Mississippi students protest time change for religious group's meeting, sparking a GetReligion question


“Now ... is it only important for reporters to keep in mind that ‘The Freedom From Religion Foundation has an agenda,’ or can religious believers have an agenda, too?”

That’s the question that a regular GetReligion reader asked in an email in which he provided links to recent coverage of a religion-related public school protest in Mississippi.

The question follows a post that I wrote last week reminding journalists — not for the first time — that regurgitating the anti-religion group’s talking points as if they’re the gospel truth is not great journalism.

My quick response to the reader is this: Of course it’s important for reporters to keep that in mind in both cases.

But also, I’d add this: Be sure to contact me the next time a major newspaper does stenography for the Alliance Defending Freedom or a similar religious freedom group on the right. I’ll believe it when I see it.

As for the specific examples that the reader provided — presumably to point out that media coverage can be troubled on the other side of the theological aisle, too — OK, I’ll bite.

The first link he shared was a sketchy, breaking news item from the Mississippi Clarion Ledger:

A student protest is underway at Tylertown High School because students who are members of the student religious group First Priority say the group's meetings have been moved from during school hours to after-school.

WJTV.COM reports a number of students have left class and are protesting at the school.

All calls for comment were referred to Wade Carney, Walthall County School District Superintendent. He was not in his office and it was not known when he would return.

Keep reading, and the superintendent hasn’t responded yet to requests for comments. It’s totally unclear why the meeting times have been changed.

There are so many unanswered questions. Yes, I’d like to know more. Yes, more sources should be contacted. Yes, constitutional law experts on the left, at the center and on the right would make tremendous sources if this is a church-state issue.

And no, this story has nothing to with my totally reasonable complaints about the Freedom From Religion Foundation piece in the Tulsa World last week. But give the reader credit for trying. This just isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison.

I’ve written several hundred posts for GetReligion over the last nine-plus years. I’ve always been 100 percent transparent about my bias. That bias is for accurate, impartial journalism that treats all sides fairly.

That’s all I was seeking in the post that sparked the reader’s question.

Carry on, folks, and thanks for reading.

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