Sin and the stock market: On biblically responsible investing, who would Jesus quote first?

I like sin.

Wait a minute. Let me rephrase that: I like news stories about sin. They tend to fascinate me.

In my Associated Press days, I wrote about sin taxes.

In today's New York Times, there's a business story about an equally intriguing topic: sin stocks.

Overall, the Times report is thorough and factual — answering most questions a typical reader would have. But yes, there's also an element of Kellerism. Isn't that almost always the case when the Old Gray Lady covers subject matter such as this?

What is Kellerism? Regular GetReligion readers don't need to ask. But for those new to this journalism-focused website, it's the reporting gospel according to former Times editor Bill Keller. Basically, that gospel — as explained by GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly — proclaims that the Times is justified in leaning left on cultural issues such as gay rights.

How does that doctrine manifest itself in the sin stocks story? See if you notice what I did:

Serving both God and money has long been an aim of fund companies that exclude “sin stocks” of companies dealing in tobacco, guns, gambling and the like in their investments.
Now, two new exchange traded funds offer a conservative evangelical — what is called “biblically responsible” — tilt to that investing approach. The funds explicitly say in their regulatory filing that they will avoid buying shares in companies that have “any degree of participation in activities that do not align with biblical values,” including what they call the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender “lifestyle.”
The approach is squarely at odds with that of nearly all of corporate America.
Ninety-two percent of the Fortune 500 companies include “sexual orientation” in their nondiscrimination policies and 82 percent include “gender identity.” For the first time, half of Fortune 500 companies offer transgender-inclusive health care benefits, including for surgical procedures.
“There are millions of people, including people of faith, for whom discrimination is not a biblical value,” said Mark Snyder, the director of communications for the Equality Federation, a national advocacy group. “Businesses have been leading the fight for full equality over the last few years. L.G.B.T. people are part of the fabric of our nation. We have families, we go to work, we simply wish to be treated equally.”

No, this isn't a scare quotes post (although maybe it should be).

Here's my actual question: Did you see who the Times quoted first? That's right — a gay-rights advocate.

The journalist in me wonders: Wouldn't it be fairer to quote first a spokesperson for the biblically responsible funds? Shouldn't the funds' organizers receive an opportunity to explain where they stand on LGBT nondiscrimination? Are employee benefits really the issue here?

Keep reading, and the Times does quote such a source — and by my reading, the funds have no problem with LGBT benefits. Rather, they're concerned with activist companies pushing a gay-rights agenda, in opposition to what they believe the Bible teaches on human sexuality.

So why raise the nondiscrimination issue before giving the funds a chance to explain?

Here's the relevant response to which I refer:

The chief executive of the company that introduced the two new funds, Inspire Investing, says he has no problems with companies providing benefits to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees and having nondiscrimination policies. “As Christians, we love our neighbors in the L.G.B.T. community and encourage companies to provide equal employee benefits for all,” said the chief executive, Robert Netzly.
But he added, “A company deciding to spend money and time to pursue a hard-line activist agenda that has nothing to do with their core business is a different issue, and is a waste of investor dollars.”

Again, I can't help but ask: Why delay that crucial information? Why give readers an initial erroneous impression before clarifying? Could there be any other explanation besides Kellerism?

Feel free to comment below or by tweeting us at @GetReligion. Let he who believes my analysis is not without sin cast the first stone.

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