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07/26/2007

It's not easy refuting Green

by Jeremy Hooper

Ya know, we're not usually big bash-Fox-News-for-the-sake-of-bashing-Fox-News types around here. However, a new blog from reporter Lauren Green has really rubbed us the wrong way, due to its lack of research, gross leaps in logic, inclusion of eye-opening voices, and misuse of the phrase "church verses [sic] state." So that being the case, we will now try to highlight some of the problems we find in Ms. Green's commentary (*though bear with us on this, as her piece is sort of all over the place, which probably means that our refutation will be as well).

So basically, Ms. Green's whole commentary, titled "Is Homosexuality a Sin?," is presented as if it covers religious belief regarding homosexuality. This is a fine subject for her to analyze. After all, her bio says she is a religion reporter. A "fair and balanced" examination of this topic is completely kosher.

However, Ms. Green has made the mistake that so many people do when discussing gay rights: She has married religious belief with civil, political debate. And in doing so, she's turned what should be an examination of theology into a piece wherein it almost seems like she views the Bible and the constitution as intrinsically intertwined.

The first misstep as we see it comes when she discusses how the Dem candidates handled a question regarding personal faith views on gay marriage during Monday's presidential debate. Green says of Obama and Edwards' answers:

As I've listened to politicians dance around the homosexuality and religion issue, it seems none of them actually know what the Bible says about it, or if they do, they avoid discussing it. After all, the theologians have their own major disputes over the issue; for example, in the Episcopal Church, it is the cause of an ongoing schism.

Okay, but here's the thing, Ms. Green: If the candidates were to get into a theological discussion on homosexuality, THAT's when a problem would arise! They are not, after all, vying for the presidency of Evangelical Christian Land (despite what the current prez has led us to believe). The candidates are right to keep their personal faith views separate from their governance, as that is (or at least should be) DEMANDED of them. So while "I personally do not support gay marriage" is an acceptable, albeit short-sighted, position, "I believe Leviticus and Romans I are 100%, lock-solid testimony that gays are immoral and hellbound so I will rule in a manner consistent with that belief" is not the thing of presidential politics (thank God).  If the candidates spend less time on personal theology and focus more on public policy, then that's a good thing.  For all of us.

But her views on Dem candidates aside, Green goes on to really distort facts and truth when she delves into a discussion of proposed federal hate crimes legislation in terms of personal religious belief. She says:

Ironically, opposition to the bill is coming from a minority group long associated with proponents of civil rights. A group of black conservative leaders are lobbying against the bill now in the Senate. Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder and president of the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND), was recently in Washington, D.C. urging senators to vote against the hate crimes bill (SB 1105). The bill would provide federal assistance for the prosecution of any crime that is "motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim." What they object to is the late addition of "sexual orientation" to the list.

Peterson and others claim the bill could one day force Christian pastors to perform same sex "marriages” and if they refuse, they could be criminalized. He and others also believe that the pulpit could be silenced if pastors preach against homosexuality which they view as a sin … and even still that the Bible would be classified as "hate speech," regarding its references to homosexuality.

Okay, so we've already directly addressed Rev. Peterson's claims about pastors being forced to perform marriages, so we're not going to rehash why those claims are baseless again here. Instead, the primary issue we have with this passage is that Ms. Green presents the idea that African-American civil rights proponents are opposing this measure en masse, which she backs by propping up Jesse Lee Peterson as her one and only shining example. Because what she doesn't mention is that Peterson is a right-wing extremist with a capital E, who, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, outraged African-Americans (and presumably even some African-American conservatives) as much as he's ever outraged gays when made comments like this:

"If whites were to just leave the United States and let blacks run the country, they would turn America into a ghetto within 10 years. The audience, shall we say, disagreed with me strongly. Now I have to disagree with me. I gave blacks too much credit. It took a mere three days for blacks to turn the Superdome and the convention center into ghettos, rampant with theft, rape and murder.

