RALEIGH – On a conference call of pastors, organized by a Christian advocacy group named American Renewal, Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest worried that this may be the churches’ last chance to get motivated, to protect and project the values they hold dear. That’s because the weight of Governor Roy Cooper’s Coronavirus lockdown restrictions has fallen inexplicably on the church.
In-person services are banned by Cooper’s order, while retail establishments can host up to 50 percent of their store capacity…right next door. Forest described the onerous restrictions on church services as part of the culture war against Christianity:
“There is no doubt that there are people that are on the left that are using this to pull certain levers to see how far that they can go,” Forest said. “How far are they able to push? How long can they keep churches shut down? How long will Christians be silent on this matter before they stand up?”
It’s a good point. Of course, the Left-leaning political media in North Carolina, who have made a habit of trying to paint Forest as a kook whenever possible, see this call as chance for them to smear. They seem to especially like mocking Forest’s strong Christian faith, never missing a chance to point out Christian views or associations they can call ‘extreme.’
WRAL covered the call, keen to help Cooper whenever possible, and went to work stripping all of the nuance from the conversation in order to frame Forest as an extremist:
“[…] The call was organized by the North Carolina Renewal Project and hosted by Pastor Neal Jackson of Beulah Baptist Church in Bennett. Jackson has written several books, including one titled “The Coming Destruction of America.”
American Renewal, a quasi-political Christian group whose founder is on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of extremists, put video of the call online. […]”
It probably took some discipline for the WRAL team not to lead with, “Forest Holds Call with Extremist Christians.”
The WRAL Cooper Crew then needles the Forest campaign about comments that anyone listening to this call would easily digest and understand, yet they set about a playing dumb to, scraping literal interpretations from contextual, figurative statements, and go to work manufacturing controversy to benefit Cooper.
“[…] WRAL asked the Lieutenant Governor’s Office and the Forest campaign on Friday afternoon to confirm that Forest indeed believes the left is intentionally using COVID-19 restrictions as a way to harm churches and whether he is accusing Cooper specifically.
Forest campaign spokesman Andrew Dunn responded via email, but all he did was quote Article 1, Section 13 of the state constitution: “All persons have a natural and inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and no human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.”
Cooper campaign spokeswoman Liz Doherty said Friday that “our faith should bring us together.”
“It’s unfortunate that politicians like Dan Forest use faith to tear us apart,” Doherty said via email. […]”
You can almost sense the frustration from reporters when they couldn’t elicit more of a response from the Forest campaign with their intentionally stupid and smearing line of questioning. Forest spokesman Andrew Dunn, however, did exactly the right thing; he didn’t bite on their maliciously crafted question, and reiterated the actual issue at hand.
(WRAL still trudged ahead though, intent on getting their soundbite to slam Forest and elevate Cooper in the eyes of viewers, all in keeping with owner Jim Goodmon’s desires)
The issue at hand is very clearly the moral and constitutional right of people to assemble, sermonize, and pray together. The free exercise of religion. It is a central tenet in American history and remains just as relevant today, especially when social distancing decrees are burdening them inconsistently by any objective measure.
This is where all the nuance of such conversations is important. When conservatives complain of overreach, or Christians allege discrimination, the transgressions are often assigned to one party or another. However, there is quite a difference between deeming perpetrators evil masterminds, versus clever opportunists, or hapless conformists.
Push back against government overreach, and a defense of Christian culture and values, is usually directed at actors in the latter two categories. Governor Cooper falls into these, as he’d never deserve the title of ‘Mastermind’ and most do not think he is actually evil. Instead, many worry that Cooper, and others on the Left, have cleverly exploited an opportunity for pervasive government control of our lives to advance the Left’s agenda at the expense of individual rights and core principles of liberty.
The reporters at WRAL likely knew just what Forest was saying with his comments, as would anyone with ears, but they couldn’t let readers and viewers decide for themselves. Instead they put it through the smear filter, mocked the Forest campaign for citing the Constitution, and spoon fed the sanctimonious anti-Forest slam from the Cooper campaign directly to the