Nevada Newspaper Smears Sharron Angle With Classic Guilt By Association Technique

Here's a slimy journalistic tactic with which most conservatives are all too familiar: note that two people or groups agree on one point, and then suggest that consequently they must agree on all other points. Chris Matthews (among many others) used this tactic to smear Tea Parties as tantamount to militia groups - both share a distaste for big government, therefore they must agree on all other points.

The Las Vegas Sun employed the tactic on Sunday in a front page piece on Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle in an attempt to paint her religious views as radical. She believes that "religion has an expansive role to play in government" and that arguments to the contrary misunderstand the First Amendment.

Christian Reconstructionists share this belief (along with millions of Americans), Sun reporter Anjeanette Damon noted. But Damon went on to try to tie Angle to a host of other wacky beliefs that she does not share with the movement.

Damon writes:

The movement’s more extreme beliefs are based on a strict interpretation of Mosaic law described in the Old Testament and include the execution of homosexuals and unchaste women and the denial of citizenship to those who don’t adhere to Reconstructionists’ religious beliefs. Angle has never advocated those views.

Reconstructionists’ primary mission, however, is to “reconstruct” the family, the church and the state according to biblical law.

To accomplish that, Reconstructionists interpret the separation of church and state doctrine as a constitutional wall protecting the church from the state. But unlike most interpretations of that doctrine, the Reconstructionists’ envisions a gaping one-way hole in the wall that allows Christian doctrine to infuse government. In other words, government must not interfere with Christians’ efforts to enact God’s law at home or at church and government itself should be run according to biblical law.

One leading Reconstructionist describes it as an “institutional separation,” according to Julie Ingersoll, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Florida. “Family, church and state — all are under biblical law” according to Reconstructionist belief, Ingersoll said.

It’s unclear how closely Angle’s view of the separation of church and state matches that description. Through spokesman Jerry Stacy, Angle refused to provide any insight into her religious beliefs when asked last week.

The sentence "Angle has never advocated those views" is meant to absolve the reporter of any culpability for doing her best to tie Angle to views she does not hold. If she has never advocated those views, why are the next four paragraphs spent extrapolating those positions in an article headlined "Sharron Angle’s take on separation of church and state"?

Then Damon drops another old journalistic canard, saying it's "unclear" whether Angle holds these views. Of course it's unclear - neither Damon nor anyone else has offered any evidence to suggest she does hold those views!

Are there any other views that Angle shares with Reconstructionists? Well, Damon notes,

Under Reconstructionist thought, government should have no role in education, safety net benefits such as Social Security or welfare, or in environmental protection. Angle has similarly advocated those positions.

So the only actual evidence that Angle even remotely shares Reconstructionist political views is that she espouses…conservative political views.

Mark Hemingway, who calls the Sun article "the most biased news story of the year (so far!)," nicely sums up that line of argument:

Here all this time you thought you were just a mainstream conservative, but little did you know that you’re really a Christian Reconstructionist!

This article is repugnant on just about every level. I guess it could be seen as progress that Angle is running against a Mormon, and he’s the one with less controversial religious views. But I think the lesson we’re learning is that the press is generally hostile to religion — unless they’re talking about Democrat.

Media Bias Debate Religion Campaigns & Elections Labeling Christianity 2010 Congressional Nevada Sharron Angle