Gov. Matt Bevin

Faith on both sides of abortion? Yes, according to AP — but this is why debate falls short

Faith on both sides of abortion? Yes, according to AP — but this is why debate falls short

Over the weekend, an Associated Press national story highlighting the abortion battle in Kentucky got a bunch of play by major news organizations.

In general, this coverage impresses me as more balanced than most mainstream news reports on abortion. 

And the piece even delves — a little bit — into the religious beliefs of sources on both sides of the abortion debate. More on that in a moment.

But first, let's start at the top with AP's lede:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Both sides in the abortion fight raging in Kentucky agree on one thing: The stakes are as high as ever in a state that could become the first in the nation without an abortion clinic.
Political pressure has intensified since the Kentucky GOP took control of state government and moved quickly to pass new restrictions on abortions. And Republican Gov. Matt Bevin makes no apologies for waging a licensing fight against a Louisville clinic that is the last remaining facility performing abortions in the state.
Another battle-tested participant joins the fight this weekend. Operation Save America, a Christian fundamentalist group, plans to mobilize hundreds of activists to protest against EMW Women’s Surgical Center.
The group’s leaders state their purpose unequivocally: to rid Kentucky of its last abortion clinic. Some of the group’s followers were arrested during a protest outside EMW in the spring. The group has said it won’t use those same tactics in the coming days, but a federal judge on Friday ordered the creation of a “buffer zone” to keep protesters out of an area in front of the clinic. The pre-emptive move was requested by federal prosecutors to prevent protesters from blocking access to the surgical center.

A quick aside before I get to the real point of this post: You probably noticed that AP characterizes Operation Save America as "a Christian fundamentalist group." That's also how Wikipedia defines the group, previously known as Operation Rescue National. Is that proper usage of "fundamentalist," according to AP's own stylebook?

Here's what the stylebook says under its "religious movements" entry:

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Yo, journalists: Kentucky has solved its gay-marriage dilemma and Kim Davis is happy

Yo, journalists: Kentucky has solved its gay-marriage dilemma and Kim Davis is happy

You remember Kim Davis, right? 

Yes, we're still talking about the Rowan County clerk who insisted that her Apostolic Christian beliefs would not allow her to sign -- as required by Kentucky law -- marriage licenses for same-sex couples. If you are drawing a blank, click here and surf around.

At the height of early Kim Davis mania -- when her brief time behind bars was dominating headlines and even evening news shows -- I had an interesting email dialogue with a mainstream news reporter. I was arguing, here at GetReligion, that reporters were ignoring two crucial facts in this story.

Fact 1: From the beginning, Davis and her legal team were open to a compromise that would allow other local and state officials to sign marriage licenses. This would mean removing the slot on the license form requiring the signature of the county clerk.

Fact 2. From the beginning, there were Democrats, as well as Republicans, in the state legislature who backed this compromise -- which would recognize the religious liberty rights of clerks, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

The problem was my use of the positive word "compromise." I was working under what some considered the false impression that a political course of action represented "compromise" if it (a) granted each side their primary goal (same-sex marriage on one side, freedom of religious conscience on the other) and (b) was backed by a broad, centrist coalition of Democrats and Republicans.

My reporter friend's logic was simple: Elite journalists were not going to consider this a "compromise" if Davis was happy with it. Now, what's the implication of that statement?

This brings me to a recent Reuters piece that may, perhaps, wrap up the long, tortured story of Davis and her efforts in support of the free exercise of religious convictions (see the First Amendment). This development has not received much national attention, but I think it's crucial.

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