Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, May 25, 2012

"Massive lawsuits, minor coverage"

I know, I know -- "conservative" claims about "media bias" are really just disigenuous efforts by Rove-ian right-wingers to distract attention from the awesome power of Fox News, EWTN, and Rush Limbaugh.  Still, as the folks at Get Religion discuss in detail, the near-silence of many traditional media outlets regarding this week's lawsuits by Catholic institutions against the administration is striking (and contrasts glaringly with their consistent and close interest in other kinds of legal proceedings involving such institutions).  It's almost as if -- I know, I know, it's not, but still . . . -- some people with significant power over information flow are trying to minimize, in an election year, the extent to which the word gets out that the administration is being sued by 40-plus Catholic institutions, schools, and social-service agencies for violating fundamental religious-freedom rights.  Of course, this relative silence is for the best, since the blogosphere's armchair lawyers and mind-readers have assured me that the lawsuits are frivolous, premature, divisive, and / or deviously partisan, and we wouldn't want people to get the wrong idea.


Garnett, Rick | Permalink

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Isn't it possible that this alleged minimization of coverage (an exercise of the media's acknowledged First Amendment rights, of course) is actually and ironically doing the Church a favor? It might be argued that the less publicity the better for the Church, given the staggering percentage of Catholics who disagree with the Church's stance on contraception, and given the number of Catholics (and others) who work for Catholic entities who rely on employment-based health insurance to pay for their contraception. If the Church prevails, these employees may end up (in the absence of insurance) having to shoulder the expense of non-covered birth control for themselves. At some point, it will occur to the fertile women (and maybe even to their male partners) who work for Church entities that this lawsuit does not serve their interests.

Posted by: Ellen Wertheimer | May 25, 2012 11:46:26 AM

Ellen, I don't think the low-level of network coverage is something that is merely alleged, right? It's a fact (unless Get Religion is wrong) that the networks have not covered the lawsuits much (for whatever reasons). I'm sure you are right that, for some people, the religious-freedom arguments being made by these religious employers are unwelcome, because their success could result in their having to spend more money on the drugs and procedures in question. But, I'll harbor the (perhaps naive) hope that people who "disagree with the Church's stance" will come to appreciate the fact that respecting civil liberties almost always entails costs to some, or to the entire community, and that disagreement with a stance is not always a good reason, in a constitutional democracy, for running over it.

Posted by: Rick Garnett | May 25, 2012 11:52:04 AM

Hi everyone,

The PBS Newshour did a very nice segment on the lawsuits on their Monday night program. Also, the NPR news updates at the top of the hour mentioned the lawsuits both on Monday afternoon and evenig.

Posted by: Edward Dougherty | May 25, 2012 12:35:34 PM

Given the frightening treatment of this complex issue by our own Catholic press, I shudder to think of the treatment it would receive by more mainstream news outlets. Joe Scarborough did ask EJ Dionne about it yesterday when he was on Morning Joe, and Dionne gave some response about the "rift" between "right wing" bishops and more moderate/liberal bishops as evidenced by Bishop Blaire.

Now being served up is poor Fr. Komonchak over at dotCommonweal who had the temerity to suggest an examination of the central claims of the Notre Dame lawsuit.

Posted by: Josh | May 25, 2012 1:28:34 PM

We need our own version of the NYT-WSJ or other competent national paper of record, but with a more "c"atholic understanding of the world.

Instead of it being the "objective" motto of the NYT "all news that is fit to print" perhaps our newspaper's motto would be "news and views for the common good."

Posted by: CK | May 25, 2012 1:30:56 PM

"news and views for the common good"

I like the ring that has.

Posted by: Catholic Law Student | May 25, 2012 1:54:48 PM

I understand the complaints about the media, but it seems to me that this is the kind of thing (or this is one of a very large class of things) that network television does not handle well at all, and probably can't be expected to. I missed it, but I am not surprised to hear the Newshour had a good segment. It is the kind of thing the Newshour *can* handle well. Anyone who is interested in being well informed will know that in order to find out more about something like the lawsuits, you don't watch the network news broadcasts. I will bet there will be coverage on Meet the Press and This Week with George Stephanopoulos, though. I think the best a half-hour network news broadcast can do with a story like this is a simple announcement that X number of lawsuits were filed by Catholic organizations over the issue of being required to provide insurance coverage of contraception.

Posted by: David Nickol | May 25, 2012 2:32:18 PM

I'm a little late to this party, but think about what has happened here: This is the first time in American history where dioceses like Erie or Jackson and Biloxi in Mississippi, have sued the federal government, never mind the archdioceses of NY or DC. Schools, charities, three health care systems, four universities (including ND), a major publisher, a nursing home, a center for the deaf — whoever heard of these groups suing the federal government before, never mind 43 of them filing 12 suits in different states on a single day by a single law firm that is doing all the work for free? This is completely unprecedented and it should be real news to the country.

Whether or not network TV covers it well isn't the issue. The issue is them covering it at all. And even the coverage from the papers was skimpy. 400 words from the Times and 600 from the Post? Give me a break.

Posted by: Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz | Jun 1, 2012 2:25:03 PM