The media’s reporting on the Arizona bill regarding religious freedom has been nothing short of Orwellian. As I wrote yesterday, the debate about the bill has been far more depressing than the actual defeat of the bill. Why? Because nearly every media outlet reporting on the bill has been propagating an erroneous group-think. They described the bill by turns as an attempt to enact Jim Crow style discrimination against gay people. The reporting has been biased and in some cases straightforwardly wrong on the facts.
Just last night, Miranda Leitsinger reported for NBC News that the florist in Washington, the baker in Oregon, and the photographer in New Mexico had filed lawsuits in order to sue for the right to deny service to gay people. In other words, it portrayed these Christians as on the offensive in their fight for religious liberty.
The problem with this part of the report is that it is totally untrue. In all three cases, it was either the state or private individuals who brought lawsuits against the Christians. And—we might add—the Christians have been losing (see my last two posts). I contacted Leitsinger last night about the error, and she agreed to look into it. This morning, the error was fixed without any correction noted on the article.
This is but one of many erroneous reports I have read in the last several days that carry forward a false narrative—that traditional Christians are bigots who want to deny service to gay people and that this bill in Arizona would have allowed them to do that. Nothing could be further from the truth, but that hasn’t stopped such reports from piling up over the last several days. It’s as if reporters and commentators haven’t bothered to understand the issues but have simply bought-in uncritically to a prevailing narrative. As I said, it has been absolutely Orwellian.
Enter Mollie Hemingway. Her column today on the media’s malpractice this week is not to be missed. She has more instances of malfeasance documented than I have seen in any other place. If you have not read it yet, you need to. I won’t rehearse the whole thing here, but I will leave you with her conclusion:
A media less hostile to religious liberty would think less about scoring cheap political points, creating uncivil political climates and disparaging institutions that help humans flourish. A media with a higher regard for truth would, it turns out, have a higher regard for religious liberty.
Sadly, we seem to have left the world of reason and tolerance. Could our media climate demonstrate that any better? And what lies ahead, if left uncorrected, is illogical and tyrannical. Freedom of religion was the central principle in the moral case of our country. Once that’s gone, how long can the Republic stand? Does anyone even care?