is The Michigan Daily. I'm calling to say we've decided not to run your ad on Tuesday. A quorum of editors will vote to decide if we'll run it at all."
The editor's words to CLM representative Charlie Mack on April 1, 1993, could have been the final say in cancelling the Christian faculty's Easter ad at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
It could have been a repeat of the now commonplace story, "Christians are eaten by lions . . . again."
Could have been . . .
But Christian faculty took quick and decisive action, and God shut the lions' mouths.
For years the Christian faculty on the campus of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor have run Christmas and Easter ads in the school paper. The ads typically display an intriguing phrase or picture with a statement portraying Jesus Christ as the the Son of God and list the names of faculty who believe.
When first tried at Ann Arbor, the ad stirred up some disagreement from a few professors on campus. They accused the Christian faculty of violating separation of church and state laws by including department names and numbers in the ad. University counsel and the ACLU settled the issue; they stated the Christians were completely within their rights.
When the Christian faculty released their second ad, opposition went directly to the city paper with their com-plaints, where they hoped to gain public support. The paper printed a lengthy editorial opposing the faculty ad. Soon, the controversy flowed to the school paper, and there the Christian faculty were vindicated by the public in letters to the editor and editorials.
Two years passed before controversy with Christian ads once again rose to the surface; this time from within the school paper itself. In early 1993, a student Christian group submitted an ad produced by the Focus on the Family ministry in defense of virginity. The Michigan Daily told the group they would not run their ad.
"Well, I guess we just can't run it then," was the attitude that the student group assumed, according to CLM representative Charlie Mack. "They just gave up," he said.
On the afternoon of Thursday, April 1, Mack turned in the print-ready and paid-for faculty Easter ad at the Daily office, just as he did four months previous for their Christmas ad. Later that same afternoon the Michigan Daily called with the news that it would probably refuse to run the ad.
"We were much more to the point this time in the ad about the significance of the resurrection," said Mack. "Maybe that's what set them off.
"Of course the paper has in the past printed ads for gay rights groups and neo-Nazi holocaust revisionists."
Mack immediately called the members of the steering committee for the local Christian faculty fellowship. They unanimously decided to take legal action if necessary. Then Mack called Dr. Scott Luley, director of CLM's Free Speech Project.
Friday morning, Luley contacted a Christian legal group and within half an hour a legal fax was on the editor's desk at the Daily.
"The United States Supreme Court held that once a state university designates an area or medium as a limited purpose public forum for free speech by students," the lawyers wrote, "any exclusions based on the content of the speech must be narrowly drawn to effectuate a compelling state interest."
Mack explained that "if the university paper accepts anything, they cannot refuse this type of ad. They could only reject an ad if it were blatantly pornographic or some such thing."
After receiving the legal fax, the paper called Mack to say they would make a decision by noon that same day. At 2 p.m. Mack visited the paper, but was told the Daily wanted to wait until Good Friday to print the ad, if at all.
This prompted another call to the Christian legal group who, in turn, called the newspaper's attorney that same afternoon. A representative of the Christian group explained to the Daily attorney in no uncertain terms "that if the ad didn't run, we would press charges and sue for damages within ten days," said Mack.
On Monday morning, when Dr. John Drach, a member of the Christian faculty fellowship, arrived in his office he found a message from the Daily on his answering machine. The paper agreed to run the ad.
"Now, they have strict deadlines," said Mack, "and at that point the earliest they could have run the ad was Thursday, the day before Good Friday. But instead they bumped up their deadline and got it in Wednesday's paper.
"When I shared this with the faculty and the Christian campus groups, they were elated. Everyone agreed that it was about time the Christians won one."
On Wednesday the ad did indeed appear in the paper-a compelling display citing evidence for the resurrection and followed by 62 names of staff and faculty on the campus of the University of Michigan.
The Michigan ad was only a small part of a national campaign of Easter ads on major campuses last school year. Overall, Christian faculty Easter ads appeared in over 85 newspapers and reached an estimated 1.5 million students with the message of the gospel.
Faculty also distributed over 90,000 copies of author Josh McDowell's article "Evidence for the Resurrection" to students and colleagues.
At Rutgers University the Christian faculty teamed up with the Campus Crusade student movement to "blitz" the campus.
They placed two resurrection ads, posted 3,000 posters, handed out 500 flyers, and every student on campus (20,000) received a copy of the "Evidence" article in their mailbox. The blitz included several resurrection lectures and two showings of the Jesus film at different campus locations.
Christian faculty will again have the opportunity to participate in a widespread influence for Christ this Christmas as the Christian Leadership Ministries national Christmas ad campaign kicks off.
CLM hopes to involve over 100 campuses across the U.S. in a coordinated effort to place evangelistic ads in school and local newspapers. Ad campaign director David Wiley says the campaign has the potential to reach 2.5 million students with the gospel.
CLM will make camera-ready ads available to participants along with detailed instructions for organizing the Christian faculty and staff on a campus to take part in any ad effort.