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Fox News and the Monument
by Jan Ireland
18 August 2003Fox News

The news coverage of Judge Roy Moore's fight to keep the Ten Commandments monument has been anything but fair and balanced.

Watch out for a couple of lulus of bad news events in the near future, because the first of what is said to always come in threes just sidled in unexpectedly on my balmy Sunday afternoon.  Fox News Channel, trouncer of mainstream media giants precisely because of its standard of presenting both sides of an issue, just did a one-sided, incomplete, biased, hatchet job piece. I hope I only dreamed it, but I’m afraid Fox News Channel just had a mainstream media moment. 

The issue was Alabama Supreme Court Justice Judge Roy Moore’s fight to keep a monument of the Ten Commandments displayed in public in Montgomery.  This is a fight that has been going on for months, and involves issues of freedom, the founders' intent, states' rights, and the constitution.  It is conceivably a fight for a bit of the life of freedom in America.  A main issue is states' rights versus federal intervention.

I have become so accustomed to hearing both sides of an issue on Fox News, I was plunged into cognitive dissonance by this piece.  Twice I checked my dial.  Three times, I checked the logo in the corner of the screen.  And four times I wondered if Dan Rather, desperate for viewers, had found a ‘Being John Malkovich’ way to crawl into the commentator who delivered the bit.

You often hear reporting like this in public.  You know, when you go to some waiting rooms.  Or some public eating areas.  Or the little room where you wait for your car to be washed.  Lots of people put on CNN in those areas, because they think it’s politically acceptable.

There are many issues and points on this subject, but very few of them saw the light of day in this piece.  The overwhelming impression I got was that the commentator thought Judge Moore was really wrong, and was going to get his well-deserved comeuppance pretty soon now. 

But look at all the issues that could have been covered in depth.

He could have mentioned that the monument has more than the Ten Commandments on it.  Visitors find quotes from the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, the Alabama Constitution and other historical sources.  With the concern about education levels in schools these days, perhaps we should start putting more of our history on public display.  

The commentator could have had US Rep. John Hostetler (R-IN) appear, or be interviewed by phone, or even just have given a recap of Rep. Hostettler’s efforts to bring an amendment barring federal funds being used to remove the monument.  Does a United States Representative risking his career to fight for this constitutional issue deserve mention?

He could have asked for a spokesman or at the least a statement from Reverend Patrick Mahoney, of the Christian Defense Coalition, or Reverend Rob Schenck, of the National Clergy Council, who are both helping to defend the monument. 

But the commentator had only one guest, who almost phlegmatically agreed with all the pronouncements against the issue.  At the end of the piece, the guest phlegmatically agreed that yes, Judge Moore could possibly be found in contempt, should the rest of the efforts be to no avail.  And yes, Judge Moore could lose his job or worse.

There could have been an examination of some seemingly uninvolved people who have spoken against the monument.  There is the ACLU, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who have predictably come down on the side of removing the monument.  Rob Boston, spokesman for Americans United, has said that “this country operates under the rule of law,” meaning that his organization and others would not stop trying to have the order to remove the monument enforced.  But does it?  Are there cases, even recently, where the rule of law has not been followed in this country?

What I found egregious about the graphics used in this piece was the commentator’s posting on the screen of part of the First Amendment.  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,…”  The commentator missed the second part of the instruction from the Constitution, by stopping at the comma, instead of at the semicolon found shortly down the line.  I had only to go to my purse, to get my personal copy of the Constitution, to double-check.  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…”  Had the commentator carried a personal copy of the Constitution, or perhaps been home-schooled, he would have known to look at least as far as the semicolon.

Most mainstream media stop at the comma too, but I have come to expect much more from Fox News. 

The commentator could have brought in the issue of the Grand Canyon plaque.  He could have checked out Frank Williamson from Texas, who donated posters featuring our national motto, “In God We Trust,” to post offices in Texas.  He could have revisited the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and its desire to call the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional.  He could have checked out areas around the country who are refusing to allow school children to start the day with the Pledge of Allegiance. 

He could have checked on the latest signature of President Bush concerning this subject.

Had he been really astute, he could have found out what lies behind the United States Supreme Court Justices when they sit in their nine chairs, and consider the fate of constitutional questions that come before them.  The Ten Commandments are right there.  In marble.  Right behind, and holding up our highest judicial system. 

As it happens, 214 years ago this month, Congress sent the Bill of Rights to the states for ratification.  They did another thing that same day.  They sent a request to the president for designation of a day of thanks to God.  They took care of state business, and they took care of religious business.  No conflict there. 

No ACLU or Americans United to slink about with jeremiad screed.

Could those two things be done by our Congress on the same day today? How far away from the founders’ intent we have let political correctness run amok. 

A few words from our forefathers (from The Federalist, which everyone interested in the Constitution reads.)
“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.  As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”  Benjamin Franklin.

“I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground that ‘all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.’  To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, not longer susceptible of any definition.”  Thomas Jefferson.

“Natural liberty is a gift of the beneficent Creator to the whole human race…”
Alexander Hamilton.

“And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?”  Thomas Jefferson.

“I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men.  And if a sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?”  Benjamin Franklin.

“If it be asked, ‘What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of our security in a Republic?’  The answer would be, ‘An inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws – the first growing out of the last.’…A sacred respect for the constitutional law is the vital principle, the sustaining energy of a free government.”  Alexander Hamilton.

The Founding Fathers would probably not be judged to be politically correct today.    And you can bet the Founding Fathers would not have a mainstream media moment. 

Thank God.  

For God’s sake, let’s not forget that. 

Jan Ireland is a masters level counselor/teacher, who has turned to writing. She says that obfuscation in the media prompts her to search for the

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