This past April I wrote a letter to the religious editor and the area reporter of The Tennessean newspaper calling attention to unfair coverage of a local event and subsequent termination of my subscription.
Something of importance to me is nonprejudicial coverage of religious matters (under your category Faith and Values). I was especially disappointed with the coverage of the Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally on March 23rd. There was some adequate On Line coverage the day of, but it did not appear to make the printed paper either that Saturday (next day) or Sunday. Forgive me if I overlooked it that weekend. Looking over the paper on both days, the layout and news values either day certainly appeared to have had room for this story.
But even of more concern, the story as reported (online March 24, April 1) was editorialized as an issue mostly about contraception, when the primary and stated reason folks came together was to defend and affirm the First Amendment Right of the free exercise of religion. It was a 1) big and 2) interesting story because there were Catholics, Baptists, a Lutheran, a State Representative, a concerned medical doctor, and an African American Professor of Law from Vanderbilt speaking, singing, and praying in agreement. That is unusual. And not the typical “Conservative” thing as the (on line) story headline portrayed it. I understand the need of some to label such matters this way, but this missed the logic and depth of what was going on. Not that one had to agree with that logic, but it should at least be articulated such that such a rally with such diversity makes sense.
Furthermore, mentioning an alternate prayer vigil of a few days later at the capitol supporting the administration’s healthcare plan almost implied a sort of parity and balance to the Religious Freedom Rally. With only about two dozen folks, it was not the same. I understand the political need to frame matters as smaller (or bigger) than they really are–and with groups it’s called marginalization. This most definitely happened in the reporting on the Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally. While covering the rally at the capitol the next day for Trayvon Martin, it was mentioned how other rallies occurred across the nation. I find it a profound and neglectful oversight in failing to mention the other rallies that happened in connection with the Religious Freedom Rally in Nashville, to the order of 63,000 people at 143 different cites across nation On a positive note, a few of the prominent quotes were mentioned on line, but among the most interesting was not mentioned. Quoting Roger Williams, the Baptist pioneer of American freedom from the 1600s: “To interfere with a person and his or her relationship with God is rape of the soul.”
The cry of rape is a strong claim and worthy of consideration. I can’t help but think that if various groups associated with preferred agendas (that might fit a common and privileged secular narrative) had called “rape,” it would have been front page news the next day, and in the front section for several days following.
I realize it is difficult to report on Religion. But there are many religious folks who deserve more even-handed treatment. I cannot continue in my small way to support this type of discrimination.