ABC, CBS Omit Win for Religious Liberty in the Supreme Court, NBC Downplays

When the Supreme Court of the United States released its latest batch of rulings on Monday, most eyes were on the Court allowing partial implementation of the President’s travel ban on six Middle Eastern countries. The Big Three Networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) spent a lot of time hyper focusing on that ruling and the CBO report of the Senate health care bill. There was also a big win for religious liberty that got omitted from the reports of both ABC and CBS, while NBC simply tacked it onto the end of their travel ban report.

The case was Trinity Lutheran Church v. the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (Comer). Fox News’ Special Report was one of few TV outlets to cover the development. “The church applied for a state grant to resurface its gravel playground surface with a rubberized surface,” reported Correspondent Doug McKelway. “Missouri denied the church’s request on the grounds it was a religious institution.”

In reading from the 7-2 majority opinion, which included liberal Justices Stephan Breyer and Elena Kagan, McKelway said: “But the court sided with the church noting quote: ‘The consequences, in all likelihood, a few extra scraped knees. But the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.’”

During NBC Nightly News, Justice Correspondent Pete Williams was the only network journalist to mention the religious liberty win. But he merely gave it a brief mentioned at the end of his report on the fate of Trump’s travel ban. “The Court ruled that states cannot refuse to give taxpayer money to churches, especially for programs of general public benefit like making playgrounds safer,” he noted for Anchor Lester Holt. “And the court said it will hear an appeal in the fall from a Denver baker who says that having to bake cakes for same-sex weddings violates his religious freedom.”

When the Supreme Court first heard the oral argument for the case back in mid-April, NBC was the only network to cover it. And in his report at the time, Williams sounded worried that the court would rule the way they ultimately did: in favor of a church over state. “If Trinity Lutheran wins this case, it will be a radical change from the way we've always treated religious institutions in this country,” an anti-religious liberty advocate told Williams in his report.

At the time, Williams seemed put off by the support Trinity Lutheran appeared to be getting from some of the liberal justices:

But a majority on the court seemed to side with the church including the newest justice, Neil Gorsuch. Elena Kagan said “this is a clear burden on a constitutional right,” not to be discriminated against. Stephan Breyer asked, how refusing to give the grant money is any different to declining to give churches police and fire protection, or including religious students in community-wide vaccination programs.

In addition, the top two U.S. Spanish-language television networks, Univision and Telemundo, also paid no mind to Trinity Lutheran's victory in the Supreme Court.

The Court also announced that they would hear the case of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. It will be interesting to see how the networks react to the ruling. Especially since on Monday, CBS chose to report on the 20-pound live lobster TSA found inside someone’s checked bag instead of the church’s win over the state.

Transcripts below:

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NBC Nightly News
June 26, 2017
7:08:17 PM Eastern

(...)

PETE WILLIAMS: Also today two developments on religious freedom. The court ruled that states cannot refuse to give taxpayer money to churches, especially for programs of general public benefit like making playgrounds safer. And the court said it will hear an appeal in the fall from a Denver baker who says that having to bake cakes for same-sex weddings violates his religious freedom. Lester?

...

Fox News
Special Report
June 26, 2017
6:05:57 PM Eastern

(…)

DOUG MCKELWAY: Also today, a big victory for religious liberty. In Trinity Lutheran Church v. the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the church applied for a state grant to resurface its gravel playground surface with a rubberized surface. Missouri denied the church’s request on the grounds it was a religious institution. But the court sided with the church noting quote: “The consequences, in all likelihood, a few extra scraped knees. But the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.”

On the issue of gay rights, the justices struck down an Arkansas law that blocked the use of same-sex parents’ names on a birth certificate. But in a separate decision, the court agreed to decide this fall whether a Colorado baker has the right to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex couple. A violation he says of his Christian beliefs.

THOMAS DUPREE: This is the sort of issue I suspect we’re going to see the court returning to in the years ahead particularly if they solidify a five-justice conservative majority.

(…)


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NBDaily Judiciary Bias by Omission Religion Christianity ABC World News Tonight CBS CBS Evening News NBC NBC Nightly News Fox News Channel Special Report Video Pete Williams Doug McKelway