This post has been chilling on ice for a while. Or something like that.
I meant to write about this story when it came out a few weeks ago, but I got distracted. As a result, this piece ended up in my GetReligion guilt folder.
I'm talking about the Washington Post's recent coverage of a lawsuit filed by two black pastors against Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association.
I wonder if maybe — just maybe — there's a holy ghost lurking in the Post's otherwise excellent coverage. More on that in a moment.
But first, some important background: The Post reported that pastor William Lamar of D.C.’s Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church is tired of presiding over funerals for parishioners who died of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
More from the story:
Lamar and Delman Coates, the pastor at Maryland’s Mount Ennon Baptist Church, claim soda marketing has made it more difficult for them to protect the health of their largely black, D.C.-based parishioners.
Their case is similar to another suit that was filed, and later withdrawn, by the same legal team in California last January.
The lawsuit marks a break with tradition for African American and Latino community groups who have been reliable allies of Big Soda for years in policy fights across the country — despite overwhelming evidence that the harms of drinking soda impact their communities disproportionately.
Obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and lower-extremity amputations are all far higher among people of color than among whites. These communities also drink more soda — and are exposed to more soda advertising.
“It’s become really clear to me that we’re losing more people to the sweets than to the streets,” said Coates, who said he has seen members of his congregation give their infants bottles filled with sugary drinks. “There’s a great deal of misinformation in our communities, and I think that’s largely a function of these deceptive marketing campaigns.”
In a statement, Coca-Cola dismissed the pastors' charges and the merits of the earlier lawsuit in California, which lawyers say they withdrew to refile with the new plaintiffs.
It's a fascinating piece by a food policy writer — with lots of important, health-related details.
It ends this way:
But it is unclear whether the suit will ultimately have more than a glancing impact on the beverage industry. Coke and the American Beverage Association do not need to respond to the complaint until September. At that point, Maia Kats — the litigation director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest and one of the lawyers on the case — said she believes they will push for dismissal.
In the meantime, Lamar and Coates say, they will continue visiting hospitals, and overseeing funerals, for members of their churches suffering from obesity-related illnesses.
“I am disgusted by the number of hospital visits I make,” Lamar said. “It just adds to the injustices all around us.”
So what's missing? What potential ghost did I spot?
Here's what I would love to have seen: Some exploration of the subject matter from a spiritual perspective. For example, have the pastors addressed drinking Coke from the pulpit? Do they consider it a moral issue? (Years ago, I wrote an Associated Press feature on a Dallas-area megachurch cutting back on Krispy Kreme doughnuts and preaching sermons on the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit.)
Do the D.C. pastors believe the fault lies entirely with the beverage companies? Or do the parishioners — and their leaders — bear some responsibility?
While you ponder that, feel free to pour yourself an ice-cold glass of Coke. Or not ...