Obama's war on religion?

Confession: My brain is mush at the moment. I woke up this morning in Chicago after a four-day reporting trip to Illinois and Iowa (totally non-caucus-related, by the way). After a bumpy flight home, I'm back in Oklahoma City.

One of the joys (sarcasm intended) of posting regularly at a site such as GetReligion is you do so when you're well-rested and thinking sharply -- and not when you are running on mental fumes.

Like. Right. About. Now.

I say all of that because I will let you decide, kind reader, if the story I'm about to review really is the mish-mash that it seems to me -- or if it perhaps makes more sense to readers operating on all cylinders.

A GetReligion reader passed along the link to the NPR report, which features this provocative headline:

Has Obama Waged A War on Religion?

Religious liberty, the focus of the story, is a topic we have tackled frequently here at GR.  In my freelance work with Christianity Today, I have covered some of the same issues and interviewed some of the same sources highlighted in the NPR piece (including here, here and here). Given my experience with the subject, I was intrigued by the headline.

The top of the report:

Americans' religious liberties are under attack -- or at least that's what some conservatives say.

Newt Gingrich warns the U.S. is becoming a secular country, which would be a "nightmare." Rick Santorum says there's a clash between "man's laws and God's laws." And in a campaign ad, Rick Perry decried what he called "Obama's war on religion," saying there is "something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly ... pray in school."

Of course, children can pray in school, but Perry is echoing a larger argument: that religious freedom is at risk. The story is much more complicated than either side makes out.

Now, that third paragraph made me chuckle. It starts out by correcting Perry's contention that children can't pray in school. Then it follows up with the nut graf: the notion that the religious freedom issue is "much more complicated than either side makes out." Please see my earlier caveat, but I found the juxtaposition of those two sentences ironic.

Keep reading, and the story takes the kitchen-sink approach to reporting on religious freedom. The piece moves quickly from topic to topic and source to source — all filed under the general heading of religious liberty. For some reason, the notion of "religious freedom speed-dating" popped into my head as I was reading it.

The reader who shared the link commented:

On the whole, it is pretty short and pretty superficial. It lets both sides of the debate give their position on the political issue, but it hardly delves into the reasons they hold those positions.

The piece is less than 1,000 words. Overall, it left me with a "Ho hum" reaction. As the reader said, the reporter — to her credit — included both sides. But in my mushy-brained view, this particular story tried to cover too much ground and, as a result, ended up not covering much at all.

As always, opposing viewpoints -- particularly fully awake ones -- would be welcomed. Just remember that we're concerned about journalism, not politics. Please focus comments on the media coverage questions.

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