Ghost in Vermont lawsuit story?

Here at GetReligion, one of our mantras is that ghosts far too often haunt news stories.

As tmatt explained at this site's inception:

A lot of these ghosts are, well, holy ghosts. They are facts and stories and faces linked to the power of religious faith. Now you see them. Now you don’t. In fact, a whole lot of the time you don’t get to see them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Read this New York Times story about a lesbian couple suing a Vermont inn for refusing to host their fall wedding reception:

The current lawsuit alleges that in October Ms. Linsley’s mother, Channie Peters, spoke with the events coordinator at the inn, which has 24 rooms and is on 570 acres in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, according to its Web site.

Ms. Peters said the coordinator referred to a bride and a groom while discussing the bridal suite; Ms. Peters said she corrected the woman and they continued their conversation.

Shortly after the conversation, Ms. Peters received an e-mail with the subject line “bad news,” according to the lawsuit, and was told the innkeepers did not allow same-sex wedding receptions at the site.

“After our conversation,” the e-mail reads, according to the lawsuit, “I checked with my innkeepers and unfortunately due to their personal feelings, they do not host gay receptions at our facility.”

Hmmmm, "their personal feelings." Think there might be a religion angle there? It certainly sounds like a ghost might be lurking in this report.

But can we blame the Times for that? Probably not. Keep reading:

An employee at the Wildflower Inn said the innkeepers, Jim and Mary O’Reilly, were “not doing any comment at this time.”

Based on that, it seems clear that the Times did its job and sought comment. You can't blame the reporter or the newspaper when the people at the center of the story refuse to comment.

Later, however, the couple released a statement included in an Associated Press report:  

The inn's owners, Jim and Mary O'Reilly, issued a statement saying they are devout Catholics who believe in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman.

"We have never refused rooms or dining or employment to gays or lesbians," they wrote. "Many of our guests have been same-sex couples. We welcome and treat all people with respect and dignity. We do not however, feel that we can offer our personal services wholeheartedly to celebrate the marriage between same-sex couples because it goes against everything that we as Catholics believe in."

ABC News also covered the lawsuit, although parts of its "news story" read more like an editorial:

The lawsuit's allegations are particularly jarring, given that Vermont is known as one of the most liberal states in the country. The Green Mountain State has allowed civil unions between same sex couples since 2000, and gay marriage has been legal since 2009. Tourism is one of Vermont's main industries, and gay-marriage related business has been brisk.

Now that the ghost has been exposed, it'll be interesting to see if the Times and other media follow up on the religious freedom issues raised by the case. Those issues certainly are generating lots of discussion in some circles.

Please respect our Commenting Policy