So, did you read all the stories about the liberal Episcopalian who was nominated to a federal appeals court seat, only to be grilled about her religious beliefs -- with subtle references to her same-sex marriage -- by evangelical Protestants, Mormons and Catholics in a U.S. Senate hearing?
I mean, one senator called her a Communist because of her decision to speak at a meeting of the American Civil Liberties Union. One conservative Anglican on the committee questioned whether her vocal support for her church's doctrine should block her appointment to a federal court. Another conservative Anglican asked her point blank: "Are you a liberal Episcopalian?”
Wait, you didn't see coverage of that story by journalists at major newspapers and cable networks?
Right, I made that up. But can you imagine the mainstream press failing to spotlight a story in which fundamentalist yahoos did something like that to a liberal religious believer?
Me either. So did I miss something when we had that story in reverse? I searched all over for mainstream coverage of this real story, including at the newspaper of record. Scan this simple Google News search and tell me if I blinked and missed something important.
Now let's turn to alternative, "conservative" media outlets and look at this real story -- only reversed in a journalistic mirror. In the real world, we have a pro-Catechism Catholic nominee, a Notre Dame University law professor and mother of seven, facing a liberal Catholic senator. The consistently #NeverTrump National Review reported:
... [D]uring a confirmation hearing for 7th Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Amy Coney Barrett, Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein attacked the nominee for her Roman Catholic faith.
Barrett is a law professor at the University of Notre Dame who has written about the role of religion in public life and delivered academic lectures to Christian legal groups. ...
“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein said.
At another point in this drama:
Senate minority whip Dick Durbin criticized Barrett’s use of the term “orthodox Catholic,” insisting that it unfairly maligns Catholics who do not hold certain positions about abortion or the death penalty. (Durbin himself is a Catholic who abandoned his previous pro-life position.)
“Are you an orthodox Catholic?” he later asked Barrett point blank.
The nominee knew this was coming, of course, because she has heard these questions in the past. Thus:
... Barrett has explicitly written that “judges cannot -- nor should they try to -- align our legal system with the Church’s moral teaching whenever the two diverge.” She has also insisted that judges ought to recuse themselves in situations when their faith conflicts with their judicial responsibility.
So what is the news hook here for mainstream journalists?
Another conservative source, The Daily Signal, put that right up top in its advocacy-journalism report. The senators, you see, were trying to find out if they were dealing with a good religious believer or a bad religious believer.
“Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” is an unusual and inappropriate question for a senator to ask a judicial nominee. In fact, the Constitution forbids it.
But that didn’t stop Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., from probing Notre Dame Law professor Amy Coney Barrett about her faith. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. D-Calif., also chided Barrett for being a practicing Catholic, proclaiming, “The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.”
Both senators appear to have forgotten Article VI’s admonition that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Officer or public Trust under the United States.”
There was another news hook in that Senate hearing, one especially relevant in the wake of the riots at Charlottesville (and renewed attention to a certain "hate" map and the massive offshore bank accounts of the Southern Poverty Law Center).
Again, imagine the coverage if a conservative senator hit a liberal nominee with similar language about a speech to the ACLU or other groups on the legal and academic left.
A Democratic senator tried to tie one of President Trump’s judicial nominees to a “hate group” Wednesday, saying the woman’s decision to speak at an event sponsored by Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty law firm, makes her unfit to sit on a federal appeals court.
Sen. Al Franken lobbed the charge at a hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, Mr. Trump’s pick to fill a seat on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
So what is the journalistic goal here?
Frankly, I want to see mainstream news coverage that talks to the critics of Barrett, as well as her defenders. Are there old-school liberals who oppose her nomination, but believe that theologically driven questions of this kind are out of bounds? Have there been cases in the past in which conservatives have asked similar questions about religious believers on the doctrinal left?
But the main question is an old one that your GetReligionistas have asked many times: Can you imagine the mainstream press ignoring this story if the theological and political doctrines in were reversed? Can you imagine liberal senators asking the same questions to a Muslim nominee?
Just asking. Again.