Opinion: The News Media’s Selective Moral Outrage

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A Texas law concerning services provided by faith-based adoption agencies went into effect on September 1st. The bill extends additional legal protections to providers who refuse services to prospective families on the basis of “sincerely-held religious beliefs.” Many faith-based adoption agencies receiving taxpayer funds through state contracts had already been engaging in these practices. As faith-based service providers, they consider it important to weigh their religious beliefs in decisions to deny or allow adoptions or foster placement.

Sen. Charles Perry, the bill’s sponsor, had previously asserted that the legislation is not intended to discriminate against anyone. Instead, he had merely intended to ensure that faith-based providers would not be alienated from helping to place children in good homes during the current state foster care crisis.

Rather than honestly report the intentions of those legislators who voted in favor of the bill, the mainstream media smeared the bill as a direct attack on the LGBTQ community. HuffPost included it in a round-up of legislation nestled under the headline, “With All Eyes On Trump, Texas May Soon Pass Horrific Anti-LGBTQ Laws.” Likewise, a headline from The New York Times, “Texas Bill Would Let Adoption Agencies Reject Families on Religious Grounds,” conveniently ignored the fact that this practice already occurs.

It is interesting to compare the news media’s treatment of this bill with the way the mainstream media treated a 2013 Texas law requiring abortion facilities to meet hospital-like building and operational standards for the sake of women’s health and safety.

In that instance, Mother Jones cited the law within a piece titled, “The War on Women is Over and Women Lost.” A headline from USA Today, “States’ abortion limits erode right to choose: Our view,” chose to portray it as a restriction of access to abortion rather than a crackdown on women’s health clinics that don’t meet basic health and safety requirements, such as guaranteeing access to emergency care.

In addition to revealing the news media’s willingness to misrepresent public policy debates, these headlines also reveal the selective moral outrage of reporters as a result of their bias for certain lifestyle choices.

The mainstream media wants to smear any group or individual who asserts their constitutional rights, even in those cases where those groups and individuals may be helping to alleviate a serious statewide social crisis. On the other hand, if you lead a secular lifestyle and you want abortion on-demand, the media will act as if your actions should be completely unrestrained, even by legitimate concerns for health and safety.

For a more local example, look no further than the media’s coverage of the recent fight over crisis pregnancy centers after the King County Board of Health implemented a rule requiring them to post signs telling women that the centers aren’t healthcare facilities.

It is a dangerous state of affairs when the news media operates under such an irrational moral framework.  The founding fathers intended a free press to serve the people as both a check-and-balance on government power and as the megaphone of strong cultural values. By these standards, in the case of Texas, the media has completely failed us.

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