NPR Plays Up 'Liberal Religious Leaders' Slamming Ryan Budget

On Monday's Morning Edition, NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty touted how "liberal religious leaders said the Republican [budget] plan...was an affront to the Gospel, and especially Jesus's command to care for the poor." At the same time, Hagerty avoided mentioning the left-wing ideology of two critics of the proposal: Peter Montgomery of People For American Way, and liberal academic Stephen Schneck.

The correspondent did, however, clearly identify Ryan as a "Wisconsin Republican" and Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention as part of a "conservative resistance to taxation." She also highlighted how "for other religious conservatives, the Bible is a blueprint for robust capitalism," and cited evangelical radio host David Barton as an example.

Fill-in host Lynn Neary summarized in her introduction to Hagerty's report that "when trying to solve a problem, many Christians ask themselves, 'what would Jesus do?' Well, that question is now at the center of a fierce debate about the economy, with conservatives promoting a small government Jesus, and liberals seeing Jesus as an advocate of more programs to help the poor."

Hagerty then used her "affront to the Gospel" line about the Ryan budget  and continued that the congressman "recently told Christian Broadcasting Network that it was his Catholic faith that helped shape the budget plan. In his view, the Catholic principle of subsidiarity suggests the government should have little role in helping the poor." After playing a clip from the politician, the NPR journalist immediately followed it with two soundbites from Stephen Schneck, a "political scientist at Catholic University," who slammed the GOP leader: "I think that he's [Ryan] completely missing the boat, and not understanding the real heart- the real core- of Catholic social teaching."

Though Hagerty mentioned Schneck's affiliation with Catholic University of Ameica, she omitted that he helped organize a protest of House Speaker John Boehner when he gave the commencement address there in 2011. A Washington Post report from that time hyped the letter that Schneck and other liberal professors at Catholic colleges and universities sent Boehner. The MRC's Tim Graham also pointed out that the professor spearheaded inviting former AFL-CIO head John Sweeney to his campus just before the Speaker's address, and noted how the professor defended how many Catholics support same-sex "marriage," something that runs contrary to the Catholic Church's teachings.

The journalist followed the clips from Schneck with a third from Peter Montgomery, whom she labeled as simply being "at People for the American Way." On Friday, Montgomery's group proudly displayed their far-left colors when they released a report titled, "How the War on Women Became Mainstream: Turning Back the Clock in Tea Party America ." On the organization's website, the senior fellow is described as managing "People For the American Way Foundation's research and writing on the Religious Right, as well as our work to help progressives understand and more effectively communicate with important constituencies, particularly the reachable religious middle." But Hagerty didn't give any indication of these radical stances.

Later in the segment, the correspondent outlined the what she labeled the "conservative resistance to taxation, which some say violates the 8th Commandment: thou shalt not steal":

HAGERTY: Because, in their view, he says, God intends the government to have a minimal role in society. You heard echoes of that from mega-church pastor Rick Warren, who was asked about the budget recently on ABC's 'This Week.'

RICK WARREN, SADDLEBACK CHURCH: The primary purpose of government is to keep the peace, protect the citizens, provide opportunity. And when we start getting into all kinds of other things, I think we invite greater control, and I'm fundamentally about freedom.

HAGERTY: Evangelicals cite the book of Romans, which is one of the few places in the New Testament that refers to civil government. Then, there's the conservative resistance to taxation, which some say violates the 8th Commandment: thou shalt not steal.

Richard Land at the Southern Baptist Convention says, of course, Jesus paid his taxes and advised followers to do the same. But he says-

RICHARD LAND, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION: The Bible tells us that socialism and neo-socialism never worked. Confiscatory tax rates never work.

HAGERTY: The Bible never mentions socialism, obviously, but Land says the whole of scripture says that people are sinful and selfish, and, therefore-

LAND: People aren't going to work very hard and very productively unless they get to keep a substantial portion of that which they make for them and for their families.

HAGERTY: For other religious conservatives, the Bible is a blueprint for robust capitalism. Recently, on his radio program, 'Wallbuilders,' David Barton and a guest discussed Jesus's parable of the vineyard owner....Many theologians have long interpreted this as God's grace being available right up to the last minute. But Barton sees the parable as a bar to collective bargaining.

DAVID BARTON: Where were unions in all this? The contract is between an employer and an employee-

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: Individual relationship-

BARTON: It's not between a group. He went out and hired, individually, the guys he wanted to work.

Just as she did with Ryan, Hagerty countered the soundbites from Land and Barton with another clip from Schneck:


HAGERTY: Stephen Schneck at Catholic University says many Christians would not recognize this gospel, and he says there are more biblical verses about feeding the hungry and taking care the least of these. Schneck agrees that the Bible encourages initiative and hard work, but he says theologians through the ages have said there must be a balance.

SCHNECK: Pope after pope after pope argued that we're called to be more than market creatures. We're called, in fact, to always bear in mind the common good and our responsibilities to others.

The professor left out that the same popes defended private property rights and condemned socialism, starting with Blessed Pius IX in the mid-1800s, all the way to the current pontiff, Benedict XVI, who bluntly wrote in his first encyclical, "We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need."

Back in August 2011, Hagerty tried to portray evangelical scientific and theological scholars who no longer believe in the Book of Genesis's account of Adam and Eve as "conservative" and cited a theology teacher who denies the fall of man into sin as an example of one of these "conservatives" who "want their faith to come into the 21st century."

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center