There’s this article in Samoa Planet about two incidents of rape committed by members of the LDS Church in Samoa. The article is quite vivid and graphic in its detailed depiction of the events which would nauseate and repulse any reader, let alone violate certain journalism code of ethics and standards. And perhaps distasteful and injurious - to the LDS Church - is the blatant association of the perpetrators with the Church, and especially the implicit malicious suggestion of a correlation between the culprits’ criminal behavior and the fact that they are “temple members” of the Church. Honestly, I am irked by the article for the above reasons; and so was another reader (Nadine) who expressed her frustration in her comments. My comments are hereby reposted along with some responses by another like-minded reader (Aleni Fuatimau).
I agree with the concerns raised by Nadine with regards to the graphic nature of the article in both diction and content. But I also have another objection.
As someone who has been a defender and apologist for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) on this website and forum, I feel that I, along with other fellow Mormons, have been ensnared if not denigrated by the article – indirectly at least – especially by its seemingly libelous drift. The striking references to the LDS Church and its practices with regards to the temple, represent a masked, if not malicious, indictment of the Church. Writ large, moreover, the article has an anti-religion tone.
I understand the probability of a flipside intention of the writers in trying to send a subtle message about the incongruous behavior of the devout and the pious who should be exemplars, and yet continue to betray and violate intimate trust relationships. The not-so-subtle, glaring and damning message, however, is the particular religious affiliation (LDS) of the two perpetrators mentioned as their main attribute and peculiarity. The underlying and implied cause and effect nuance is discernible as well. This is evident in the title and the very first sentence of the article, establishing an effective and principal impression and identity of the first culprit, and then the second one, as members of the LDS Church. This information is not necessary and irrelevant unless it directly contributes to the crimes. Therefore the approach is biased at best and witless at worst.
Here’s why such an approach lacks judgment. Doctrinally speaking, mankind is in a fallen state of sin and immorality. Ideally, therefore, the role of religion is not as an accomplice/collaborator, but as a redeemer of man from such a state. Hence, insinuating the LDS Church – or any other church for that matter – as a facilitator for the sins of its adherents means that all other churches also are accountable and responsible for the crimes of their members who are rapists and sex offenders.
The way to avoid the above ambiguity is to omit any such references and/or include a disclaiming part with regards to religious affiliation of the culprits. For this reason and for the graphic depiction and description of the nature of the offenses, I’d definitely suggest a rewrite.
It is actually sad and demoralizing to see this as a pattern (in the media and elsewhere) that when a church member (of any church) does something bad, there’s almost always an overemphasis placed on the church affiliation of that person, even to the point of alleging a correlation between his specific church and his criminality; if not for advancing an institutionalized campaign for maligning and disparaging that church as an organization.
Conversely, if a church member does something positive, noteworthy and uplifting, the church affiliation is rarely, if at all, mentioned or credited. For example, I have yet to find in the many articles (positive ones) on here about Egon Keil (and others) any statements mentioning that he is a member (let alone a “temple member” I’m sure) of the LDS Church. Truly a double standard to say the least.
Also, it seems that this impropriety is applied prejudicially and targeting certain churches only.
Manuia le aso.
Thank you Letalu.
I am grateful to know that there are people like you who have the courage and skills to voice these concerns with a positive and professional tone. It’s good to see that you are not doing it just for the Church (LDS) but for other churches. I hope and pray that those reporters learn a lesson from what you and other people shared/suggested to help them become more effective reporters.
Keep up the awesome work you are doing.
Manuia foi lenei aso.
Thank you Fuatimau for the support and the compliments. O le tatou veloga ‘aso ma togiga ma’a faatasi lava lea; faafetai atu fo’i mo ou sao i le mata’upu.
Manuia fo’i le alo faiva i lenei aso ma le faai’uga o le vaiaso.