VIDEO: Press conference statements from faith leaders on the media imbalance

May 30, 2007, 6:45 pm | Posted by

Progressive religious are largely getting ignored, states Paul Waldman, Senior Fellow and Director of Special Projects at Media Matters from America.

Read more about the Media Matters/Faith in Public Life study, Left Behind: The Skewed Representation of Religion in the Major News Media, in yesterday’s post.

Katie Barge, Communications Director of Faith in Public Life, talks about solutions to the imbalance in faith voices in the MSM such as a Media Bureau full of progressive and centrist American religious leaders.

Rev. Brian McLaren, is a leader of the “emerging church” — a Christian evangelical movement that seeks new ways to worship and understand the gospel in a postmodern era — and Board Chairman for Sojourners/Call to Renewal. He notes the growing shift away from the “old guard” of evangelical issues toward interest in solving poverty, caring for creation, and ending the Iraq war.

Rev. Dr. Jim Forbes is the former Senior Pastor of The Riverside Church in New York City and host of The Time Is Now on Air America. He shares how his work in 2004 as a part of the Let Justice Roll campaign alerted him to this media bias against progressive faith voices.

Rabbi David Saperstein, the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, notes that one reason for the lack of progressive lies in the false assumption that conservatives are more religious. In fact, there are more moderates who involved in their faith.

Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, points out that most members of congregations rest in the middle between the far sides of religio-political dialogue.

Alexia Kelley, Executive Director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the fullness of the Catholic social tradition in the public square.

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Late, great proof that faithful progressives get left behind

May 29, 2007, 6:23 pm | Posted by

Today, Media Matters for America, along with Faith in Public Life and progressive religious leaders from throughout the country, held a press conference to discuss “Left Behind: The Skewed Representation of Religion in the Major News Media,” a new report documenting the overrepresentation of conservative religious figures in the major news media. Go here to sign a petition calling on major news media to balance their coverage!

Over at CrossWalk America, Dr. Eric Elnes who walked across America with a band of progressive Christians writes that he knows that media skew well. On his blog he writes: “What does a progressive Christian have to do to attract media attention?” asked CrossWalk America’s co-president, Dr. Eric Elnes in exasperation after reading the Bakker story in the Star. “Do we have to stand naked in the middle of town?”

In the press release, Media Matters for America and Faith in Public Life point out that:

In their coverage, news organizations overwhelmingly presented a picture in which religious Americans were defined as conservative Americans. This representation in the media proved to be a misleading characterization of how these so-called “values voters” influenced the 2006 elections, in which the “value” cited most by voters was the Iraq war, not issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

Here are the key findings:

* Combining newspapers and television, conservative religious leaders we studied were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed in news stories 2.8 times as often as were progressive religious leaders between November 3, 2004 — the day after the 2004 presidential election — and December 31, 2006.

* On television news — the three major television networks, the three major cable channels, and PBS — conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed almost 3.8 times as often as progressive leaders.

* In major newspapers, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed 2.7 times as often as progressive leaders.

Interestingly this has clearly struck a nerve as Fidelis (Defending Life, Faith, and Family) just put out a press release telling people not to take it seriously because the speakers are too progressive. On the other hand, Rev. Deb doesn’t think they are progressive enough and she suggests some other leaders the media could call. Some of them are here in the Faith in Public Life Voicing Faith Media Bureau.

Read the groundbreaking report here: Left Behind: The Skewered Representation of Religion in Major News Media.

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Get to know: National Religious Campaign Against Torture and The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib

May 25, 2007, 5:43 pm | Posted by

June is “Torture Awareness Month.” Thanks to Real Time with Bill Maher, this clip from the most recent presidential debate reveals a reason why we might need a whole month to reflect on this in America.

There’s a lot of torture in the air. Early on America was crafted on the principle of religious freedom in an historical moment when Catholics and varieties of Protestantism were employing terrorism and torture to defend their communities. (See Guy Fawkes, the Separatists, the Puritans, Bloody Mary, Fox’s book of Martyrs and the Spanish Inquisition.) Just as these religious groups learned to find alternative methods of will-to-power through dialogue and religious tolerance, so too will the fearful in our day; but only if we refrain from inflaming fears and “enhancing” our interrogation techniques.

The National Campaign Against Torture stands as a witness for true security and sustainable nonviolence.

“In a nation-wide project called “Spotlight on Torture,” the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) has arranged for DVD copies of “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib” to be available to 1,000 congregations, on a first come, first served basis — 50 during the week of June 10-17 and 950 during the week of October 21-28. Within those two weeks, congregations can choose the date and time they wish to schedule a screening and discussion.”

Ghosts of Abu Ghraib,” an 80-minute HBO film, features the familiar and very disturbing pictures of torture at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and raises many questions: How did torture become an accepted practice at Abu Ghraib? Did U.S. government policies make it possible? How much damage has the aftermath of Abu Ghraib had on America’s credibility as a defender of freedom and human rights around the world? Acclaimed filmmaker Rory Kennedy looks beyond the headlines to investigate the psychological and political context in which torture occurred.”

The Christian Century “Theolog” notes:

News services carried stories in early May about a Pentagon study that found many of the U.S. Marines and soldiers in Iraq would support torture in attempts to get strategic information and would not report on a comrade for killing or wounding civilians. General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, reminded service members that keeping high moral values “distinguishes us from our enemy” and is vital to winning support among Iraqis.

The study showed increasing mental health problems for troops on extended or multiple deployments. More than one-third of soldiers and marines believed that torture should be allowed to get information about insurgents or if it might save U.S. lives. Only 40 percent of U.S. Marines and 55 percent of soldiers said they would report a comrade for killing or injuring an innocent Iraqi.

