AP discovers a new faith -- "Southern Baptism"

On one level, the error that I am about to spotlight is so silly that it could just be a typo or a stupid (click here for classics) error -- like someone calling Sen. Rick Santorum an evangelicalist or reporting that some liturgical committee has decided to modernize the Episcopalian prayerbook, again. Then again, maybe not.

After all, this version of an Associated Press report on conservative ecumenical work ran at The American-Statesman in Austin, Texas. Now, as a native Texan I am aware that Austin really isn't located in Texas (it's in a parallel universe of its own), I would still think that a copy desk located in the heart of Texas would employ one or two professionals who know something about Southern Baptists.

After all, the separation of Baptists and state is a big issue down there. There are parts of Texas in which there are more Southern Baptists than there are people (and roughly the same number of Baptist churches as 7-11s).

So, spot the clinker at the top of this story:

RALEIGH, N.C. -- After the White House decreed this month that religious employers would have to pay for workers' birth control, it was no surprise that Roman Catholic leaders would protest. That evangelical Protestants would rally to their cause was less expected and unthinkable even a generation ago.

"It's just the common good. We're all brothers. They're Christians, we're Christians," said Thomas Fallon, 43, a general contractor who lives in Auburn, Mass., and converted to Southern Baptism from Catholicism. "We have that belief system that this is wrong that the government is trying to impose on our religious beliefs."

LOL. Fallon did what?

Let's look at that again. We are told that he "converted to Southern Baptism from Catholicism."

Now, I admit that if this man left Roman Catholicism and joined a Southern Baptist congregation -- conservative, centrist and perhaps even "moderate" -- there is a good chance that he was baptized a second time, by immersion, as an adult believer.

However, I have never heard of a faith called "Southern Baptism." I have heard of someone converting from Catholic to Protestant, or perhaps someone joining a particular branch of Protestantism (such as a church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention). But one simply does not convert to "Southern Baptism." Correction, please.

Perhaps there are some, or even many, editors at the Associated Press who think that Southern Baptists are so foreign and strange that they are their own separate faith. Of course, Southern Baptists are very strange, rare people in American life. There aren't that many Southern Baptists around in places like North Carolina and Texas. The SBC is only the largest non-Catholic flock in America. It's a tiny little thing, as religious groups go in this land.

Meanwhile, this story features clinker after clinker. Spot two in the following passage:

Contraception is one of the very issues that have been a wedge between Catholics and evangelical Protestants for decades. But for Protestants who've rallied to the Catholic bishops' side, the question this time is one of religious liberty rather than dogma.

Even after the Obama administration hastily revised the order to require insurance companies, rather than religious employers, to pay for birth control, many evangelicals say the bishops are right to reject the new rule as the same violation of conscience in a different form.

First of all, I have attended dozens of evangelical/Baptist meetings with Catholics through the decades and I have never even heard contraception mentioned. How can it be a "wedge issue" if it's irrelevant? Evangelicals are not of one mind on this topic, but it's the last subject that would cause heated debate between Catholics and evangelicals.

And, second, "many evangelicals" say the Catholic bishops are right to see the new Health and Human Services rules as a threat to religious liberty? "Many" do? Can anyone find a single mainstream evangelical parachurch group, network, denomination or what not that has NOT rejected these rules and called them a threat to religious liberty and the separation of church and state?

I could go on. Do read the story for yourself. Even better, if a version of this AP report ran in your local paper, check and see if an editor caught the "Southern Baptism" laugh line before it went into print. I was alerted to the error by a copy-desk pro who did precisely that.

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