Pro Tip: Use Google to avoid embarrassing mistakes

The Associated Press ran a religion story about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' restatement and clarification on political neutrality toward candidates and parties. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, is Mormon. So are former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, both candidates for the Republican nomination for president. The write-up seems pretty good at the beginning:

In a letter sent June 16, church president Thomas S. Monson and his senior counselors said lay leaders with full-time church responsibilities and their spouses should not participate in political campaigns, including "promoting candidates, fundraising, speaking on behalf of or otherwise endorsing candidates and making financial contributions."

The letter was sent to the highest officers of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including general authorities, general auxiliary leaders, mission presidents and temple presidents — those whose positions are visible highly visible both in and out of the church and who could be seen as acting on behalf of the church.

Full-time church employees and part-time leaders, such as those who hold local or regional congregational duties are exempt from the policy.

The article mentions that the church does get involved in political activism on moral issues:

That would include the faith's involvement in the 2006 ballot initiative Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California and its efforts to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s.

This is your first clue that attention to detail may not be this reporter or her editor's strong suit. Prop. 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California, passed in 2008, not 2006.

Which brings us to the concluding paragraphs:

But some political experts say no one should read too much into the church statement — although it may not have previously publicly stated in this way.

"I do not think there is anything new about this statement in terms of its substance. It is consistent with an LDS understanding of politics and the common good as well as the limitations of engaging in partisan politics placed on religious organizations by (Internal Revenue Service) regulations," said Francis J. Beckwith, a Mormon who is also a professor of philosophy and church-state studies at Baylor University. "What I think the LDS church is doing here is articulating in greater specificity what it's always held in more general terms."

What? Francis Beckwith became a Mormon? Talk about burying the lede!

Beckwith, author of Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft; Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic and To Every One An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview, became Mormon? After all of those books he also wrote critical of Mormon teachings and how they differ from traditional Christianity?

The same Beckwith who made national news when, as president of the Evangelical Theological Society, he converted to Catholicism?

This is certainly news.

Oh wait, nope. Not at all.

Beckwith is not "a Mormon." He's still Catholic.

It's one thing for a religion reporter to not know who Beckwith is or what his claims to fame are. But this reporter, Jennifer Dobner, is on the Mormon beat (On that note, I should mention that this story is significantly better than some of the other ones we've looked at in years past). Beyond all that, though, this has to be one of the most easily Googlable facts about Beckwith out there.

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