Pittsburgh talk-radio host Marty Minto fired over Pope gibes

By Tony LaRussa
Thursday, April 14, 2005

Pittsburgh talk-radio host Marty Minto says he spent most of his time on the air last week doing what he always does -- discussing current events from the perspective of an evangelical Christian.

Following a week's worth of conversation on his WORD-101.5 FM show that questioned whether Pope John Paul II's Roman Catholic beliefs could be an impediment to entering heaven, station management pulled the plug.

Minto was fired Friday, ending a three-year stint as host of the radio station's only locally produced show, which aired from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays.

"I was called into the office after my show Friday and told that I was being let go because I was alienating the listeners," said Minto, 39, of New Castle, Lawrence County, who previously did talk-radio shows in Albany, N.Y., Phoenix and Denver. Minto also is senior pastor of the 100-member Turning Point Community Church in New Castle.

"As far as I'm concerned, I was doing what I've always done on the radio -- look at events around the world from a biblical perspective," said Minto. "I've always been willing to talk about controversial subjects."

Chuck Gratner, general manager of WORD-FM for the past 14 years, said the station does not dispute Minto's account of events.

"We ended our relationship" with him because of differences in how he conducted his show, Gratner said.

"WORD-FM needs to function in this city in support of the entire church -- that means everybody -- and not focus on denominational issues," he said.

Minto's time slot is being filled on an interim basis by Chris Buda, who did the show before Minto was hired.

"We are currently examining what would be the best use for that time slot," Gratner said. "No decisions have been made."

During the week in which the news was dominated by the death and funeral of the pope, Minto discussed with callers John Paul II's deep devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Catholic beliefs, such as purgatory.

"I made it clear that the discussion was not an attack on the character of the pope but, rather, a look at the teachings -- not only of John Paul, but the Catholic Church in general," Minto said.

Minto said he responded to a question about whether the pope would go to heaven with the belief held by many evangelical Christians that a person must be "a born-again believer."

"I said the question of whether a person is born again is something personal, something between an individual and the Creator," Minto said. "I believe it was a legitimate topic to discuss."

The Rev. Ron Lengwin, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, said the diocese did not complain to WORD-FM regarding Minto's show. He said station management contacted the diocese to say that Minto had been fired.

WORD-FM and its sister station WPIT-730 AM are owned by Camarillo, Calif.-based Salem Communications, which owns 95 Christian-oriented stations in the United States.

Tony LaRussa can be reached at tlarussa@tribweb.com.











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