Public vs. private faith

waltercronkite1-799355I came across an interesting quote over at Beliefnet editor Steven Waldman's blog. It comes from an essay written by the founder of the Interfaith Alliance, C. Welton Gaddy, and published on the Huffington Post. In it, Gaddy shares memories of newsman Walter Cronkite, a former chairman of the Interfaith Alliance. The Alliance exists to fight groups that it believes are part of the omnipresent religious right:

An incredible breadth of interest and depth of conscience caused Walter Cronkite to want to challenge the movement called the religious right. One day after doing an interview together in his home, a reporter asked about his personal religion. "It's none of your business," Mr. Cronkite replied courteously but sternly, "That's why I am a part of the Interfaith Alliance." He no more wanted anyone judged by their religion than he wanted people to use their religion to advance their public status in the nation. Yet, privately, he sincerely spoke of the role of religion in his life.

Now, I firmly support the idea that someone should feel free to answer a question about their religious views as Cronkite did. What's more, I worry about whether we can trust media interest in public figures' religious views.

However, I highlight this quote because I think that Cronkite's view on the public nature of religious views is shared by many in the journalism community. I think it might explain the less-than-sympathetic media treatment of religious adherents who believe differently. I think particularly of those Protestants and Catholics who believe their religious confession of faith should inform their public roles and views on public policy.

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