Parents

Religious freedom vs. gay rights: Will new adoption laws mean more or fewer kids get permanent homes?

Religious freedom vs. gay rights: Will new adoption laws mean more or fewer kids get permanent homes?

The Associated Press claims to abhor bias, but when it comes to reporting on clashes between gay rights and religious freedom, the global wire service often slants its coverage toward the LGBTQ side.

That's particularly true when the byline atop the story belongs to David Crary, a New York-based AP national writer who covers social issues. Think Kellerism — reporting in which certain "settled" matters are declared unworthy of balanced coverage.

With all of the above in mind, AP's — and Crary's — treatment of new adoption laws protecting faith-based providers in Texas and South Dakota should surprise no one paying attention: 

With tens of thousands of children lingering in foster care across the United States, awaiting adoption, Illinois schoolteachers Kevin Neubert and Jim Gorey did their bit. What began with their offer to briefly care for a newborn foster child evolved within a few years into the adoption of that little boy and all four of his older siblings who also were in foster care.
The story of their two-dad, five-kid family exemplifies the potential for same-sex couples to help ease the perennial shortfall of adoptive homes for foster children. Yet even as more gays and lesbians adopt, some politicians seek to protect faith-based adoption agencies that object to placing children in such families.
Sweeping new measures in Texas and South Dakota allow state-funded agencies to refuse to place children with unmarried or gay prospective parents because of religious objections. A newly introduced bill in Congress would extend such provisions nationwide.

A fair, full treatment of the subject matter would approach the laws impartially. Such coverage would give both supporters and opponents an opportunity to make their best case. It would seek advocate and expert insight — not to mention relevant numerical data — into whether the measures will result in more or fewer children receiving permanent homes.

But AP approaches the story almost entirely from the perspective of gay parents. The wire service (Crary specifically) seems uninterested in questioning whether protecting the sincere religious beliefs of faith-based foster and adoption providers actually will allow more children to find homes. 

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Hey AP, your slanted headline on Texas adoption story is why so many distrust mainstream press

Hey AP, your slanted headline on Texas adoption story is why so many distrust mainstream press

This Associated Press headline screams discrimination:

Texas adoption agencies could ban Jews, gays, Muslims

But is anti-Jewish, anti-gay and/or anti-Muslim discrimination really the emphasis of a Texas lawmaker's bill that he says is designed to protect the religious freedom of faith-based adoption agencies?

Or is the idea that, say, a Baptist ministry licensed by the state should be able to adhere to its "sincerely held religious beliefs" and choose only parents in keeping with its beliefs — meaning heterosexual, married, Christian couples?

AP — in a slanted report that illustrates why so many Americans doubt the mainstream press' ability to be fair and accurate — seems uninterested in telling both sides of the story.

From the beginning, the wire service report — which was touted on this morning's daily news email from The Dallas Morning News — seems mainly concerned with the perspective of gay-rights advocates:

Parents seeking to adopt children in Texas could soon be rejected by state-funded or private agencies with religious objections to them being Jewish, Muslim, gay, single, or interfaith couples, under a proposal in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Five other states have passed similar laws protecting faith-based adoption organizations that refuse to place children with gay parents or other households on religious grounds — but Texas' rule would extend to state-funded agencies. Only South Dakota's is similarly sweepingly.
The bill had been scheduled for debate and approval Saturday in the state House, but lawmakers bogged down with other matters. It now is expected to come up next week.
Republican sponsors of Texas' bill say it is designed to support the religious freedom of adoption agencies and foster care providers. Many of the agencies are private and faith-based but receive state funds.
But opponents say it robs children of stable homes while funding discrimination with taxpayer dollars.
"This would allow adoption agencies to turn away qualified, loving parents who are perhaps perfect in every way because the agency has a difference in religious belief," said Catherine Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign. "This goes against the best interest of the child."

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This news isn't fake, but it's flawed: Three problems with NPR's report on religious freedom bills

This news isn't fake, but it's flawed: Three problems with NPR's report on religious freedom bills

Well, that didn't last long.

A week after Donald Trump's stunning election as president, I wrote a GetReligion post with this title:

Based on Trump's win, it looks like religious liberty really is a thing — with no scare quotes

In that post, I gave a brief history of biased and lackluster media coverage of religious freedom bills tied to conscience claims by people of faith. (If any of this is new to you, I'd encourage you to take a moment and read that post before proceeding with this one.)

In a nutshell, here's the issue I explored back in November:

Fast-forward to the 2016 presidential election, which was won by a candidate — Donald Trump — who pledged in a letter to Catholics last month to "defend your religious liberties and the right to fully and freely practice your religion, as individuals, business owners and academic institutions."
It seems that — to many voters — religious freedom was an important issue in the Nov. 8 election. An issue to which many news organizations were tone-deaf, based on their previously mentioned coverage.
So will coverage of this subject improve based on a new president in the White House?
Perhaps.

I then cited a newsy, balanced Associated Press story that raised my hopes for better journalism.

I'm not feeling as optimistic, though, after a reader called my attention to a weekend NPR report on religious freedom bills. On the positive side, the NPR piece offers a nice case study in how a news organization that claims "impartiality" ought not to cover the issue.

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