In addition, “NRCAT is joining the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, and the Leadership Council on Civil Rights to sponsor a rally and lobby-day called, “Day of Action to Restore Law and Justice,” in Washington, DC, on June 26, 2007. The goal of the event is to end torture and secret prisons, to restore due process and fairness to our treatment of detainees, and to reform the abuses of the Military Commissions Act by enacting the Restoring the Constitution Act.”

Learn more here.

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Darfur at the Movies: “Sand and Sorrow”

May 25, 2007, 12:04 pm | Posted by

“Sand and Sorrow,” a new film about Darfur narrated by George Clooney, is on the verge of public screenings nationwide. The documentary highlights the historical events in Sudan that led to genocide as well as the logistical reasons for the United States’ weak and delayed response.

There are few issues that have brought together a broader coalition of religious leaders, human rights activists, political pundits, and journalists than Darfur. In the film, Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Barack Obama (D-IL) sit side by side pleading for action in Darfur — Brownback, an icon of the religious right, motivated by his views on respect for life, and Obama, an icon of the religious left, motivated by a grotesque violation of human rights.

The genocide in Darfur brought a coalition of religious groups together across ideological lines in an effort to convince the White House that more action is needed. The Save Darfur Coalition consists of over 170 faith based organizations speaking out against the genocide. This coalition includes leaders active within Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Evangelical, Baptist, Humanist, and Buddhist (among other) religious groups and there is no shortage of religious activism around the issue.

Sand and Sorrow is a documentary worth watching, it clearly illustrates that the pressure placed on the government about Darfur comes from both pro-life conservatives on the right and religious human rights activists on the left.

This film is a prime example of how people of faith can work together for the common good, ending genocide, and that certain issues have the potential to make strange bedfellows who can have a unique impact on public debates.

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No Brainer on Family Values?

May 24, 2007, 11:14 am | Posted by

The current immigration deal under consideration in the Senate needs a family values fix. Right now, there are “an estimated 1.5 million legal immigrants in the United States who have been waiting as long as seven years to bring husbands, wives and small children to live with them.” The current immigration bill does NOTHING to fix this, and in fact, reduces the number of family reunification visas available each year. This means that the backlog of families waiting to be reunited will only continue to grow.

Fortunately, there’s a bipartisan amendment by Sens. Clinton, Hagel, and Menendez that provides a family values fix. This amendment would declare the spouses and minor children of legal residents to be “immediate relatives”, exempting them from the visa caps. It could come up for a vote as soon as TODAY.

Several religious leaders appeared at a press conference yesterday in support of this amendment. But shouldn’t there be a lot more noise on this from the faith community, from the left and right? Shouldn’t all groups who claims to be pro-family be firing up their constituencies in support of of this family values fix? Here are the statements from religious leaders and organizations that we have seen so far… anyone seen any more?

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

“The amendment to be offered by Senators Clinton, Hagel and Menendez helps restore an element of family unity to the Senate compromise bill. As proposed, the legislation leaves family values at the Rio Grande,” said Kevin Appleby, Director, Migration and Refugee Policy, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

World Relief

“Families are the building blocks of an ordered and procreative society through which people are able to grow and experience the love of God. Our government must promote laws and policies that strengthen the well-being of all families- including immigrant families. It is through families that our communities are more stable and stronger and the Clinton-Hagel amendment would allow those who have waited legally, the right way, to be more quickly reunited with their loved ones. World Relief commends Senator Clinton, Senator Hagel and Senator Menendez’s commitment to the issue of family reunification within the Comprehensive Immigration Reform debate and looks to their leadership to continue to place priority on the value of family,” said Dan Kosten, Director of the World Relief Refugee and Immigration Programs.


“Senator Clinton has consistently provided leadership on this issue. She has never lost sight of the real families and children impacted by our broken immigration system,” said Reverend Luis Cortés, Founder and President of Esperanza, the largest Hispanic Evangelical organization. “Senator Clinton’s amendment would help reunite families now torn apart because of an unfair policy, and I want to thank her for her courage and commitment to fixing this injustice.”

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

“The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service applauds Senators Clinton, Hagel and Menendez for putting the principle of ‘families first’ back into this legislation. This amendment makes it possible for thousands of spouses and young children who have been separated from their families for an average of nearly 5 years to reunite far more quickly. Bringing families together is a core American value that LIRS stands firmly behind,” said Gregory Chen, Director for Legislative Affairs, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

Rev. Derrick Harkins, posted on Sojourner’s God’s Politics blog, from his testimony to the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law in the House of Representatives on May 22, 2007.

Family, in its strongest and most stable structure, is an essential pillar of our society…The limitation of family-based immigration by the reduction of family reunification visas would impair that family structure in significant measure. Siblings, adult children, and parents (those directly affected by any potential reduction) are in many examples and cultural contexts core, and not merely “extended,” family.

The Episcopal Church:

The Episcopal Church’s 2006 legislative body, General Convention, expressed strong support for comprehensive immigration legislation and regarded family unity as an imperative of any reformed system. …Sadly, the Senate compromise legislation includes provisions that devalue family sponsored immigration. Family reunification offers the stability and support needed for immigrants to thrive in our communities and as workers to meet the economic needs of our country. By passing the Clinton-Hagel amendment that would exempt spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents from the visa cap, the Senate would allow for more expeditious unification of immediate family members.

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Because, as a faith community, we believe in the importance of family, we strongly oppose provisions that will split families apart. Support of family unification has been a bedrock value of U.S. immigration policies because it has long been recognized that family unity fosters stable communities and provides needed support for workers while in the U.S.

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, spoke in favor of the Clinton-Hagel-Menendez amendment at yesterday’s press conference.

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