Photo credit: Mike MacKenzie via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

On Religious Freedom, the Media Serves Up More Fake News


Donald Trump is often mocked for his mantra “fake news,” not because he is wrong but because the two-syllable sound-bite is inarticulate and leaves itself wide open for pedantic criticism. Clever ideologues can easily turn it around on him when he is inaccurate with his own statements. However, there is a truth lurking behind the sound bite. The real criticism is that the mainstream media reports falsehoods consistently to at least some degree by ill-weighting facts, ideological propagation and emotionalism. Most news reports are conspicuously devoid of sound reasoning, objective moral truth and common sense. The current trend of fake news obscures the truth in representation necessary to the good society.

An old joke about politicians goes: “How do you know when a politician is lying? When his lips are moving.” One could easily now say the same about media pundits. The mainstream media is involved in the effort to transform our society. Unfortunately, to do so, they have to degrade the family, public morals and Christianity in the process — the three roadblocks that stand in the way of a completely morally relativistic culture. Their attempt to shape society is enacted by misrepresenting reality, and their efforts can be characterized by shorthand term “fake news.”

A prime example of a sincere, ideological, intellectually misleading and morally skewed journalism is a recent piece by Masha Gesson in The New Yorker addressing Mississippi House Bill 1523, also known as the Religious Liberty Accommodation Act. The bill is intended to protect individual consciences from government discrimination which is increasingly coercing good folks to cater to the sexual liberation agenda or suffer inordinate penalties. The bill is comprehensive and a step in the right direction to reintroduce common decency into the public conversation about sexual morality.

Gesson opens with the disordered assertion that House Bill 1523 “explicitly legalizes discrimination if it is motivated by one of three beliefs: that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, that sexual relations can take place only within such a marriage, and that gender is an immutable biological characteristic.” These are three vital issues in the public square. The lie Gesson and most of the mainstream media propagate is that the goods of freedom and conscience protected by the bill are bad things. The moral and intellectual confusion is intensified by incessant waves of false media reports supported by our educational system and codified by our legal system.

The fake species propagated by Gesson is “sexual and gender identity” — which in reality flows from the genus of moral disorder, not “civil rights.” In an alarmist fashion, she states, “Doctors, lawyers, and adoption agencies, among others, are now licensed to discriminate on the basis of sexual and gender identity.” No matter how many billions of times this is repeated, sexuality and gender are not species of the principle of substantive identity. They are fake names given to certain proclivities and powers acted upon, and in reality, they are descriptions of what people do, not what they are.

Gesson falsely characterizes House Bill 1523 as the “harshest of a recent wave of so-called religious-freedom laws.” The bill is not a “so-called” religious freedom law, but it is meant to protect the authentic freedom to live by revealed and inferred intellectual truth without reprisals from an increasingly disordered government.

The Trump administration has had the presence of mind to consider protecting men and women of good will and good conscience from the rising tides of LGBT ideological imperialism, but Gesson would falsely classify it as if “reversals in L.G.B.T. rights have been unremitting.” House Bill 1523 does no harm to LGBT people, but simply defends our natural rights to hold our own beliefs in the face of coercion from the state. Gesson mischaracterizes the President’s intentions by the fake claim that “a strategy of homophobia has proved irresistible to Trump.” Homophobia is not the issue; protecting religious freedom and conscience is.

The rest of Gesson’s New Yorker article is an exercise in fake reasoning, going on to make the fake assertion that LGBT woes arise from a “trend toward ever more policing of sex and an intensifying drive for the protection of children from nearly everything.” The truth is that the public conversation on sexual morality has already moved on to polyamory and intergenerational sex. And in a final moment of false argumentation, Gesson accuses those with a rightly ordered moral conscience of just not getting it, claiming that the “era of Trumpian reversal is expressed in terms of religious belief but driven by the desire to see children grow up in a world that their parents understand.” It is ironic that Gesson and the LGBT propagators do not understand what we would mean by morality flowing out of the natural law. They would deny there is a natural law, that human nature is fixed, and that our natures define and determine the things we can and cannot do within the bounds of a proper morality.

What would our Founding Fathers say about the positions Masha Gesson asserts as good? What would all men of good will and sound mind say of these troubling positions? And yet still, the problem is not with Gesson, but the army of which she is just one minuscule part. We face an army of fake news purveyors who would see the Great American Experiment end by the means of the moral turpitude they propagate in the name of fake freedom worshiping at the altar of sex. The final line of Gesson’s distorted article is most assuredly the truest thing she writes: “It is going to get ugly.” Although even this is not completely true — it is hard to deny that it already has.

Photo credit: Mike MacKenzie via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg

Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project, a writer in residence and teacher of philosophy and theology at Holy Spirit Preparatory School in Atlanta. He is also a senior contributor to The Imaginative Conservative and has written for numerous venues on matters of faith, culture and education.

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