Dumb, Uneducated, And Eager To Deceive: Media Coverage Of Religious Liberty In A Nutshell

Most Reporters Are Simply Too Ignorant To Handle The Job

In the aftermath of the abominable media coverage of Arizona’s religious liberty bill, an editor shared his hypothesis that journalists care about freedom of speech and of the press because they practice them. And journalists don’t care about freedom of religion because they don’t.

But one of the most interesting things about modern media’s deep hostility toward the religious, their religions, and religious liberty in general is that press freedom in America is rooted in religion.

The John Peter Zenger case of 1735, argued successfully by Andrew Hamilton, wasn’t just an important legal event but an important symbolic event in the development of American freedom of expression. We remember Hamilton’s now-famous plea that truth should be admitted as a defense.

But perhaps we don’t understand that the members of the jury ruled in favor of press freedom because of their belief in the foundational importance of religion and religious liberty. The Zenger press freedom case was a “disputation on truth and on how truth is revealed to man,” noted David Paul Nord in 2006′s “A History of American Newspapers and Their Readers.” This is another way of saying “religion.” In the Cato letters printed in Zenger’s New York Weekly Journal, it was argued that each individual had not just the right but the duty to seek truth in his own way. From the book (emphasis mine):

“Every man’s religion is his own,” Cato declared, “nor can the religion of any man, of what nature or figure soever, be the religion of another man, unless he also chooses it; which action utterly excludes all force, power or government.”

The media now call people who agree with this notion “bigots” or “Jim Crow” types. Sometimes they’re more nuanced and just write shockingly biased articles about religious liberty issues. (My favorite was the time a media outlet — Religion News Service, of all places — defiantly put scare quotes around “religious liberty” and thendefended the obnoxious practice.)

Anyway, back when individual reason and conscience were the way to divine truth, the authority of human law could never be absolute. Nord wrote that Americans have been “strangely intolerant libertarians, often suppressing individual liberties in the name of a more transcendent freedom.” Or we used to be, at least. Now we hear from some of media’s biggest elites that transcendent freedoms are to be obliterated in favor of individual liberties, and that opposition to this notion is the real enemy. More on that in a bit.

The First Amendment begins with religious liberty because (and even our non-traditionally religious Founders agreed with this), all freedom of expression — speech, press, assembly, etc. — is rooted in the importance of man determining truth according to his own conscience.

So What’s That Have To Do With Our Modern Media?

Read the rest from Mollie Hemingway over at The Federalist.

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