War on Religion: A Rebuttal

Nick Wells

Recently, while browsing my school’s online newsletter, I came across an article written by a fellow student about the media’s “War on Religion.” It was well written, very interesting, but I felt it only represented a small portion of what I view to be the reality of the situation. The writer gave three examples to support the claim that there is a “War on Religion” in America. The writer cited a tweet from the left-leaning comedian Bill Maher, high-school students being suspended for “Tebowing,” and the media’s under-reporting of this year’s March for Life in Washington D.C. In my view, this alleged “media war” isn’t a war at all; it is more of a reflection of the separation of church and state, a core principal that our country was founded on.

The U.S. Constitution says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The founding fathers realized their ancestors left Europe to escape religious persecution and liked the idea that a man was not tied down to a certain religion by his government. They made certain that religion and the government were as separate as the Tea Party and the Occupy movements. As long as they are not harming anyone, people are free to practice any religion they want in this country. Since the government is not supposed to be religious; I feel the media has a duty to remain as secular as possible and report the most important news of the day. What might look like an attack on religion might sincerely be an attempt to stay balanced and politically correct.

I definitely see a trend amongst America’s news sources towards sensationalism. News reporters report the stories of the day. The crazier and more outlandish the story is, the more interest you garner from your audience, thus increasing your revenue. When the Senator from Arizona disrespectfully wags a finger to the President of the United States on an airport tarmac or when the Occupy Wall Street movements get out of hand, the media will tend to report it more than they will report a peaceful annual march in Washington DC despite the fact the hundreds of thousands of people showed up for the march. Fox News has a reputation for covering sensationalism and is also known to be conservatively biased. With a Democratic president, Fox News is able to capitalize on their Conservative/Republican-leaning audience. In a recent poll, 78 percent of likely voters who say they are Fox News viewers support Republican candidates. Fox News’s strategy is paying huge dividends for them. In May 2010, Fox News had an average daily prime time audience of 1.8 million viewers versus 747,000 for MSNBC and 595,000 for CNN. In 2009, Fox News made 534.8 million while rivals CNN made 475.5 million and MSNBC made 149.6 million. However, even a conservative news outlet such as Fox News under-reported the March for Life saying “Neither cold temperatures nor pouring rain seemed to dampen the spirits of the tens of thousands who gathered for the annual March for Life in Washington on Monday.” The fact is that there were upwards to half a million people there. Bottom line is, sensationalism sells.

The writer in my school newsletter pointed out two instances regarding Tim Tebow. One was a tweet from Bill Maher insulting Tim Tebow and his religious practices and the other was an incident involving students Tebowing in a hallway. As big as Bill Maher is, he is still only one guy with one set of views on HBO late friday night, and for every Bill Maher there is the antithesis representing the other viewpoint (Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, etc.). As for the students “Tebowing” in the hallway, blocking a hallway is a fire hazard. I don’t think they should have been suspended, but I don’t think it was the issue of “Tebowing” that caused the suspension. However, while pondering the writer’s remarks, I realized that Tim Tebow was a factor in my argument on the “War on Religion.” Love him or hate him, Tim Tebow had press. If the media was anti-religion, this was their golden opportunity to show it. Instead, they reported it like any other news story, proving my previous point that the media will stay secular.

The media is not trying to take away your religion. They are not going out of their way to persecute religion. They’re just trying to report the stories that will garner the best possible audience. Because of the founding father’s view on religion; the media will always take a secular side instead of a religious side. So do I think there is a “War on Religion?” No. But that is just my opinion.