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‘Down-Ballot Issues’: Religion News Service Offers a Look, but Not Balance


A quick quiz: How many horses does it take to make a race?

“That’s easy,” you say; “at least two.”

That’s right. And you’d want to know about them both.

So it is with the Religion News Service’ guide to ballot issues that religious people are watching for the upcoming ballot.

“The nation’s attention may be on the presidential election, but there are a number of down-ballot issues of interest to religious and nonreligious voters,” RNS says, and they prove their case. Their list – marijuana, gun control, minimum wage, the death penalty, assisted suicide, “public money for religious purposes” – suggests the range of religious thought in the public sphere.

But in some of the issues, this article seems to privilege one side. In some, only one side gets to talk. And in some, only one side is even acknowledged.

Take the death penalty, which is up for review in California, Nebraska and Oklahoma. RNS grants that there are two sides: “In California, almost 30 different religious groups support a death penalty repeal, while in Nebraska, celebrity Christian author Shane Claiborne has spoken in support of retaining a repeal of the death penalty at anti-death penalty events.”

But who gets the direct quote?

“The death penalty is state-sponsored murder and it’s disgusting, and we’re telling the rest of the world that not only are we OK with it, but we’re making it a fundamental value and putting it in our constitution,” said the Rev. Adam Leathers, a spokesperson for Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. “This (measure) will truly make us look ignorant, brutish and all manner of negative attributes.”

No word from the ignorant brutes who want to retain the penalty…

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