bathroom bills

Hate groups, far-right conservatives and other labels: Can we guess why journalists rely on certain terms?

Hate groups, far-right conservatives and other labels: Can we guess why journalists rely on certain terms?

Readers of a certain age no doubt recall commercials for "Libby's! Libby's! Libby's!"

Today, though, I want to talk about "Labels! Labels! Labels!"

Before I refer to the label that caught my attention while reading my morning newspapers, let's play the mirror image game made famous (and perhaps trademarked) by our own tmatt: When was the last time you saw a mainstream news report refer to, say, a gay-rights organization as a "far-left liberal group?"

Not recently?

OK, let's ask the question in reverse: When was the last time you saw an organization that stands for traditional religious beliefs characterized — in a mainstream news report — as a "far-right conservative group?"

If you, like me, subscribe to the Dallas Morning News, you don't have to go back too far. This is a sentence at the end of the Dallas paper's story today on oil and gas companies opposing Texas' proposed bathroom bill:

The bill's supporters say they want to protect the privacy of women and girls in intimate spaces. It has the support of far-right conservative groups like the Texas Pastors Council and Texas Values.

My question when reading that label: What makes those groups "far-right" conservatives? Why not simply describe them as conservative groups (assuming a label is required at all)? What does the "far-right" add?

Is the paper intentionally trying to cast the groups as extremists?

The Texas Pastor Council (I believe that's the correct name of the organization without the plural "Pastors") says on its Twitter profile that it "is the only culturally and politically active organization from a Biblically-grounded perspective." I'm not sure that's the best wording I've ever seen, but what is "far-right" about it? 

On its Twitter profile, Texas Values says it is "dedicated to preserving and advancing faith, family, and freedom in the great state of Texas." Again, I ask: What is "far-right" about that?

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Eyes of Texas are on religious leaders -- pro and con -- as state debates transgender-friendly bathrooms

Eyes of Texas are on religious leaders -- pro and con -- as state debates transgender-friendly bathrooms

As you may recall, I was not impressed with initial media reporting on a transgender-related bathroom bill in Texas.

Perhaps the title of my January post --  "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" -- gives some clue as to my overall analysis of the news coverage.

Fast-forward to recent stories on religious leaders in the Lone Star State entering the fray, and I'm feeling a little more generous in my appraisal.

The Austin American-Statesman, in particular, deserves a high passing grade for its fair, evenhanded treatment of the Godbeat angle.

I should stress that I'm grading on a curve because the American-Statesman — like other news organizations — faced the difficulty of reporting on both sides when one side closed its proceedings to the press. 

The lede from the Austin newspaper:

The fight over legislation to block transgender-friendly bathroom policies ventured into the religious realm Thursday as faith leaders gathered in Austin to promote competing views.
The day began with a closed-door briefing for Christian pastors by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton and other state officials who see religious support as crucial to the passage of Senate Bill 6, which would limit the use of bathrooms in schools and government buildings to the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate.
The event by the U.S. Pastor Council was billed as “show up time” for those who would lead the fight in support of the bill.
That was followed by an afternoon gathering of more than 40 religious leaders — many holding signs reading “My faith does not discriminate” — who oppose SB 6 as immoral.
“Our lawmakers are considering anti-transgender bathroom bills and bills that come disguised as religious freedom — dangerous pieces of legislation that place a religious mask over what amounts to state-sanctioned discrimination,” said the Rev. Taylor Fuerst of First United Methodist Church, where the event was held.

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Why did Des Moines Register default to wire copy on a hot trans story in Iowa?

Why did Des Moines Register default to wire copy on a hot trans story in Iowa?

It sounds as if the state of Iowa just dodged a bullet -- or a bunch of lawsuits -- having to do with whether churches must obey transgender bathroom rules.

Some background: On July 4, one Des Moines church filed a federal lawsuit saying the state’s human rights law is being newly interpreted to mean pastors can’t preach against transgender rights from their pulpits and that churches will be forced to allow visitors to use church bathrooms consistent with their gender preference instead of birth.

ABC-TV News ran a piece on this July 5. The Des Moines Register ran a long piece about this on July 6. More recently, it updated the controversy: 

DES MOINES, Ia. -- An Iowa Civil Rights Commission brochure that some churches interpreted to mean they must abide by transgender bathroom rules and muzzle ministers who may want to preach against transgender or gay individuals has been changed, the commission said Friday.
The brochure, which was last updated in 2008, led a Des Moines church to file a lawsuit Monday and a Sioux City church to threaten one if the commission didn't change its policy that the churches alleged censored them unconstitutionally.
The commission said Friday it revised the "Revised Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Public Accommodations Brochure" to make it clear places of worship are generally exempt from Iowa's antidiscrimination law except when they're open for voting, providing a day care facility or other non-religious activities. It also said it regretted any confusion the brochure may have caused.

So, apparently the lawyers got involved and the state is backtracking. But wait: Since when is running a faith-based day care facility or preschool a "non-religious" activity? That's an angle worth exploring in depth.

But back to the original controversy:

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