So here is a story that is causing lots of traditional religious believers to shake their heads today. They are reacting to headlines, like this one at The Washington Post stating: "Trump has yet to signal his approach to Obamacare birth-control mandate."
Once again let me stress that we are talking about heads shaking in two different camps of religious conservatives. The best evidence is that they are pretty equal in size, as GetReligion has been noting since last summer (here is another hat tip pointing readers to this fine Christianity Today feature).
In one camp are the religious conservatives who have enthusiastically embraced Citizen Donald Trump, pretty much from Day 1.
In the other camp are religious conservatives who never endorsed Trump, at any stage of the game, yet felt they had to vote for him in order to defeat Hillary Clinton. Here is what I heard legions of folks in that camp say: "I do not know what Donald Trump will do, but I know what Hillary Clinton will do. I will have to risk voting for him."
So, what were they so concerned about, in terms of what the candidates "will do"?
We are, 99.9 percent of the time, talking about two issues: The U.S. Supreme Court and/or battles over religious liberty. At this point in time -- as the world awaits votes by the newest justice on the U.S. Supreme Court -- most conservatives are pretty pleased with that first issue. But what about that second concern, in light of this overture at the Post?
President Trump had promised religious groups that he would reverse the Obama administration’s requirement that employers provide birth control to their employees under the Affordable Care Act.
But his Justice Department indicated Monday that it’s not yet giving up a fight with religious schools and nonprofits that are suing over the contraception mandate.
The department has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit for an additional 60 days to negotiate with East Texas Baptist University and several other religious groups objecting to a requirement to which they are morally opposed.
Now, this "PowerPost" blog feature quickly notes that this White House request for some time in a holding pattern does not automatically mean that the Donald is poised to stab the Little Sisters of the Poor, Christian college leaders and other traditional religious believers in the back.
Think about it. This could simply be another sign that the urbane Ivanka Trump/Jared Kushner wing of the Oval Office principalities and powers are trying to decide what this allegedly populist president should do when facing clashes between religious liberty and sexual liberty, between New York City and Middle American pews.
So, what's the first telephone call that an elite-newsroom reporter needs to make when presented with the possibility that a president may or may not have made a head-spinning reversal on an issue that is this important to his or her political base?
Let's look in the mirror and flip this story around.
So, let's pretend that we are 100 days or so into the Hillary Clinton administration and her Justice Department has announced that it will no longer back legal efforts to force religious believers who own relevant businesses -- photography studios, bakeries and flower shops -- to accept requests for their services for clients holding same-sex marriage rites and events linked to them. Instead, the Clinton White House will make another attempt at compromise.
Or perhaps Clinton White House 2.0 announces a willingness to encourage the promotion of work by pro-life Democrats, both at the level of individual candidacies or even promotions to leadership posts in the party machinery?
So, what group -- or kinds of groups -- are most elite journalists sure to call for input and reaction quotes when a hypothetical event of this kind takes place?
Can you imagine writing this Post story without multiple interviews with activists linked to LGBTQ causes or, in the second case, Planned Parenthood? Would the telephone numbers of activists in those groups already be saved in the smartphones of reporters on the social-issues and political beats? Or would they settle for a few lines of digital type on a press release?
This piece of reported material in a blog -- it is not labeled as opinion -- ends like this:
The Obama administration gave religious colleges, schools and charities a way out of providing contraception coverage by allowing them to delegate that job to a third party. Under a Supreme Court ruling, certain corporations can take that route, too.
But some religious nonprofits say that doesn’t go far enough and that they want to be fully exempted from the mandate in the same way churches are. Last May, the Supreme Court tossed those cases back to appeals courts, directing them to guide the Obama administration and the nonprofits toward a compromise.
Note the lack of attribution of any of that material? The choice of words in several of those statements would certainly draw discussions among legal minds on the cultural right.
Then the story ends with this:
East Texas Baptist University and other plaintiffs represented by the nonprofit law firm Becket are now asking the Justice Department to drop its appeal of a district court ruling in their favor, allowing them permanent relief from the mandate.
“This litigation has gone on long enough,” the plaintiffs wrote in a petition last week to the 5th Circuit. “It is time for the Department of Justice to move on, and to allow the court, the universities and other religious ministries to move on as well.”
We have digital quotes drawn from digital paper. Can you imagine that happening with coverage of a breaking story linked to issues that are dear to the hearts of people on the cultural left? Why not talk to people at the Becket office? There are qualified voices at other church-state think tanks and law schools, as well.