Saturday, October 20, 2007

Philadelphia anti-discrimination covers atheists also.

Newspapers around country keep ignoring atheists when reporting government non-discrimination compliance. A recent example of this can be found in the newspaper articles reporting the City of Philadelphia decision to enforce their non-discrimination law by charging the Cradle of Liberty Boy Scouts full market price on their lease of a government building. The articles identified the target of the discrimination as gays. Many of the articles identified gays as the discrimination victims in the article headline. With the notable exception of the Philadelphia Inquirer, none of the articles reported that atheists are also refused membership in Boy Scouts.

This omission is a factual error no less than the inclusion of false claims would be. Government non-discrimination laws cover creed, not just sexual orientation, so government enforcement of such laws cannot be directed at upholding equal protection for gays without also protecting atheists when both groups are excluded from a membership organization.

The Philadelphia city resolution revoking of the $1 rent subsidy for Boy Scouts cited only "excluding participation on the basis of sexual orientation" and thus, ironically, was itself discriminatory in its failure to acknowledge that atheists are also excluded. Politics reflects public opinion and unfortunately, in this context, that means popular prejudice. Journalists, however, are supposed to look beyond public opinion and report the facts without bias which in this case includes the fact that BSA also discriminates against atheists.

Take action: Send an email to Paul Colford, Director of Media Relations and Jack Stokes, Manager of Media Relations of the Associated Press at Tell them that the repeated failure to mention that atheists are denied membership in their Boy Scouts discrimination news coverage, most recently in their October 18 article Boy Scouts' Rent Hiked Over Gay Ban, is biased journalism. Tell them that they are failing to adhere to the commitment to "abhor bias" that appears in their Statement of News Principles and Values.

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