On the Nashville Statement, one national newspaper offers less slanted coverage than another

If you — like me — have been focused on news related to Harvey victims, you might have missed the headlines concerning a statement on sexuality released by evangelical leaders who convened in Nashville, Tenn., last week.

James A. Smith Sr., vice president of communications for the National Religious Broadcasters, alerted me to the news.

Smith criticized the Washington Post's coverage of the news, calling that national newspaper's story "very biased."

Certainly, the Post's headline presents the news with a negative bent:

Evangelicals’ ‘Nashville Statement’ denouncing same-sex marriage is rebuked by city’s mayor

Compare that headline with the more neutral one offered by USA Today:

More than 150 evangelical religious leaders sign 'Christian manifesto' on human sexuality

The Post's lede:

A coalition of evangelical leaders released a “Christian manifesto” Tuesday asserting their belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and condemning the acceptance of “homosexual immorality or transgenderism.”
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood outlined the views in what it called “The Nashville Statement,” and offered it as guidance to churches on how to address issues of sexuality. A group of evangelical leaders, scholars and pastors endorsed the statement Friday at a conference in Nashville. It was initially endorsed by more than 150 people.
The “manifesto,” which is composed of 14 beliefs, rejects the idea that “otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree” on gay, lesbian and transgender issues. The leaders refer to this mentality as “moral indifference.”

Later, the Post ties the statement to supporters of President Donald Trump:

The manifesto was signed by a number of prominent evangelical figures, including at least two who are known to be among President Trump’s few dozen evangelical advisers — Jack Graham, a Southern Baptist pastor, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. For months, Perkins urged Trump to issue his declaration that transgender people would be banned from the military, the New York Times reported.
White evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Trump during the election — 80 percent. Since the election, they have been seen as the religious group with the most access and influence in the White House.

USA Today also tied some of the signers to politics:

Among the signers who have been involved in national politics: James Dobson, founder of the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council in the District of Columbia.
Dobson and four others — Senior Pastor Ronnie Floyd of Cross Church, which has four campuses in northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri; Pastor Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas; President Richard Land of the Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C.; televangelist James Robison, founder of Fort Worth-based Life Outreach International — also are members of President Trump's evangelical advisory board.

Smith complained:

Among the prominent critics of Trump who signed the statement: Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The Post does not mention Moore. USA Today quotes him but does not remind readers of his Trump criticism.

Like the Post, USA Today also quotes the mayor's critical comments. But before getting to the mayor, USA Today cites religious sources — as opposed to political ones — who voiced concerns about the statement. I appreciated that approach.

It's worth noting that the Post piece was put together by a writer who aggregates news and social media posts generating discussion overnight. USA Today's story, on the other hand, was written by a Godbeat pro.

Yes, if you'll allow me to say so for the millionth time, experience on the beat definitely helps when writing stories on religion.


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