President Bush is not to blame for the rampant immorality of blacks. Had New Orleans' black community taken action, most would have been out of harm's way. But most were too lazy, immoral and trifling to do anything productive for themselves."

And regarding gays, Rev. Peterson has made statements like this:

"Homosexuality is not about love, civil rights, family — it’s about sex and nothing else”

He has also referred to Blacks who do support gay rights (including Corretta Scott King) as being “a disgrace to blacks, whites and Jews." So he is far from a mainstream, modern day civil rights hero! And if one is going to discuss African-American stances on the this measure, one (especially a reporter) has to acknowledge that the bill has the support of groups like the NAACP, prominent civil rights heroes like John Robert Lewis, and virtually every sort of organization that worked and continues to work to support civil rights for ALL. Those opposed are a small contingent who oppose gay rights at every turn.

It also should be noted that Rev. Peterson's Washington visit mentioned in Green's report was part of a trip arranged by the VERY extremist group Repent America, whose founder once blamed Hurricane Katrina on gays. So again, she is swimming with a fringe element here. 

And of course there is not even one mention given to the other side's logic and reasoning in regards to this hate crimes legislation.  It's just presented as if people of faith are 100% against it, and the only real consideration given is meant to further the possibility that they may be right. Green demonstrates this when she goes on to say:

Even within the U.S. there are signs that Rev. Peterson may have a legitimate point. In New Jersey, two lesbians have filed a civil rights complaint against a Methodist-run campground that refused to host a same sex union ceremony. The seaside retreat of the Ocean Grove Campground was founded by Methodists in 1869. Trustees denied the women's request, citing official church policy, which does not recognize same sex unions.

What we have here is an example of John Edwards' position that no one should impose their religious views on Americans, and Barack Obama's position, that civil unions are clearly a policy that will have major showdowns when church doctrine conflicts with civil rights laws.

The government in effect is putting itself in the judgment seat, a seat that people of faith have reserved for God.

And here is yet another misrepresentation from Ms. Green. This New Jersey situation is much deeper and more multi-faceted than she presents to her readers, with the issue arising because the area in question is a public accommodation which was receiving a special tax break because of its public access. It is not a matter of church doctrine vs. civil rights law -- it's a matter of if you allow opposite-sex couples to marry in a place regardless of their faith beliefs, then you can't use faith beliefs to deny "civil-unioning" gay couples (which are to be treated as equal to opposite-sex couples in New Jersey) their own usage of the public facilities. You don't have to look far to find legal experts who will tell you this. So it is beyond irresponsible for Ms. Green,a reporter, to present the situation in the manner that she has. It is no way proof that Mr. Peterson has a "legitimate point" or an example of any politician's position!!! (For more on this NJ situation, read here).

As for government's judgment seat vs. God's? Again, if people of faith want God's seat to govern, then they are the ones who are undebatably in the wrong!! But the separation of church and state concept is given only a glossing over by Ms. Green, with her piece clearly/ annoyingly/ deceptively slanted to Christian "religious freedom." When she gets into a discussion of her personal faith views on sin, the reasons for this become clear:

But let's get back to the central theme of the blog, which is "Does the Bible say homosexuality is a sin?" Now, please be aware that people of faith reading the same Bible have come away with different interpretations of the verses on homosexuality. I have read the Bible completely nearly twice. From the many verses referring to homosexuality, it is quite clear from what I can see that the Bible does speak against homosexuality as one of the many sins of the flesh that humans fall into.

So the question that plagues me is if that's true, what happens with all of the scientific evidence and anecdotal testimonies of people who say that they have not chosen to be gay or lesbian, that they were born that way — that God made them that way?

