“The Seven Deadly Sins of the Religion Beat”

“The Seven Deadly Sins of the Religion Beat” June 21, 2018


The J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University
(Wikimedia Commons public domain)


Here’s a nice article in a non-Latter-day-Saint venue about the 2018 “Religious Freedom Annual Review,” sponsored by Brigham Young University’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies, a subdivision within BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School:


 “At a religious freedom conference in Utah, a diverse panel explores how to get news media coverage right”




Drawing from that article, I share what Terry Mattingly, the very prominent editor of the online site Get Religion (which is devoted to covering and improving journalistic coverage of religion), calls “The Seven Deadly Sins of the Religion Beat”:


“Deadly Sin No. 1: Use simplistic labels as often as possible (for example, moderate, fundamentalist)”


“Deadly sin No. 2: Assume that religion equals politics. (After all, politics is the religion of most American newsrooms.)”


“Deadly sin No. 3: Treat religious doctrines and traditions as mere opinions.”


“Deadly sin No. 4: Be lazy. Always settle for a quote or two from someone with an authoritative title or the same activist you’ve interviewed time and again.”


“Deadly sin No. 5: Focus on the lurid side of religious life.”


“Deadly sin No. 6: Always focus on the big things and ignore the small. Always cover the national and ignore the local.”


“Deadly sin No. 7: Ignore the role that religion plays in other important aspects of modern life.”


And here’s another very helpful point from Terry Mattingly’s remarks:


“I tell my students, ‘The most important skill in journalism is the ability to accurately quote the people on the other side.’”


That would be a very nice habit in online discussions, too.  (To put it mildly!)




While I’m talking about BYU’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies, here is an interview that some will find of interest with the director of the ICLRS, Brett Scharffs:


“Masterpiece Cakeshop Wins in Supreme Court, Methane Dunes on Pluto, Killing Cancer with Arsenic”


The interview with Professor Scharffs occupies just slightly more than the first 23 minutes of the program.  Those who would prefer to think about this case on the level of simplistic caricatures and moralistic slogans probably won’t enjoy it.




Additionally, here’s another piece about the Masterpiece Cakeshop case that appeared on SCOTUSblog.  It was written by the Associate Director of ICLRS, Professor Elizabeth Clark:


“Symposium: And the winner is … pluralism?”




Previously, I described Elder L. Whitney Clayton’s Wednesday keynote remarks at the Religious Freedom Annual Review as “remarkable.”  This article from the Deseret News provides at least a glimpse at what Elder Clayton had to say:


“LDS leader insists religious identity deserves same protections going to sexual, gender identities”



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