Can Catholic News Service undercut its credibility any more decisively as a bona fide journalistic venture? I doubt it. Not when it's willing to become a propaganda organ for the likes of Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas.
Catholic News Service is now running an article by Nate Madden claiming that there has been a 133% increase in "attacks on religion" in the past three years in the U.S. National Catholic Reporter has picked up the article. Madden's source? "A new report from the Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas, shows that incidents of "religious hostility" have more than doubled in the United States over the past three years."
And in case you're wondering, no, nary one of these "reports" has a thing to do with reported attacks on Muslims in the U.S. The report focuses, per the NCR iteration of it, on purported attacks on God-fearing American Christians who oppose gay marriage.
Catholic News Service is publishing this report three days after the city of Plano, in which Liberty Institute is located, declared petitions calling for a repeal of Plano's ordinance protecting LGBT citizens from discrimination invalid. As Wendy Hundley reports for Dallas Morning News,
The city’s announcement drew an immediate response from opponents of the ordinance that extends equal rights protections to people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
"While we are shocked that the city has so little regard for its citizens, we remain committed to advancing religious liberty and challenging this ordinance that clearly violates laws protecting religious freedom," said Jeff Mateer, general counsel for the Liberty Institute, a Plano-based nonprofit organization that defends religious liberty.
Liberty Institute is "shocked" because Liberty was, in fact, the driving force behind the attempt to repeal the Plano ordinance preventing discrimination against LGBT citizens of the city, as Wendy Hundley reported last December (see also Eric Nicholson). Right Wing Watch has an extensive dossier (and here) on Liberty Institute noting its thick ties to right-wing Texas demagogue Ted Cruz and its incessant attempts to gin up (and here) mythic stories of Christian "persecution" in the U.S. — stories precisely like what Catholic News Service is now reporting as fact.
As Matthew Haag reported for Dallas Morning News several years back, Liberty's attempts to influence national politics in a right-wing direction have extended even to an attempt to block the release of an unflattering report about Alaska governor Sarah Palin's involvement in the "Troopergate" scandal back in 2008.
I repeat: three days after the city of Plano refused to entertain petitions calling for the repeal of its ordinance protecting LGBT citizens from discrimination, Catholic News Service chooses to publish an article about the purported persecution of Christians in the U.S., which is centered on stories about the pretend-persecution of Christians opposed to same-sex marriage.
Can Catholic News Service, which is a more or less official journalistic arm of the U.S. Catholic bishops, do more to turn itself into a sleazy, disreputable, gay-bashing propaganda machine of the American religious right, I wonder? I seriously doubt it.
Reputable Catholic publications like NCR need to start thinking twice about aiding and abetting as this partisan political machine churns out its tripe, unless they want their own journalistic credibility compromised due to their association with this toxic propagandistic nonsense.