Okay, so she's revealed her hand (as if there was any debate): She's in the "Bible says that gay is a sin" column. And again, she does have every right to hold those feelings. However, this a blog of a religion reporter for a major news outlet. Just like she seems to find no fault with the citizens being forced to pledge allegiance to the Bible, Ms. Green also seems to see no reason why her own personal faith views should not affect her reporting. If she truly wants to take up an issue like this, she has a journalistic responsibility to present some sort of dissenting view from a progressive person of faith.  It is imperative that she flesh out the fact -- THE FACT -- that many religious scholars think the Bible is talking about something other than homosexuality as we know it today (among many other exceptions some take with the text an interpretation thereof). But she essentially does not do so.  Yes, Ms. Green does print more fair-minded quotes from Dr. Francis Collins -- but the topic she allows is largely around how one might be able to reconcile the know world with what Green herself has already printed as fact (that the Bible considers homosexuality to be a sin), not any discussion on pro-acceptance theology.  So whereas before she was unfairly using theology on civil matters, now she is 100% talking about religion and the Bible, yet unfairly excluding the large and growing people of inclusive faith. 

Towards the end of her article, Ms. Green says the following (highlighting is our own):

Jesus said that all the Ten Commandments could be summed up in just two, that is to love God with all your heart, soul and body, and the other is to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus spoke in plain words of truth and compassion, the twin tools of real change. One of the problems with every hot button social, political issue is conservatives and liberals take their positions and neither will budge. Liberals preach "compassion" and understanding, while conservatives tout a standard of moral "truths." One appears to be loving and giving; the other seems cold and dictatorial. But neither position affects real change and only makes the other side dig deeper into their positions. And each has a tendency to assume the moral high-ground.

So now we're back to politics and public policy, with just one more example of how those on the socially conservative side of things (which Ms. Green clearly is) just don't understand what the pro-equality "side" is saying. In terms of the operation of our government, personal views on "moral truths" are simply not on parity with legality, fairness, and constitutional guarantees. THIS SHOULD NOT A DEBATE! In the way Ms. Green has presented this piece, she has turned it into a 50%-50%, let's agree to disagree sort of discussion, which weaves in and out of civil and theological considerations at will. However, some things, such as the fact that church and state are separate in a non-theocratic nation, are not matters where the support and the dissent are on equal footing!

Alright, so we know this post is sort of jumbled. That's mainly because Ms. Green's own piece is clunky and hard to follow. To read it in its entirety and posit your own thoughts, click below. Just don't be expecting an actual reasoned discussion on whether homosexuality is a "sin," yet rather a one-sided commentary on American politics coming from a mind that already seems to have been made up about both Leviticus and its legitimacy in the White House:

Is Homosexuality a Sin? [Fox News]

**NOTE: And yes, the words "church verses [sic] state" are actually printed in the blog. Could be an honest typographical mistake (we've surely made many of them), or perhaps she just can't even spell the concept.

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Your thoughts

Why is she a journalist?

That was one of the most warbling, unfocused, inconclusive rambles I've read on the subject, and I've read a few.

As for putting the government in the judgement seat, what does she propose? That we throw the witch into the water and see if she floats? That we fire the judges and replace them with prophets who hear the voice of god? WTF?

Posted by: Willie Hewes | Jul 26, 2007 1:29:28 PM

Fox has been trying to groom her to be more of a journalist, and has been giving her more and more opportunities to opine. I think, however, she should stick to giving the headlines and playing piano. She is a fabulous concert pianist.

Posted by: Kristen | Jul 26, 2007 1:37:47 PM

Well she has read the Bible "nearly twice!"

I think I had accomplished that feat by the time that I was ten. The problem is that I knew very little about the historical and social context in which the book was written. I also read the King James Version which I love, but I understand is not such a good translation. As little as most of us understand about the modern culture of the midlle east, I would assume that we know even less about the ancients.

But whatever I believe about the Bible, I don't try to force my beliefs on others or use it to justify political positions.

I hope she is a better journalist than she is a Bible scholar, but my guess is she is not much of either one.

Posted by: Shanghaibill | Jul 26, 2007 9:47:57 PM

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