TIME CAPSULE 1989 — During the week of March 22, 1989, the WKNH staff came under fire from a faculty member who had been offended by religious content aired on the radio station.
Keene State College’s instructor of Computer Science at the time, Arpad Toth, took offense to WKNH’s broadcasts which had included Christian rock music and an event called the “Bible Believers Blowout.” Toth even contacted the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union (NHCLU) to investigate his complaints.
The issue mainly arose over the funding of WKNH. Those opposed to their religious broadcasts argued that, since the station was owned by the board of trustees and operated out of a state-owned building, state funding was therefore being improperly used to fund the promotion of one religion, which Toth adamantly opposed.
Toth felt that this practice was wrong because, “That’s not how the Constitution was established.” Upset over state-funding, Toth argued that the state paid for the station’s building, heat, electricity, equipment and so on.
“There are certain rules about how money is spent,” Toth said.
In response, Brett Nolte, who had been chairman of the Student Assembly, argued that WKNH was legitimately funded by student fees distributed by the assembly.
“These monies are not deemed as state funds,” Nolte said. “They can be used at the discretion of the organization.”
However, Toth pointed out that the money provided by the Student Assembly only went to supporting one religion and also that students were not asked if they wanted their money to support a particular religion on campus.
Toth had allegedly first notified WKNH about his concerns about six months prior to involving the NHCLU. He and the station had discussed the possibility of him delivering a “free-thought hour” on science and evolution, as well as featuring material from the American Atheists, but was allegedly never contacted further.
Kerry Fosher, who had been the manager of WKNH, said,“There was some sort of tangle with getting it on the air.”
Fosher also reported that the Bible Believers Blowout show was cancelled when brought to a vote by WKNH staff. However, Fosher said the real issue weighing on the station was, “whether or not music can be considered as programing.”
Along with contacting the NHCLU, Toth also submitted paperwork to KSC’s President at the time, Judith Sturnick.
Any decision that would have taken the issue to court would have depended on the NHLCU’s investigation,Toth said. Also, the vice president for student affairs at the time Barbara Rich said, “The only comment I have is that I’m exploring it with legal counsel.”
A legal resolution of the issue was not published by The Equinox.
Kyle McNamara can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org