Praying away Uganda's anti-gay bill

I attended my seventh National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, so it's been fun to read journalists' interpretation of the snake handling going on there.

Just kidding. Most of the coverage I've seen seems focused on President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's address, including their expressed concern over Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill. Here is a section of a Washington Post's report about that:

The prayer breakfast has been held in Washington for more than half a century, and every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has taken part. The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had written a letter asking Obama to boycott the event, saying its sponsor, the Fellowship Foundation, is a "shadowy religious association" that preaches "an unconventional brand of Christianity." It also said the group is linked to efforts by Uganda's political leadership to pass anti-gay legislation, including the death penalty for HIV-infected people convicted of having sex with someone of the same gender.

And just like that, a reporter can quote allegations that have been made by an advocacy group and call it journalism. Why doesn't Michael A. Fletcher do his own reporting to find out whether The Fellowship, which hosts the breakfast, is linked to the bill? I guess that would take more work than simply linking to the Huffington Post.

I've harped on this before, but The New York Times also seems adamant in their efforts to connect The Fellowship to the Ugandan legislation. The latest report from the usually excellent reporter Laurie Goodstein appears to indicate that she did not attempt to contact anyone in Uganda. Here are the sections of her report that try to make the connection between The Fellowship and the Ugandan legislation.

The objections are focused on the sponsor of the breakfast, a secretive evangelical Christian network called The Fellowship, also known as The Family, and accusations that it has ties to legislation in Uganda that calls for the imprisonment and execution of homosexuals. ...

More recently, it became public that the Family also has close ties to the Ugandan politician who has sponsored the proposed anti-gay legislation. ... Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, a gay rights group, said he initiated the prayer-hour idea because many religious Americans who attend the breakfasts have no idea about the connection to the Family and the anti-gay legislation.

It seems odd that an international newspaper would not try to go to the source of the conflict. Has anyone attempted to talk to someone in Uganda about the alleged connection between the Ugandan legislation and The Fellowship?

Meanwhile, back to the prayer breakfast itself. There has been a little kerfuffle over Obama's mispronunciation of corpsman. The bigger mistake, I think, was Obama's mispronunciation of the name of Joshua DuBois, who heads the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. I thought I was mishearing things, but I watched the C-SPAN video again and then listened to an NPR clip. Yep, DuBois's name is pronounced Du-bwa. I don't think journalists should play gotcha journalism, but he mispronounced someone's name in his own administration.

As I was reading reports, I stumbled on the correction to The Caucus blog post at The New York Times. I don't like to take glee in reporter's mistakes, but GetReligion readers might find it particularly interesting.

An earlier version of this post quoted incorrectly from comments by President Obama, who referred to the Tower of Babel, not the "tower of babble."

It's an honest mistake, but perhaps it could be attributed to some biblical illiteracy at the Times.

Finally, aside from a brief mention, few of the reports noted that former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow gave the closing prayer. I've been getting e-mails about how CNN decided not to air Tebow's prayer (subsequently not aired on C-SPAN), so maybe that has something to do with it. He didn't give a pro-life plea, so sure, maybe it's not that newsworthy. But why is the shoddy video I took on my cell phone getting more than 9,000 hits already?

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