My assignment: review major newspaper coverage here in the Southwest of the victory claimed by Christian universities in Texas and Oklahoma that challenged the mandate.
That would be easier to do, of course, if I could find any evidence of such coverage. (Hence, the awkward part.)
"If the Dallas Morning News does not cover the Texas schools, that's amazing," the boss man said in delivering my marching orders. "Ditto for the Houston Post since Houston Baptist University is in the middle of this."
"If the Houston Post covers this, that will be really amazing since it shut down in 1995," I replied.
I will not quote the boss man's exact response to that little attempt at humor. (I kid. I kid.)
But seriously: A Monday news release from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty noted:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the government cannot fine East Texas Baptist (ETBU) and Houston Baptist (HBU) Universities for carrying out their religious beliefs in their health plans. It also threw out the lower court decision against the universities.
In its decision, the Supreme Court held that after its unprecedented call for supplemental briefing, the lower courts should again review the cases.
“ETBU is very pleased that the Supreme Court threw out the Fifth Circuit ruling against us and also ordered that we cannot be fined for failing to comply with the government’s scheme,” said Blair Blackburn, president of East Texas Baptist University. “The Court is saying that there should be a solution that works for everyone—the government can achieve its objectives, and we can continue following God’s truths and our consciences, while providing excellent Christ-centered education.”
“We are glad that the Supreme Court threw out the decision against us in light of the government’s new position,” said Robert Sloan, president of Houston Baptist University. “Religious liberty is at the core of our identity and so it is vital that it be preserved.”
A Baptist Press report likewise highlighted the Texas Baptist universities' ties to the decision.
So what did the Dallas Morning News say? Nada.
The Dallas newspaper made no mention at all of the Texas ties and instead published a front-page wire story (via the Los Angeles Times) suggesting that the ruling "could clear the way for birth control access"). OK, so that's what you took from the court's action?:
Similarly, the Houston Chronicle published a front-page wire story (in its case, from the New York Times) that totally ignored the local angle. The headline did seem closer to the mark, reporting that a compromise was ordered:
I thumbed through both the Dallas and Houston newspapers to see if perhaps the Texas angle was included in a sidebar. Nope.
Here in Oklahoma, The Oklahoman played the decision inside the A section but with a bylined article by its Washington correspondent. The story cited four Oklahoma universities, although it did not name them:
Attorneys for the religious employers who challenged the mandate also declared victory.
David Cortman, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedman, which represented four Oklahoma Christian colleges in the challenge, said, “The Supreme Court was right to protect the Christian colleges and other groups from having to pay fines or fill out forms authorizing the objectionable coverage.
“The government has many other ways to ensure women are able to obtain these drugs without forcing people of faith to participate in acts that violate their deepest convictions. We look forward to addressing the remaining details as we advance these cases in the lower courts."
Again, I looked for a sidebar that might include more insight on the local angle and even quotes/responses from the parties involved. Again, nope.
If readers can't expect local newspapers to report on major news close to home, then why should folks who live in those communities bother to subscribe? Between the Morning News, the Chronicle and The Oklahoman, I spend about $40 a month to read the print versions every day.
Generally, I consider that amount a bargain.
But today, I'm not so certain I got my money's worth.