CNN Debunks 'God Versus Gays' Narrative In Coverage Of Indiana's “Religious Freedom” Law


CNN highlighted religious support for LGBT equality in its coverage of Indiana's “religious freedom” law, avoiding the common 'God versus Gays' trope that typically defines coverage of debates over LGBT issues. CNN's coverage is in line with polls that show increasing support for marriage equality and LGBT rights by a variety of major religious groups.

During the April 1 edition of CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello, Costello invited Matthew Vines, a gay Evangelical Christian, to discuss Indiana's widely-criticized “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA). The law has been at the center of controversy over concern that it provides a legal defense for individuals or businesses to cite religious beliefs as a justification for refusing service to LGBT people.     

Costello asked Vines to respond to comments made by anti-LGBT Fox News contributor Erick Erickson, who criticized the media for helping the "agents of Satan" with their coverage of the law:

Vines noted that Erickson's comments “represent the beliefs of the older guard,” citing growing support for LGBT equality among young Evangelicals.

As Costello pointed out, Vines' comments are in line with polling that finds increased support among faith groups for LGBT equality.

A recent Pew poll found that 57 percent of Catholics and 59 percent of black Protestants believe wedding-related businesses should be required to serve all customers. Many religious groups have come out against Indiana's version of RFRA due to concerns that it allows discrimination, with one major religious group, Disciples of Christ, looking to move their General Assembly meeting out of Indiana due to the law. Many of the law's religious supporters, on the other hand, have stayed silent in the aftermath of the law's passage.

Evangelicals -- and especially evangelical millennials -- are also changing their minds on same-sex marriage.

A recent Public Religion Research Institute (PPRI) poll documented a shift in religious support for marriage equality:

In 2003, all major religious groups opposed same-sex marriage, with the exception of the religiously unaffiliated. Today, there are major religious groups on both sides of the issue. Religiously unaffiliated Americans (73%), white mainline Protestants (62%), white Catholics (58%), and Hispanic Catholics (56%) all favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. 

CNN's approach is drastically different than past conservative media coverage that framed “religious freedom” as irreconcilable with support for LGBT rights and conflated “religious liberty” with bigotry.