Religion News Service Denies Gay Advocacy Group’s Funding Has Biased Coverage of Faith Issues

AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca
AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca

The editor of Religion News Service (RNS) says grant funding received from the Arcus Foundation, a powerfully wealthy LGBT activist organization, has had no influence upon its coverage of faith issues.

RNS editor-in-chief Kevin Eckstrom, reports Catholic News Agency (CNA), said taking money from the LGBT advocacy group did not affect his news service’s coverage choices, including a story by David Gibson, titled “Cardinal Raymond Burke: Gays, Remarried Catholics, Murderers Are All the Same,” about a LifeSiteNews interview with Burke that covered various areas of Catholic doctrine.

In his article, Gibson stated that Burke is “certainly out of step with the pastoral tone that Francis has set in his papacy,” and that his “comments take on added weight in the context of the increasingly heated debate that Francis opened over how the church should respond to rapid changes in family life in the modern world.”

“All editorial decisions about coverage of the LGBT community, or any other issue, are made independent of any foundation support, including Arcus,” Eckstrom reportedly said, however, stating that his news service welcomes financial support “from any individual or foundation that supports our aim of informing and challenging our readers.”

Eckstrom, according to CNA, described Gibson’s piece as “a fair and even-handed treatment of a controversial (and influential) figure within the Roman Catholic Church.”

He added that RNS material regarding LGBT issues underwritten by Arcus is clearly distinguished from other material.

“Our job is to offer readers a window into the personalities, theology and institutions that are shaping a momentous social and civic debate,” Eckstrom told CNA.

On March 31, RNS featured a story sponsored by the Arcus Foundation and written by Jay Michaelson, a former vice president for social justice programs at Arcus itself, about the debate over Indiana’s religious freedom bill. As CNA reports, Michaelson’s past association with Arcus, however, was not acknowledged, nor was the fact that Arcus joined with the Ford Foundation in spending upwards of $3 million over the past two years in support of pro-abortion rights organizations and media strategy to oppose religious freedom exceptions.

According to CNA:

On April 1, Eckstrom told CNA he was “completely unaware” of Michaelson’s past affiliation with Arcus when RNS began working with him.

“All I knew was that he was a talented and skilled reporter with a particular expertise on the LGBT beat. He’s a professional full-time writer now, and that’s what matters to me, not necessarily where he worked in the past.”

In September of last year, the Arcus Foundation, founded by billionaire Jon Stryker, heir of Stryker medical technology company, announced a slate of “social justice grants” to “support emerging LGBT leaders.”

Kevin Jennings, the Arcus Foundation’s executive director, is also the founder of the high school LGBT activist group GLSEN. Jennings also served as assistant deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Education under President Barack Obama as the “Safe Schools Czar.”

“Fostering a culture of LGBT understanding through the media is the aim of grants to the Religion Newswriters Foundation,” the Arcus Foundation awards statement read, “to produce feature stories and blog posts about religion and LGBT communities of color – and to Media Matters of America—to expand its progressive Spanish-language educational outreach.”

The syndicated Religion Newswriters Foundation received $120,000 from Arcus.

In the same round of grants, Arcus also funded:

  • Central Baptist Theological Seminary, “to engage immigrant pastoral leaders in LGBT theology through new courses and curricula.”
  • The Reconciling Ministries Network, “to elevate voices of support for clergy who bravely commit acts of ‘biblical disobedience’ in their support of LGBTQ people.”
  • The Reformation Project, “which seeks wider LGBT acceptance within evangelical churches, will enable training of LGBT-affirming Christians to use scriptural arguments in dialogue around acceptance within conservative churches in Kansas, Georgia, and Washington, D.C.”

Last September, Catholic San Francisco reported that there was “abundant evidence” that the attack against San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for his decision to speak during the March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., was orchestrated by the leftist Faithful America, which was funded by Stryker’s Arcus Foundation, LGBT activist Tim Gill of Colorado’s Gill Foundation, billionaire George Soros, and the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund.

As Breitbart News reported, both the Gill Foundation and Stryker’s Arcus Foundation were top bundlers for Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Prior to the 2012 presidential election, Stryker had given over $250 million to groups supporting gay rights, transgenderism, and the conservation of apes. In January of that year, his Arcus Foundation donated $23 million to Kalamazoo College for an endowment to fund a center for social justice leadership.

In March, Stryker’s Arcus Foundation announced a grant of $75,000 to Faithful America.

“Faithful America, in partnership with the Citizen Engagement Lab Education Fund, plans to support ‘Faithful America’ public campaigns to promote greater media visibility for Christians who denounce the abuse of religious-freedom arguments to oppose full equality for LGBT persons,” the foundation said.

Breitbart News reported in June that San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee (D), California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsome (D), and other gay rights supporters sent a letter to Cordileone in which they used the words of Pope Francis against the archbishop, claiming his participation in the March for Marriage would be promoting “division and hatred.”


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