ABC correspondent Jake Tapper quoted several participants in a conference titled "The War Against Christians" who complained that the concerns of conservative Christian voters are being ignored on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. But nowhere in Tapper's report were any progressive voices included, nor were any Christian leaders quoted who disagree with the notion that there is a "war on Christianity."
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On the March 28 edition of ABC's World News Tonight, correspondent Jake Tapper reported on a conference in Washington, D.C., titled "The War Against Christians." In his report, Tapper quoted several of the conference participants, who complained that the concerns of conservative Christian voters are being ignored on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. But nowhere in Tapper's report were any progressive voices included, nor were any Christian leaders quoted who disagree with the notion that there is a "war on Christianity." Tapper also asserted that the "biggest threat for the Republican Party is not that these distressed values voters will vote for Democrats but that come this November, they will not vote at all," but likewise quoted no Democratic politicians despite noting that former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) was received "very warmly" at the conference and including a portion of DeLay's remarks in his report.
In contrast, a March 29 Washington Post report on the conference by staff writer Alan Cooperman quoted two religious figures disagreeing with the premise of the conference:
To many of the 400 evangelicals packed into a small ballroom at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, it was a hard but necessary look at moral relativism, hedonism and Christophobia, or fear of Christ, to pick just a few terms offered by various speakers referring to the enemy.
To some outsiders, it illuminated the paranoia of the Christian right.
"Certainly religious persecution existed in our history, but to claim that these examples amount to religious persecution disrespects the experiences of people who have been jailed and died because of their faith," said K. Hollyn Hollman, general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.
"This is a skirmish over religious pluralism, and the inclination to see it as a war against Christianity strikes me as a spoiled-brat response by Christians who have always enjoyed the privileges of a majority position," said the Rev. Robert M. Franklin, a minister in the Church of God in Christ and professor of social ethics at Emory University.
Tapper also reported that "[p]olitical observers say so-called values voters were key to President Bush's re-election victory," but that at the conference "many of those same voters, their pastors, and their leaders say they feel duped by the Republican Party and the Bush administration." But as Media Matters for America previously noted, a 2004 post-election Gallup poll refuted the notion, advanced by many media commentators immediately following Bush's re-election, that "moral values" voters determined the outcome of the election. The poll showed that "moral values" tied with unemployment and jobs, and ranked lower than the war in Iraq, terrorism, and the economy; an Editor & Publisher report on the poll declared that it "deal[t] a death blow to the whole idea" that so-called values voters determined the outcome of the election.
The March 28 report was not Tapper's first report on religion that lacked progressive voices. As Media Matters has previously documented, while noting during a January 24 ABC Nightline report that Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s confirmation would mean that a majority of the Supreme Court would consist of Catholics, Tapper stated that "liberals do have some concerns about such a Catholic court." But that report quoted no identifiable liberals or Democrats either expressing concern about a Catholic majority on the Supreme Court or rebutting the notion that a Catholic court per se provokes concern.
The conference was sponsored by Vision America, a conservative evangelical group founded by Rick Scarborough, a Texas Baptist minister. He is the author of the book Liberalism Kills Kids (21st Century Press, March 2006), which purports to document "the devastating failure of America's 40-year experiment with liberal statism."
From the March 28 broadcast of ABC's World News Tonight:
ELIZABETH VARGAS (anchor): We're going to take "A Closer Look" at conservatives mobilizing to fight what they call the war on Christians in this country. Religious conservatives have been meeting in Washington to explore "the far-reaching assault on Judeo-Christian values." Thirty percent of Americans are Christian conservatives. And with Republicans controlling Congress and the White House, it's widely believed they have more influence than at any time in recent memory. So, why are so many so angry? ABC's Jake Tapper takes "A Closer Look."
TAPPER: At the Bethlehem, Georgia, First Baptist Church, on Christmas Avenue, pastor Jody Hice told his congregation Sunday that battle lines are being drawn.
HICE: We find ourselves, without question, in the midst of a cultural war. It's a war on Christians.
TAPPER: His congregants were ready to sign up.
BRYANT DUNSHA (church member): The Bible-believing Christian conservatives are banding together.
TAPPER: Hice traveled to a conference sponsored by the conservative evangelical group Vision America, titled "The War on Christians." It featured prominent conservative Christian leaders discussing how they're losing the culture wars on issues such as abortion, gay marriage, liberal judges, and Hollywood. They also called the popular website MySpace.com poison for its millions of young users.
REBECCA HAGELIN (vice president of communications and marketing, The Heritage Foundation): It's a pornography hole, OK? That's what it is. MySpace.com.
TAPPER: Political observers say so-called values voters were key to President Bush's re-election victory. But here at this conference, many of those same voters, their pastors, and their leaders say they feel duped by the Republican Party and the Bush Administration.
SCARBOROUGH: The last election, values voters, in many ways, were used.
TAPPER: They say they Republicans brought out their big issues, pandered to them, and then forgot all about them. Such as with the proposed constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.
SCARBOROUGH: If our president would speak more directly to that issue, even when he's not running for election, we'd get a lot more traction in the Senate and the House.
TAPPER: Embattled congressman Tom DeLay was received very warmly. But even he seemed to distance himself from the Republican establishment. He praised the religious beliefs of previous presidents, but did not mention President Bush.
DeLAY: In America, the greatest leaders aren't the ones in houses of Congress, but in houses of God.
TAPPER: The biggest threat for the Republican Party is not that these distressed values voters will vote for Democrats but that come this November, they will not vote at all. Jake Tapper, ABC News, Washington.