If you quote a gay-rights activist at a protest, what should you call him?
The Louisville Courier-Journal describes the Rev. Maurice Blanchard as "a gay-rights activist."
Blanchard appears pretty high up (the sixth paragraph, to be precise) in this Courier-Journal report:
As a youth growing up in an evangelical household in North Carolina, Aaron Guldenschuh-Gatten said he got some firsthand experience with "conversion therapy" when, as an adolescent, he came out as gay.
His parents sent him to a religious counselor to try to eliminate "my sinful desires," an experience that left him depressed, isolated and, at times, suicidal.
"It's an experience I still have scars from," he said.
Monday, Guldenschuh-Gatten, 32, joined about 40 others in front of Louisville's Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to protest a three-day conference of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors on homosexuality and transgenderism.
Organized by the Fairness Campaign, protesters prayed and held signs opposing what they call misguided efforts at counseling based on the belief homosexuality and transgenderism are wrong or sinful. It prompted horn honks and shouts of support from drivers passing by the bucolic seminary grounds on Lexington Road.
"This is absolutely and utterly wrong," said the Rev. Maurice Blanchard, a gay-rights activist in Louisville. "It's spiritual abuse, that's what it is."
Like the Courier-Journal, The Associated Press turns to Blanchard as a go-to source among the protesters.
Before we consider the AP's approach to Blanchard, though, here's the AP's newsy lede:
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A prominent Southern Baptist theologian on Monday spoke out against psychological counseling aimed at turning gay people straight, saying homosexuality cannot be turned off like a switch. Instead, he said, the "sin" of being attracted to a person of the same sex can be changed by turning to the Bible's teachings.
The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said so-called conversion or reparative therapy doesn't carry the redemptive power of prayer.
"In the case of many people struggling with this particular sin, we do not believe that some kind of superficial answer whereby they can turn a switch from being attracted to persons of the same sex to being attracted to persons of the opposite sex," Mohler told reporters at the start of a three-day conference on homosexuality and how to offer pastoral care to gays, hosted by the Louisville seminary.
"By God's grace, that might happen over time as a sign of God's work within the life of that individual. But ... for many, many people struggling with these patterns of sin, it will be a lifelong battle," Mohler said.
After a bit more background, AP introduces the protesters:
Several dozen gay-rights advocates denounced the conference by holding a protest next to the seminary. Their protest included a prayer for love, inclusion and respect. Some demonstrators held up signs that said: "Love Needs No Cure."
Not all clergy fell in line behind Mohler.
The Rev. Maurice Blanchard, a Baptist minister, said that even though conference leaders spoke out against reparative therapy, they're promoting similar efforts with a "coming to Christ" message. Blanchard called that "spiritual abuse."
"These folks here are already OK with God," Blanchard said of his fellow protesters. "They don't need fixing. They don't need correcting. They're just as they're supposed to be."
So, in the AP story, Blanchard is simply "a Baptist minister."
Here's my journalistic question: For the purposes of this news story, does that identification of Blanchard suffice? Or would more context be appropriate?
Would it be helpful to know, for instance, that Blanchard is gay himself and has a husband? Would it be helpful to know whether his Baptist church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention? (It's not.)
Likewise, why not provide more background on "Derek Penwell, another minister who joined the protest?" (He's a Disciples of Christ pastor, not a Baptist, for example.)
Please don't misunderstand my point: I'm not suggesting at all that AP not quote Blanchard or Penwell. If you read GetReligion, you know how much we believe in telling all sides of a story.
What I am saying is this: Journalists ought to provide enough details to help readers understand who is speaking.
In this case, Blanchard isn't simply a random Baptist minister.
He's an activist with a clear agenda.