A Godbeat forum at USA Today

wallis podiumFor more than a week now, I have been trying to remember to let GetReligion readers know that the digital team at USA Today has created a website that makes it easier for people interested in religion news to read the analysis pieces that run every Monday on the op-ed page. The feature is called "Monday: On Religion," which only slightly freaks me out since my weekly Scripps Howard News Service column has been running for 17 years and it's called "On Religion." But I digress. The national newspaper has run some very interesting essays under that banner and, while the feature runs in the editorial section, it almost always features essays that include lots of information and reporting, as well as opinion. It has even featured some pieces directly linked to religion-beat work, written by religion writers, such as Mark Pinsky's "Southern Jews and evangelicals: Coming together" and, well, my own "The media, God and gaffes."

But it was another GetReligion connection that reminded me to post a note about this site -- the recent piece titled "Left, right and religion: A double standard." Not only was the topic interesting, but it was written by Patrick Hynes, author of In Defense of the Religious Right, and our own former GetReligion scribe Jeremy Lott, author of the recent In Defense of Hypocrisy. The heart of the article is its observation that, while almost every move by the Religious Right inspires headlines about "theocracy," the mainstream media tend to be silent about the actions of religious activists on the left.

What we need, said Hynes and Lott, is more coverage -- more balanced coverage -- of these "Leftwing Theocrats." Take, for example, the Rev. Jim Wallis, whose appeals that federal and state budgets are "moral documents" are rooted in the same kind of strategic blending of biblical argument and public policy that, when this mix is served up by people on the right, is usually greeted with derision by disciples of the New York Times editorial page.

Something is wrong with half of this picture:

The religious left is usually given a respectful hearing. That's a good thing. After all, this is a democracy in which people can make up their own minds about such things. But the same deference should be given to the arguments and ideas of religious conservatives.

Critics are out of line for lambasting the religious right for advocating their beliefs, and they'd be just as wrong blasting the religious left. Yet for liberal and secular pundits, this has been a one-way street.

If that piece is not your cup of tea, USA Today's editorial page team then offered a pushy little piece by Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and City Journal titled "Conservatism doesn't need God: The GOP has become the party of religion, and Democrats have been scrambling to play catch-up. The truth, though, is that piety doesn't belong in politics."

Check it out. This is a site worth bookmarking, for journalists who care about religion news. It's also a nice place for Godbeat professionals to send those edgy little freelance pieces that their editors just can't seem to make room for in the newspaper. It's a good forum.

Personal note: I'm out the door to lead some seminars at the National College Media Convention in St. Louis. I'll try to get online whenever I can. I'll be back inside the Beltway on Monday.

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