As my time in journalism school at Cal Poly continues to retreat into the dim corners of my memory, there are still handful of in-class incidents that I remember from those halcyon days of the early ’90s.
This morning on “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace made a statement that triggered on of those memories.
Professor Victor Valle, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, had just started teaching in the journalism program and I was in his reporting class. The day’s topic was how to cover a story with competing interests and the example he used to start the discussion was a video of the homosexual rights group ACT UP vandalizing a Catholic church.
After showing the video, Valle opened up the class discussion with something along the lines of you have two competing interests here: The Catholic has the right not to be vandalized, but the gay activists are protesting the church’s position on contraception and how it leads to the spread of AIDS in the gay community. How do we weigh these two sides when writing a story on this topic?
I didn’t see it. I raised my hand and pointed out the logical leaps required to hold the Catholic church to blame for the spread of AIDS because they opposed condom use.
- Yes, the Catholic church opposes the use of condoms, but…
- The Catholic church also preaches sexual abstinence before marriage.
- Gays cannot marry. (This is the early ’90s, so I didn’t even need to get into fact that Catholics believe homosexual behavior is sinful in and of itself.)
- If the ACT UP protesters followed Catholic teaching from A-Z, it would be nearly impossible for them to become infected with AIDS. What right did they have to attack the Catholic church for its position on condoms as if that’s the only Catholic doctrine they were violating that was getting them sick.
By the time I was finished, there were no “competing interests” to weigh. The vandals were wrong and you wrote the story with just one interest: The church didn’t deserve to be vandalized.
This morning, during a debate between the head of NARAL and the lawyer defending the Little Sisters of the Poor in a lawsuit over Obama’s contraception mandate, host Chris Wallace wrongly used the same formulation from Professor Valle’s class more than two decades ago.
Let me bring this back, because it seems to me that there were two legitimate competing interests here. One is religious freedom and the other is women’s access to health care.
No, the problem as it’s been stated so many times before the only interest here is religious freedom. The nuns aren’t seeking to prohibit anyone’s “access to health care.” (Is the local Rite-Aid pharmacy limiting my access to “health care” when they put the condoms in a locked display case?) They don’t want to be forced to pay to fund what they see to be someone else’s sinful behavior.
As National Review writer Charles C.W. Cooke (and others) have pointed out, the formulation NARAL and the Obama administration is pushing would be paralleled by saying that National Review is infringing on Cooke’s 2nd Amendment rights because they refuse to buy him an AR-15.
There is no “access to health care” issue here. There never has been. It would be nice if the mainstream media could wrap their simple minds around it.