Accuracy in Media

Everybody had a good laugh on November 17 when President Bush pardoned two Thanksgiving turkeys named Biscuits and Gravy. The Washington Post noted that the event was covered by “dozens of international reporters, photographers and television cameramen.” But the stories we saw in the Post, on CNN and elsewhere neglected to mention that the President went on to speak eloquently about the religious significance of Thanksgiving. The media are clearly uncomfortable with the topic.

Alluding to its Christian origin, Bush said, “Thanksgiving tradition dates back to our nation’s earlier days. We are a nation founded by men and women who deeply felt their dependence on God and always gave Him thanks and praise?”

Such “faith-based” comments are a critical reason why Bush won the election on November 2. The Democrats and their media allies were clueless. The “values voters” who went for Bush also sent shock waves through the political system when they overwhelmingly passed anti-homosexual-marriage measures in 11 states. On November 15, however, those voters got slapped in the face when the Department of Defense capitulated to the ACLU and announced that it will no longer officially sponsor units of the Boy Scouts on military bases here and abroad. The ACLU objects to any Pentagon sponsorship of the organization because the Scouts require belief in God.

The House of Representatives reacted by passing a resolution, in a 391-3 vote, honoring the Boy Scouts. The three opposed were Democratic Reps. John Dingell of Michigan, Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Lynn Woolsey of California. The pro-Scouts resolution, however, was nonbinding and has no force of law. Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld has now been asked by several House members to “reconsider the concession” to the ACLU, as Associated Press put it. So it’s in his hands?or certainly the hands of the President himself.

While the U.S. military can’t officially sponsor the Scouts, Randy Myers of Knight Ridder Newspapers has disclosed that many U.S. military bases now hold services for Wiccan servicemen and servicewomen. He reported that one of their “sacred circles,” where witchcraft is practiced, was held on a U.S. military base in Iraq. One Wiccan website advertises “all of your occult or witchcraft needs,” including ritual supplies and incense. The “Wizard’s Book of Spells” describes how to use the “tricks of the trade,” including a magic wand. In no time at all, it says, “you’ll cast your spells at will.” This is not Harry Potter. This is for real.

In his remarks, Bush also declared that, “During this holiday season, we think especially of our men and women of the armed forces, many of whom are spending Thanksgiving far from home.”

The fact is, in the first Gulf War, American troops fought and died to protect the territorial integrity of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the latter of which was recently designated a “country of particular concern” by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom because freedom of religion simply does not exist. Non-Muslims are arrested, imprisoned and tortured by the religious police there.

Ironically, American troops are now fighting and dying in Afghanistan and Iraq to bring into being Islamic regimes like the one in Saudi Arabia that could crush non-Muslim religions and their followers.

In January of this year, the commission points out, Afghanistan adopted a Constitution that states that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of Islam.” Colin Powell’s State Department has to take most of the blame for not insisting on freedom of religion in the new Afghanistan. Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice must do whatever she can to rectify the damage.   

In Iraq, the interim constitution states that legislation shall not be contrary to the “universally agreed upon tenets of Islam.” Commission Chair Preeta D. Bansal says that “The U.S. government cannot lose sight of the vital need to ensure that the fundamental right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief is guaranteed in Iraq’s permanent constitution?It is critical that what happened in Afghanistan not be repeated in Iraq.”

President Bush’s remarks about the religious significance of Thanksgiving were important and newsworthy. Equally significant, however, are the policies adopted by his administration, including the departments of state and defense. The President’s policies should match his rhetoric.

Our troops should not be sacrificing their lives and limbs to bring into being regimes that might outlaw the Thanksgiving holiday we celebrate here, on the spurious grounds that it is too religious or even “Christian.” If we aren’t fighting for religious freedom abroad, then we might eventually lose it here. But don’t expect journalists to keep you informed on this topic. Most of them would rather write about turkeys.

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