Friday, September 3, 2010

Don't Put Up with Misinformation and Rumor Mongering by Harvey Yoder

Martha note: It's Civic Soapbox Friday

I was totally dismayed by the tone of an August 26th editorial in the Daily News Record, Harrisonburg’s daily paper, titled "Is Obama a Muslim?” And equally dismayed by a recently released poll that finds that 18% of all Americans, and 46% of Republicans, mistakenly believe he is of that faith.

The editorial page writer implies there is something suspect about a President not affirming an orthodox Christianity (which President Obama actually has, by the way, more than once). The editorial states, "Even Ronald Reagan, whose sparse church attendance following the 1981 attempt on his life generated liberal bile, was a man whose public statements were clearly animated by a deep and thorough going Christian faith," as if this were a necessary qualification for being an American president. And this in spite of the inconvenient fact that the Reagans were never known for being faithful church attendees.

For anyone who believes in a strict application of the constitution, religious observance shouldn’t be an issue anyway in the selection of our president, since Article VI clearly states that "No Religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

The DNR editor missed a great opportunity to dispel growing ignorance and misinformation on the part of his readers. He could and should have simply phrased his editorial’s headline as a statement such as: “Yes, Virginia, Obama is a Christian.”

Having said that, though I am a practicing Christian myself, to me that’s less important in this conversation than the degree of respect we show toward people of all faiths and cultures, toward our Constitution, and toward the truth itself.

With regard to a previous editorial in the same paper stating that an Islamic Center should never be built anywhere near New York’s Ground Zero, I’m reminded of another simple, stubborn statement in the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” To me that’s absolutely clear, and it means we either have to support that principle for everyone or it is not secure for anyone.

Our Constitution does not guarantee that our sensitivities will not be offended when such freedoms are exercised in ways we don’t happen to like. But that makes no difference. A right is a right.

As a citizen, I am disturbed by the growing use of misinformation and rumor mongering to vilify the entire Muslim faith – a vilification that’s fueled by nonsensical editorials such as the recent one in our local paper. I would urge all of us to respond with an increased numbers of letters we submit to our newspapers, and to post regular comments on their online editions, as some of you I’m sure are already doing. We cannot afford, by our silence, to give consent to obvious forms of prejudice and ignorance.

                  -- Harvey Yoder lives in Harrisonburg


  1. When a newspaper editor is so shallow as to perpetuate an obviously false rumor meant to incite the ignorant segment of the populace, one wonders why anyone subscribes to such a newspaper. I know, I know, we subscribe not for the editorials, but so that we can read the obituaries. It is embarassing to have such a publication in a University town. Thank you Mr. Yoder for calling them out.

  2. I wish religion weren't an issue at all. Maybe John Lennon was right.

  3. Thanks, Harvey, for your editorial. Sadly, we are not renewing our subscription to the DNR after 43 years because of the extreme stance of its own and its guest editorials.