Are American Christians Facing Persecution

It’s worth thinking about why a worldwide news service would think such an obviously provocative image would be worth transmitting in a story about Christian children whose faith does not permit them to approve of homosexuality.

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In early March, the Associated Press reported a story on Trail Life USA, an outdoors club started for boys whose convictions about the moral status of homosexuality made it impossible for them to belong to the Boy Scouts of America, which now accepts gay members. The story said that the Trail Lifers were learning a new salute; a photo accompanying the piece depicted the boys with their right arms extended, as if they were Hitler Youth.

Indeed, that’s exactly how veteran religion reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman, now at Religion News Service, interpreted the gesture, and told her nearly 10,000 Twitter followers. The trouble was, the shocking image was deceptive. It did not show a salute, but rather captured a moment when the boys were lowering their arms while singing “Taps.” Under a barrage of criticism, Grossman apologized for her Nazi characterization. The AP removed the photo from its database, grudgingly conceding that transmitting an image as easily misinterpreted as that one was unwise.

Still, it’s worth thinking about why a worldwide news service would think such an obviously provocative image would be worth transmitting in a story about Christian children whose faith does not permit them to approve of homosexuality. And it is worth considering why one of the most prominent religion reporters in America would think nothing of likening these children to Hitler Youth. As Grossman explained in a self-justifying Tweet prior to her apology, the beliefs of these Evangelical Christian children are “ugly.”

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Therefore, it’s plausible that their parents are teaching them to be little Nazis? This is, quite simply, deranged. But this is how traditional Christian moral teaching on homosexuality is rapidly becoming seen by the mainstream media, and by cultural opinion makers. It is no secret that the American media is far more secular and far more liberal on social issues than most Americans. And it is no surprise that the press coverage of the gay marriage controversy has been staggeringly slanted toward the pro-gay side (for example, a 2013 study by the non-partisan Pew Center found pro-gay marriage stories outnumbered stories about those opposed by a stunning five to one.

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Rod Dreher
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