To the barricades! It's the religious conservatives again!

The reliably liberal New York Times has waved yet another red flag, thinly masked as in-depth news, on the traditional-religious bigots who disagree with its morality -- even daring to pass contrary laws. This time, Ground Zero is Arizona, which is considering a bill to allow businesses to choose whom they serve. Never, in this alleged news report, are we left in doubt of the "correct" opinion to take.

Not with a headline like "Religious Right in Arizona Cheers Bill Allowing Businesses to Refuse to Serve Gays," even though "Religious Right" isn't even in the body of the story.

The article quickly brings in -- right from the lede paragraph -- other examples of non-gay backlash, in New Mexico, Washington State and Colorado. Later, it adds three other states:

The Arizona measure comes as multiple states are considering such exemptions, with considerable controversy. In Tennessee, the legislature is considering an exemption for wedding vendors; in Kansas, a similar measure was set aside when conservative senators raised concerns about discrimination. In Oregon, opponents of same-sex marriage are seeking to place an initiative on this year’s ballot that would allow individuals or businesses to opt out of participating in same-sex wedding ceremonies.

For those who need visual cues on what to think, the story is topped with a photo of a gay couple who complains that a florist wouldn't provide flowers for their wedding. The two beefy men are photographed smiling, hand in hand, on a sunny porch. What nice folks.

Further down is a shot of Arizona Representative Justin Pierce, speaking in favor of the bill, looking all stern and suited in a dimly lit legislative chamber. The choice is yours, dear reader: Smiling, sunlit couple or boring, lecturing suit.

Now let's count fingers. The numbers game isn't the only way to compute bias, but in this case it's pretty glaring. We start with a quote in favor of the bill, rather high in the story:

“In America, people should be free to live and work according to their faith, and the government shouldn’t be able to tell us we can’t do that,” said Joseph E. La Rue, the legal counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal organization based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that advocates religious liberty and supports the measure passed by the State Legislature. “Faith shouldn’t be something we have to leave inside our house.”

Then we get a rebuttal quote with a set-up paragraph:

But civil libertarians and gay rights advocates say there is a difference between protections for clergy and houses of worship that do not want to participate in same-sex marriage and the obligations of business owners that serve the general public.

“Religious freedom is a fundamental right, but it’s not a blank check to harm others or impose our faith on our neighbors,” said Daniel Mach, who directs a program on freedom of religion and belief for the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the Arizona legislation. “Over the years, we as a nation have rejected efforts to invoke religion to justify discrimination in the marketplace, and there’s no reason to turn back the clock now.”

So far, so fair (except for the setup paragraph, which the first quote didn’t have). Then the anti-bill side picks up steam -- a consultant to Gov. Jan Brewer, a Hispanic leader, a pizzeria owner -- before we hear from a leader in a "conservative group that supported the bill."

That leader does offer an eye-opener on Arizona law:

But Josh Kredit, legal counsel of the Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative group that supported the bill, said that Arizona has for years had a religious freedom law that has not been used to justify discrimination, and that the changes to that law made by the new measure are “vitally needed to ensure that in America people are free to live and work according to their faith.”

“Arizona should be known as a state that welcomes people of faith and protects them,” he said. “These are intentional, purposeful distractions to try to kill this bill.”

Valuable background for reading on this issue discernibly, from an articulate voice on the other side of the debate.

So where did the Times team elect to place it? At the very, very end of the story.

Note, too, how the Times uses that word. "Conservative" appears four times in this article. "Liberal" appears zero times. Closest is where the Times mentions Arizona's "tough measure on illegal immigrants, which was denounced from the left, and a Medicaid expansion, which was criticized by the right."

But the Human Rights Campaign isn't called liberal; it's a "gay rights advocacy organization." And the American Civil Liberties Union is labeled simply as opposing the Arizona legislation. Conservatives, you see, need special scrutiny and deserve strong labels. Those who agree with the Times are just normal people.

Nor is this story the exception. Just so far this month, I counted at least 35 news stories in the New York Times using the "C" word, often for allegedly backward nations like Iran or Uganda, or outspoken oafs like Ted Nugent. During the same period, the Times used "liberal" only 13 times, often in the context of liberal ideals, as opposed to groups.

In the Arizona story, the Times spends an amazing eight paragraphs on why Gov. Brewer won't likely sign the bill: She wants to avoid controversy, she vetoed one like it last year, she's gotten a lot of protests, she wants to revitalize the economy and attract next year's Super Bowl.

The other side? Well, "supporters of the legislation said they would also work hard to persuade Ms. Brewer to sign the measure, in part by disputing much of the criticism it has faced." How do they dispute it? Doesn't say. Why explain a bill that's ill-advised and destined for veto?

Please respect our Commenting Policy