GetReligion.com, a respected blog that critiques and discusses reporting on religion, today covered the importance of inquiry and attribution in religion journalism. Terry Mattingly points to a blog post in a publication called Religion Dispatches that “demonstrates what happens when this process breaks down or, worse, is ignored.”
Religion Dispatches, in writing about a man in California who received a Church calling (lay assignment) and who states he is “openly gay,” implies that the Church’s position on sexuality and morality is somehow evolving and changing. GetReligion’s Mattingly correctly challenges that claim in asking Religion Dispatches to “back that statement up with some on-the-record quotations from people in positions of LDS authority. …Where are the crucial names and titles that make these claims matter? In other words, where is the journalistic infrastructure? Is this article news or opinion?”
In contrast, as GetReligion points out, an article in The Salt Lake Tribune quotes the local stake president (who presides over several congregations in an area similar to a diocese):
“Obviously we are not changing the standards of the church in terms of what you have to do to qualify to go to the temple or hold a church position,” said Roger Carter, Mayne’s LDS stake president. “There is no reason that men and women who have same-sex attraction cannot be participants in our meetings and in our congregations. They should be.”
GetReligion points to another line in the Tribune that states, “Though many liberal Mormons and gay activists are heralding Mayne’s appointment, it does not represent any change in LDS policy, which says it is no sin to have gay attraction, only to be sexually active outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman.”
In this period that many are calling another “Mormon Moment,” Mattingly correctly asserts, “If people make claims about evolving Mormon doctrines, look for names, titles and clear statements of attribution.”
There is a lot of interest in the Church and a lot being written about it. It’s important for the public to distinguish between fact, opinion and personal advocacy.