The good book of smut?

On the surface, a recent report by the San Antonio Express-News on an atheist student organization urging classmates to trade in religious texts for pornography seems harmless enough.

The newspaper provides a concise account of the effort and includes nice sound bites from an atheist student and a Bible-believing student:

"It's a First Amendment right," said Bradley Lewis, 18, a freshman from Pear-land who said he plans to join the Atheist Agenda. "If religious groups can put out missionaries and go knock on my door and wake me up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning, I can put a table outside of the college."

Robin Lorkovic, 18, a freshman from Houston, disagreed. Lorkovic stood near the "Smut for Smut" table holding a cardboard sign that said "God Loves You! Keep your Bible and learn from it!"

"I don't really feel like that is appropriate at all," Lorkovic said. "I am a Christian. I believe in God's love, and I am here to stand my ground and stand up for what I believe in."

And maybe that would be enough if we were talking about the student newspaper.

But we're not.

Shouldn't we expect a bit more context and analysis from a major metropolitan daily?

The gist of the story is contained up high:

Tired of that old Bible or Quran?

Members of the Atheist Agenda, a student organization at the University of Texas at San Antonio, are encouraging students to trade in religious texts for pornography this week with their "Smut for Smut" campaign.

In the view of club members, religious texts are as smutty as pornography because they contain violence and torture and spark religious wars. But mostly, it's a public relations stunt meant to ignite debate and attract new members to the club.

As in the past, this year's campaign did not disappoint, drawing hundreds to UTSA's Sombrilla Plaza on Monday to either cheer, protest or inquire about the event and to debate the role of religion in society.

For starters, the lede strikes me as too cutesy -- irreverent even -- when referring to the holy books of three major world religions.

But my bigger problem is how easily the story compares the religious texts to pornography without any sort of expert analysis to back up or refute that claim.

Are there no seminary professors in San Antonio who might weigh in on the atheist group's accusations -- regardless of whether they agree or disagree?

Are there no abused women's groups that might discuss the damage done by pornography -- and perhaps even question the wisdom of a gimmick giving it away on campus?

I don't have a problem at all with covering this story, assuming the Express-News gives equal treatment to events of a similar scale by religious students. The subject matter certainly piqued my interest, as it did Religion News Service, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media that relayed it nationally (with little original reporting of their own, unfortunately).

But rather than a "gee whiz" piece, I'd welcome legitimate journalistic treatment of the subject matter.

Porn sells. Does news?

Please respect our Commenting Policy