In the spring, I encouraged reporters to write about the California Supreme Court’s decision to redefine marriage from the viewpoint of religious traditionalists and not just religious liberals and seculars. So I was happy to come across a recent story in The Los Angeles Times with the headline of “California churches plan a big push against same-sex marriage.” Finally, I thought, on this issue reporters were getting traditional religion.
I was wrong.
Reporter Jessica Garrison quoted from religious leaders who have taken a public position on Proposition 8, the November ballot initiative that would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Of the seven sources quoted, three support the ballot measure, while four oppose it. And this was a story about religious supporters of the ban. Not only was the headline misleading, but the two sides were not presented fairly. As Mollie noted, the LAT did this back in May.
Religious traditionalists were quoted in the story defending their position. Well, one was anyway. Here was his quote:
“This is a rising up over a 5,000-year-old institution that is being hammered right now,” said Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Church, an evangelical congregation in La Mesa. Garlow said that, while he supported Proposition 22, he was not nearly as involved as this time around, when he has helped organize 3,400-person conference calls across denominations to coordinate campaign support for the proposed constitutional amendment.
“What binds us together is one common obsession: . . . marriage,” Garlow said.
He added that many people of faith, regardless of their religion, believe that “if Proposition 8 fails, there is an inevitable loss of religious freedom.”
Three sentences — that was the extent of Garrison’s account for why religious traditionalist leaders seek to ban homosexual marriage. And none of the sentences elaborated as to why Garrison believes the measure’s defeat would result in “an inevitable loss of religious freedom.” Now maybe leaders of the ballot measure can’t string a few sentences together. But given that its leaders include bishops and well-known pastors, I doubt it.
By contrast, Garrison quotes not one, not two, but three religious opponents of the ban. Their quotes are interesting and help explain their position. One was an Episcopal priest, another was a rabbi, and another was a liberal mainline church with a special outreach to homosexuals.
All I am asking is for reporters to give religious traditionalists a fair hearing. Yet except for a Modesto Bee story I quoted from in June, reporters have not given them one.