'Gay' Journalism Conference Panel Targets Religious Influence on Public Policy

Should coverage of religion in America ignore conservative Christian leaders like Dr. Pat Robertson and Dr. James Dobson?

Yes, according to a session at the annual conference of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, held over the weekend in Washington D.C.

Organizer Mitchell Gold claimed the purpose of his session, titled “Oh God! (or Allah…Or Buddha): Reporting on Issues of Faith & Religion,” was to discuss how homosexual journalists can report more accurately on religion. 

If that was really Gold's purpose, then he recruited a very odd panel of experts.  The panel included just one journalist, David Waters of The Washington Post.  The other participants were former United Methodist minister Jimmy Creech, Episcopal seminary president Ian Markham, and Ann Craig, Director of Religion, Faith & Values for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

The discussion quickly degenerated into a seminar on how journalists can “conquer” the religion debate to advance the homosexual political agenda.  Not surprising, given that Gold, a furniture magnate, is the founder of Faith in America, a homosexual activist organization targeting the religious community.

According to Gold, “the single biggest [obstacle] to gays having equal rights in the country is religion,” so “I set myself to learn about it.”  GLAAD's Craig said, “We're not getting anyplace until we begin conquering the debate” in the religious community.

Creech, who was defrocked in 1999 for conducting same-sex “marriages,” asserted that Christian leaders like Robertson and Focus on the Family founder and psychologist Dr. James Dobson are “the most radical Christians in America today,” and represent “a very minority point of view.”

Creech encouraged the assembled reporters not to allow themselves to be “used” by the likes of Robertson and Dobson.  After observing that Robertson has a recording studio near his office, Creech said:

Many of the prominent …religious leaders understand how important it is to speak to the media, and so they make themselves available.  And because they are so available the media goes to them…. and they become the dominant voice for Christian people in this country.  In truth they are on the fringe.  They are the most radical Christians in America today.  They speak and represent a very minority point of view. But the public hears these voices over and over again and they begin to think 'this is what the Christian faith is all about.'   It's very important not to be used by those people who are wanting to get their voices out.  Don't let yourself be complicit.  Don't become their access to the public.  Know that there are many other voices to be heard who aren't standing around waiting to be asked, aren't making themselves accessible.  You have to work to find them.

David Waters, editor of the “On Faith” blog, which appears on The Washington Post and Newsweek Web sites, urged reporters “not to go” to established leaders like Robertson and Dobson, contrasting them to “real people”:

I think, as journalists, our No. 1 obligation is obviously to the truth, and if we're going to be about the truth then we have to fight and we have to fight for space and for time to tell the right story and to tell the real story, and I think the best way to go about that, at least I've found in my experience with my own reporting and with other reporters, is to take time and not go to the Pat Robertsons and the James Dobsons of the world but to find the real people who are really struggling with this issue.

While commenting on the issue of religious views affecting candidates' policies and positions, Waters rested his hand on Creech's shoulder and said, “As a Methodist, and Jimmy Creech is one of my heroes, by the way, most Methodists have no idea what Methodist doctrine says or means….If people start talking about their religious traditions… then as a journalist it's incumbent on me to challenge [them].…”

Gold himself boasted about his success in inserting a loaded question into the CNN/YouTube Democratic presidential debate.  The question challenged former candidate John Edwards for opposing same-sex “marriage” based on his personal religious beliefs.  Said Gold, “If you can get the questions out and get politicians not to use their religious beliefs for something like this, it's an extraordinary change.”

This NLGJA discussion illustrated that homosexual outreach to religious believers is not intended to find common ground, but to find a way to remove religious influence from the public square.

Brian Fitzpatrick is Senior Editor of the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.