NY Times editor slammed for column on presidential candidates' religions

New York Times executive editor Bill Keller. Credit: Scott Gries-Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
New York Times executive editor Bill Keller. Credit: Scott Gries-Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

.- The New York Times is being strongly criticized for a column by its executive editor Bill Keller that scrutinized the religions of the GOP presidential candidates and likened the Catholic belief in the Eucharist to belief in aliens.

“Keller could have made his point about politics and religion without insulting Catholics,” Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, told CNA on Aug. 30.

“But true to form, he did what comes naturally to him – he trashed Catholicism.”

In his Aug. 25 editorial, “Asking Candidates Tougher Questions About Faith,” outgoing executive editor Keller urged greater scrutiny of Republican candidates' religious beliefs, touching on Mormonism, Evangelical Christianity and his own past adherence to Catholicism.

“If a candidate for president said he believed that space aliens dwell among us, would that affect your willingness to vote for him?” he asked.

“Personally, I might not disqualify him out of hand; one out of three Americans believe we have had Visitors and, hey, who knows? But I would certainly want to ask a few questions. Like, where does he get his information? Does he talk to the aliens? Do they have an economic plan?”

Keller later writes: “Every faith has its baggage, and every faith holds beliefs that will seem bizarre to outsiders. I grew up believing that a priest could turn a bread wafer into the actual flesh of Christ.”

In response to the piece, Donohue criticized Keller for allowing a personal vendetta against the Catholic Church to seep through his article.

“It does not speak well about the New York Times that only embittered ex-Catholics are allowed to climb to the top,” he said.

“It is one thing to promote to senior positions those who were raised Catholic and have grown indifferent,” Donohue added. “It is quite another to put bigots in such spots.”

In his column, Keller also incorrectly described Republican hopeful Rick Santorum as a belonging to “fervid subsets of evangelical Christianity,” along with GOP candidates Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.

This, he wrote, “has raised concerns about their respect for the separation of church and state, not to mention the separation of fact and fiction.”

The Times has since corrected the article and now lists Santorum as a Catholic.

Keller has also faced criticism for the paper allegedly giving minimal and uncritical coverage of President Obama's religious beliefs during his presidential campaign in 2008.

The president encountered controversy over his affiliation with Rev. Jeremiah Wright – a prominent Chicago pastor known for making extremist and racially charged statements.

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