Your Getreligionistas have heard from several readers who want to know what we think of the mainstream media coverage of that fire -- it was arson -- that gutted the Wasilla Bible Church up in Alaska. In case you have been off the planet for several months, that is the home church of an outspoken evangelical woman by the name of Sarah Palin.
The obvious response (with tongue only partially in cheek): What mainstream coverage of this story?
Now, that's not really true. The Associated Press has followed this story on a daily basis. Of course, the question to ask is what would the elite coverage be -- you know, the major dailies in Washington, Los Angeles, New York City, the major networks -- if this fire had gutted, oh, Trinity United Church of Christ on the south side of Chicago. You know, his old church, as opposed to her current church.
Yes, this is one of those cases that begs for a mirror-image question. You know: Try to imagine the coverage if the churches being targeted in California were part of the Metropolitan Community Church denomination, as opposed to being Mormon sanctuaries. Look at the story in the mirror, or reverse, image.
So if you Google this, you will find lots of middle-brow (sorry, can't think of another word at the moment) coverage. Palin has apologized to the congregation for any "undeserved negative attention" that may have come her way due to her role as the GOP's point-person for Culture War activities. Actually, that isn't what she said, but that's what she meant.
However, you get the feeling that the AP team that is handling the coverage has received some nods and winks from authorities about the motives of the arsonists. Otherwise, the following passage in a recent update must be considered rather strange.
The church's pastor, Larry Kroon, declined to say whether the church had received any recent threats. ...
The 1,000-member evangelical church was the subject of intense scrutiny after Ms. Palin was named Senator John McCain's running mate. Early in her campaign, the church was criticized for promoting in a Sunday bulletin a Focus on the Family "Love Won Out Conference" in Anchorage. The conference promised to "help men and women dissatisfied with living homosexually understand that same-sex attractions can be overcome."
This raises a rather interesting question: Was this a hate crime? If you head over to the Partners Against Hate website, you will note that laws currently on the books in Alaska include:
Alaska Stat. * 34.50.020 Criminalizes destruction of real or personal property belonging to religious or charitable organizations
Alaska Stat. * 12.55.155 States that aggravating factors that shall be considered by the court include selection of a victim because of "race, sex,color, creed, physical or mental disability, ancestry or national origin."
Stay tuned. There may or may not be further coverage.