Separation of Church and Scrutiny; Only Exotic and Obscure Religions Get a Free Pass from Liberal Press

Article excerpt

Byline: Daniel Allott, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Of all the double standards that define the left-leaning political media, perhaps the most glaring involves the separate standards it uses in covering candidates' religious beliefs.

Candidates who are members of exotic or obscure religions regularly escape scrutiny. But faithful adherents to mainstream religions are heavily scrutinized and, at times, are attacked for their beliefs, which are routinely portrayed as strange or dangerous.

There has been a lot of talk about the prejudice and discrimination Mitt Romney would have to endure as the first viable Mormon presidential candidate, but details of the presidential front-runner's faith have barely been discussed.

There seems to be an unspoken agreement in the media that Mormonism, which even Mr. Romney recently acknowledged is an unusual religion in a number of respects - is off-limits.

Mr. Romney is not alone. In 2006, Keith Ellison became the first Muslim elected to Congress. Only five years removed from Sept. 11 and with the U.S. engaged in two wars against Islamists, the Minnesota lawmaker might have expected his faith to be a liability during the campaign. But it may have helped him win.

Ellison's Muslim faith has generated no controversy in the campaign, Minneapolis lawyer Scott W. Johnson wrote in the Weekly Standard before the election. On the contrary, it has served to insulate aspects of his public record from close scrutiny in a city whose dominant news organ, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, is a paragon of political correctness.

Protected from scrutiny of his religious beliefs and dubious past, including his relationships with the Nation of Islam and members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Mr. Ellison has won each of his three elections by no less than 34 percentage points.

President Obama's faith has similarly been deemed off-limits. For two decades before he became president, Mr. Obama attended the church of the controversial pastor Jeremiah Wright. Mr. Wright's church, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, preaches black liberation theology, a religious philosophy whose goal is to liberate blacks from oppression.

Mr. Wright made numerous incendiary remarks from the pulpit during the time Mr. Obama attended, including a suggestion that America was to blame for the attacks of Sept. 11.

The press mostly ignored Mr. Obama's association with Mr. Wright and his church, and berated anyone who brought it up. A pre-election New York Times editorial argued that Mr. Obama's religious connection with Mr. Wright should be none of the voters' business.

In the campaign, Republican nominee John McCain refused to mention Mr. Obama's church or pastor in ads, interviews, speeches or debates. Because neither the mainstream media nor Mr. McCain was willing to talk about Mr. Wright or Trinity, many voters never heard much about them.

Contrast this with the media's treatment of candidates from mainstream faiths. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 26 percent of Americans identify as evangelicals, making evangelical Christianity the most commonly practiced religion in the country.

Despite the pervasiveness of their faith, evangelical Christian candidates routinely receive excessive negative scrutiny from the media. …