Editorial: Crossing the line

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    Somehow, The Washington Post got confused.

    On Feb. 26, it ran an essay called “Unmentionable No Longer,” which took what the Post called a “light touch” look at the temple garment worn by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    But the article muddled “light touch” with “flippant.” Sacred, religious topics should be approached in a respectful and serious way – not a flippant one.

    The core issue, however, is not necessarily the garment. It’s religious tolerance, acceptance and basic respect. At a time when the world is promoting understanding and tolerance, this article falls short.

    Even the Post’s ombudsman reported that many readers – church members and non-members alike – were offended by the sacrilegious tone of the article.

    Bill Marriott, a Latter-day Saint, issued a formal complaint stating that the Washington Post acted “beneath the standards of one of America’s great newspapers and an ardent champion of religious tolerance.”

    The Post claimed the article was in good taste. Style editor Eugene Robinson said, “It was never our intention to cause such distress.”

    And the essay’s author, Hank Stuever, claimed to have taken “an unusual aspect of the faith” and treated it in a “sensitive, nuanced and sympathetic” fashion.

    But the article was neither sensitive nor sympathetic.

    Although the Post called the church after the article was printed, it only further showed the confusion over the decision to run the article.

    To treat sacred subjects with a “light touch” creates a downward spiral. Members of all faiths become less likely to discuss sacred matters, when they see the flippant manner in which sacred manners are dealt.

    This kind of journalism does nothing to promote understanding. It generates stereotypes, suspicion, and misunderstanding.

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