To the barricades! It’s the religious conservatives again!

The reliably liberal New York Times has waved yet another red flag, thinly masked as in-depth news, on the traditional-religious bigots who disagree with its morality — even daring to pass contrary laws. This time, Ground Zero is Arizona, which is considering a bill to allow businesses to choose whom they serve.

Never, in this alleged news report, are we left in doubt of the “correct” opinion to take.

Not with a headline like “Religious Right in Arizona Cheers Bill Allowing Businesses to Refuse to Serve Gays,” even though “Religious Right” isn’t even in the body of the story.

The article quickly brings in — right from the lede paragraph — other examples of non-gay backlash, in New Mexico, Washington State and Colorado. Later, it adds three other states:

The Arizona measure comes as multiple states are considering such exemptions, with considerable controversy. In Tennessee, the legislature is considering an exemption for wedding vendors; in Kansas, a similar measure was set aside when conservative senators raised concerns about discrimination. In Oregon, opponents of same-sex marriage are seeking to place an initiative on this year’s ballot that would allow individuals or businesses to opt out of participating in same-sex wedding ceremonies.

For those who need visual cues on what to think, the story is topped with a photo of a gay couple who complains that a florist wouldn’t provide flowers for their wedding. The two beefy men are photographed smiling, hand in hand, on a sunny porch. What nice folks.

Further down is a shot of Arizona Representative Justin Pierce, speaking in favor of the bill, looking all stern and suited in a dimly lit legislative chamber. The choice is yours, dear reader: Smiling, sunlit couple or boring, lecturing suit.

Now let’s count fingers. The numbers game isn’t the only way to compute bias, but in this case it’s pretty glaring. We start with a quote in favor of the bill, rather high in the story:

“In America, people should be free to live and work according to their faith, and the government shouldn’t be able to tell us we can’t do that,” said Joseph E. La Rue, the legal counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal organization based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that advocates religious liberty and supports the measure passed by the State Legislature. “Faith shouldn’t be something we have to leave inside our house.”

Then we get a rebuttal quote with a set-up paragraph:

But civil libertarians and gay rights advocates say there is a difference between protections for clergy and houses of worship that do not want to participate in same-sex marriage and the obligations of business owners that serve the general public.

“Religious freedom is a fundamental right, but it’s not a blank check to harm others or impose our faith on our neighbors,” said Daniel Mach, who directs a program on freedom of religion and belief for the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the Arizona legislation. “Over the years, we as a nation have rejected efforts to invoke religion to justify discrimination in the marketplace, and there’s no reason to turn back the clock now.”

So far, so fair (except for the setup paragraph, which the first quote didn’t have). Then the anti-bill side picks up steam — a consultant to Gov. Jan Brewer, a Hispanic leader, a pizzeria owner — before we hear from a leader in a “conservative group that supported the bill.”

That leader does offer an eye-opener on Arizona law:

But Josh Kredit, legal counsel of the Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative group that supported the bill, said that Arizona has for years had a religious freedom law that has not been used to justify discrimination, and that the changes to that law made by the new measure are “vitally needed to ensure that in America people are free to live and work according to their faith.”

“Arizona should be known as a state that welcomes people of faith and protects them,” he said. “These are intentional, purposeful distractions to try to kill this bill.”

Valuable background for reading on this issue discernibly, from an articulate voice on the other side of the debate.

So where did the Times team elect to place it? At the very, very end of the story.

Note, too, how the Times uses that word. “Conservative” appears four times in this article. “Liberal” appears zero times. Closest is where the Times mentions Arizona’s “tough measure on illegal immigrants, which was denounced from the left, and a Medicaid expansion, which was criticized by the right.”

But the Human Rights Campaign isn’t called liberal; it’s a “gay rights advocacy organization.” And the American Civil Liberties Union is labeled simply as opposing the Arizona legislation. Conservatives, you see, need special scrutiny and deserve strong labels. Those who agree with the Times are just normal people.

Nor is this story the exception. Just so far this month, I counted at least 35 news stories in the New York Times using the “C” word, often for allegedly backward nations like Iran or Uganda, or outspoken oafs like Ted Nugent. During the same period, the Times used “liberal” only 13 times, often in the context of liberal ideals, as opposed to groups.

In the Arizona story, the Times spends an amazing eight paragraphs on why Gov. Brewer won’t likely sign the bill: She wants to avoid controversy, she vetoed one like it last year, she’s gotten a lot of protests, she wants to revitalize the economy and attract next year’s Super Bowl.

The other side? Well, “supporters of the legislation said they would also work hard to persuade Ms. Brewer to sign the measure, in part by disputing much of the criticism it has faced.” How do they dispute it? Doesn’t say. Why explain a bill that’s ill-advised and destined for veto?

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  • Derek Johnson

    One thing that did disappoint me about the quotes shared both for and against the measure was that the quote of the lobbyist against the bill seemed firmer than the one by the lawyer who was supporting the bill and the pro-religion position. Granted, I don’t know what they were told, but let’s say that the Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer compared the secularists’ worldview of his opponents to the revolutionaries in France. Would the Times have quoted that? I guess what I’m raising is, is it the responsibility of the Times to give equal space to inflammatory quotes, or to interpret why one side is inflammatory and the other is not?

  • The original Mr. X

    “But civil libertarians and gay rights advocates say there is a difference between protections for clergy and houses of worship that do not want to participate in same-sex marriage and the obligations of business owners that serve the general public.”
    Wait, since when do libertarians advocate using State power to coerce business owners into serving people they don’t want to? Or is “libertarianism” following “conservatism” and “liberalism” in being increasingly used to refer to people whose actual views are in many cases antithetical to the ideologies they claim to adhere to?

    • Cha5678

      Also, shouldn’t public accommodations include the licensing and regulatory requirements of the state? The state should no more be able to establish, prohibit, deny, fine, demean the religious business owner than Woolworths can deny a black customer.

  • gary47290

    The effect of this bill, if not the wording, is explicitly anti-Gay., It is not pro-freedom.

    • Cha5678

      The present effect of current AZ and federal law is the same effect of this bill. Of course, pro-gay activists have refused to go through the normal legislative processes and are judge shopping to change that.

      While I don’t object to the Arizona bill or current federal law, I question why Arizona thinks the bill will protect them from the post-constitution progressives? Law is no protection from the lawless.

  • John Pack Lambert

    The coverage of this bill in the main-stream media has been almost all lies. The bill makes no mention to “gay couples”, “marriage” or anything of the like. All it does is make it 100% clear that the Arizona RFRA applies to businesses and the Arizona RFRA applies to lawsuits. Both of these positions are very likely the case under the law as it currently is written. They are the only consistent ways to read the current law.

  • John Pack Lambert

    How do groups that want the government to be able to regulate more of our lives, and force artists to give their services to others, get to be labeled as “civil libertarians”. The ACLU is not what it claims to be, and has been attacked for not living up to its founding principals even by many people who have a very leftist orientation.