For the last two weeks Bill O'Reilly has committed multiple journalistic mis-steps.
As long as he is allowed to define the terms of the narrative of what happened they will not be corrected. His failure to do so is a massive public relations problem and a mis-step in itself.
He owes a significant demo of his viewership an apology. He owes them one quickly so that his previously demonstrable prejudice against people of faith does not cause unintended long term effects.
"The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals,” O’Reilly said on his evening broadcast March 26, 2013. “The argument on the other side hasn’t been able to do anything but thump the Bible.”
The final half of that statement is erroneous. Some would assert--knowingly so. In saying it O'Reilly is either ignorant of the process, or negligent of the facts.
Laura Ingraham attempted to help him see as much on April 2, 2013, but the host ran over his guest and used her as a rhetorical punching bag. He also compounded the original problem.
"I made a very honest point... That if you're going to stand up for heterosexual marriage, and exclude gay marriage, if you're going to do that... You've got to do it outside the Bible. You can't cite the Bible. Because you'll lose if you do," O'Reilly attempted to explain.
When Ingraham very politely attempted to explain that the statement was itself disrespectful, the host went off.
"It's not disrespectful... In their private life they can. We're talking a policy deal here," O'Reilly shouted at Ingraham. "Don't you understand (eyes squinting with a soured look plastered on his face) the difference between private beliefs, and public policy? There was no insult at all to any Christian belief system in that comment. There was no insult!"
But Mr. O'Reilly there was, and you added another insult in the follow up with Ingraham. Here's where you went wrong:
1. In the first statement O'Reilly asserted that the side arguing in favor of leaving marriage defined as it has been for over 5000 years had done nothing but "thump the Bible." The term itself is always used derogatorily and usually in demeaning fashion to describe those who study sacred scripture, adopt its principles for their lives and attempt to be true to its meaning. It should be understood that the group O'Reilly was really describing wasn't any specific religion at all, but rather all people who are devout to the sacred moral law of their religious beliefs--be they Evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, Mormon, Buddhist, Muslim, etc. But O'Reilly is aware of the culture war, specifically measured out against Christians and as such he has to be aware of how the term is used to demean pro-family voters specifically.
2. His original statement is entirely inaccurate. In the Supreme Court arguments, and much more thoroughly in the many court cases leading up to it, and from the very earliest of the public debate over whether marriage should be changed and redefined, the pro-family side has always used abundant amounts of historical precedent, documented research, and case law to argue it's side. Perhaps Mr. O'Reilly just plain didn't pay attention, but Senior Counsel Paul Clement arguing on behalf of DOMA before the Supreme Court used specific previous historical precedent and case law to argue--for example--the federal government's right to limit the institution of marriage and the laws governing marriage. Clement rightfully argued that the federal government had banned polygamy, and in some cases expanded marital protections from the civil war era. These and other arguments had literally zero to do with the Bible, or even religious teaching.
3. By asserting that the Bible itself, and the moral code it argues for can not even be "cited" is to arrogantly ignore the will of the people of the nation, who base much of their life on the moral codes contained therein. It is also completely disingenuous. The original basis for most of our basic laws stem from the ten commandments. The original version of any form of recorded law is the Bible, and the founders of the United States sought the God of the Bible (Nature's God) in establishing the most moral system of law our world had ever seen. So to assert--as O'Reilly clearly did--that the Bible can not so much as even be a piece of the discussion ultimately dooms, what is largely an issue that is based on moral behavior, to be decided upon entirely secular or non-moral, amoral, or immoral viewpoints. To refuse even citation from the Bible, is to also arrogantly assume that 5000 years of humanity that observes its moral code from the Bible, was unenlightened and unworthy of a voice in a discussion as important as this.
4. By claiming that the citizens of this nation do not deserve a place in this debate is to misunderstand federalism and the individual's control of government in our representative Republic. But to assert that those citizens may only engage the debate if and only if they disallow the impact of their moral character, moral beliefs, and moral code to contribute to what in essence amounts to a discussion of morality is disrespectful--to most of America. Remember that in all but one state, where voters have been allowed to decide the matter of redefining marriage have the voters ever actually done so. Even in quite leftist states like California, the voters have--in overwhelming numbers--on multiple ballots--rejected the idea of redefining marriage. You also need to understand Mr. O'Reilly that people who live by the Bible, generally tend to allow it's impact to touch all areas of their lives, hence it's almost impossible for one to both believe the Bible privately and it not have an impact on all things in their lives publicly.
The idea of the First Amendment is to protect religious people and practice from coming under assault by the force of the federal government. But no where in our nation's founding, nor courts, has there ever been an idea upheld that said religious people can not participate in the governance of our nation.
Mr. O'Reilly, respectfully, you owe American Bible-believers an apology, but if you wouldn't listen to Limbaugh, Ingraham, or McCullough, at least listen to your instinct to hopefully not permanently injure your prospects with one of the most important demos to your show.
After all Bible-believers also firmly believe in... forgiveness!
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