Should opinion pieces always be printed?

The Coat of arms of Uganda

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On Christianity Today’s site, they posted an opinion piece by Timothy Shah concerning the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill.  According to Shah, this Bill is being used by left-wing-pro-gay-anti-Christian groups to scare people into passing freedoms and rights to gay men and women.  Shah states that this Bill was “stopped in its tracks” long ago by the Ugandan people and religious leaders, and that, liberal groups are still raising a ruckus over the Bill, in order to pass their agendas.  There is no treat of gay people being killed, and no threat of this bill being passed into law.  So says Shah.

However, this article can be no more further from the truth. Warren Throckmorton, a friend that I have mentioned on this site many times, has been following – in-depth – this entire story since March 2009. On his blog today, Warren corrects Shah’s opinion piece and sets the correct straight.  This, by the way, should have been done before CT printed (uploaded) the story in the first place.  Now, to Christianity Today’s (CT) credit, they did attach a statement at the end of the article that says this:

“Speaking Out” is Christianity Today’s guest opinion column and (unlike an editorial) does not necessarily represent the opinion of the publication.

Still, this causes me to ask the question: should opinion pieces always be printed?

This isn’t to say that no one should be allowed to share their opinion.  I do believe in the First Amendment – of course when used in the correct context.  However, when an opinion causes more damage than help – when it’s blatant that the information in the opinion article is wrong from the beginning – should a respectable magazine (blog, newspaper, news agency, etc) print the piece?  Or, should they throw it back to the author and ask them to either re-do it (with credible facts) or trash the piece altogether?

Where do we draw the line: does anything go or do we have standards?  Do we allow opinion to replace truth or do we replace opinion with Truth – especially in terms of Christian publication?

Thoughts …


One response to “Should opinion pieces always be printed?

  1. Labeling something opinion does not give any publication the right to publish falsehoods. Any responsible publication that does so inadvertently and is then notified of having done so corrects the record immediately. Christianity Today has explicitly refused to do so, leaning on the “opinion” defense. But of the many facts Shah gets wrong, some simply can’t be claimed as opinion. I know — Shah attributes to me arguments I’ve never made and have only argued against, and “quotes” me as having written things I’ve never written. I presented a full written record to Christianity Today, to no avail.

    I know something about the standards for opinion writing. I’m a contributing editor for Harper’s Magazine and Rolling Stone and have also published opinion pieces in The Christian Century, the Jewish Forward,,, The New Republic, The New Statesman, The Nation, New York, The Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News, The San Francisco Chronicle,, Columbia Journalism Review, and many more publications. Every decent publication I’ve worked with has expected me to provide evidence. Christianity Today’s editor, David Neff, told me that the editor who’d handled Shah’s piece had “fact checked” it. Nobody contacted me, and they’ve provided no written evidence of the views they falsely accuse me of holding. They haven’t because they can’t.

    Christianity Today has a mostly distinguished history. I’ve taught articles from it, praised it publicly, and published work by its contributors. But on this issue it seems to be circling the wagons rather than cleaving to accuracy.

    What’s especially horrifying is that CT’s readers are in a better position than those of any other publication to raise a powerful voice against un-Christian persecution. But they’re being told to “move along.”

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