A search on Google News revealed that only one newspaper nationwide gave any attention to the event. The Orange County Register ran a modest story Sept. 15 on the planned desecration.
If the organization were Christian and ripping pages from the Quran or destroying the book "Heather Has Two Mommies," it likely would have garnered media attention from sea to shining sea, with the Christians portrayed as insensitive bigots or intolerant censors.
Yet the group in question is not Christian, but instead an atheist group -- and it is tearing pages from the Bible. Members of Backyard Skeptics, described by the Orange County Register as "a grassroots atheist group," will gather "to rip out pages with specific passages of the Bible that they say portray immoral biblical law."
I regard the atheist group's attack on the Bible the same way I view fringe Christian organizations that pull similar stunts. It is nothing more than a crass and pathetic attempt to gain publicity. As such, it really should be ignored.
However, if you compare the news coverage this has garnered with the media attention given Christian groups that have held similar events, the terms hypocrisy and double-standard immediately come to mind.
When the pastor of the 30-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., announced plans to burn the Quran on Sept. 11, 2010, a media firestorm erupted. Pundits bloviated about the event. Prominent government officials weighed in and asked pastor Terry Jones to relent.
President Obama even commented on the situation. The day before the planned burning of the Quran, CNN quoted the president as saying that the idea "we would burn the sacred texts of someone else's religion is contrary to what this country stands for."
A tiny Christian church announces plans to burn the Quran and it is trumpeted from coast to coast. However, an atheist group announces it is going to rip pages out of a Bible and the silence is deafening.
To be fair, when Pastor Jones did in fact burn the Quran on March 20 of this year, the government and some in the media attempted to downplay the event. However, the desecration was not completely overlooked, unlike the atheist attack on the Bible which is being completely ignored.
Consider how the media reacts to the tiny Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. Almost any time a handful of its members -- and that is all the miniscule membership can muster -- protests anything, the group will garner much media attention.
Although Westboro is nothing more than a disturbed fringe group, the media continue to cover its putrid protests. And every time the church makes headlines, government spokesmen, news personalities and Christian leaders all condemn Westboro's antics as hateful and inappropriate.
On one hand, I applaud the media for ignoring the atheist publicity stunt. I don't know how many members the group boasts or how many will show up for the Bible ripping -- probably not very many. On the other hand, in light of how the media has treated similar events by Christian groups, I find the lack of coverage of the atheists' attack on the Bible hypocritical. The double-standard is glaring.
It is likely you are just now learning about the California atheist group's plan to rip the Bible on Sept. 17. It remains to be seen if there will be any media attention after the fact, but likely there will be very little. In the eyes of too many in the media, it is perfectly OK to rip Christians and their sacred text.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
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