The church and politics ? can they mix?

Date: January 1, 1970
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The debate over separation between Church and State looking at how some religious groups interpret the Bible to keep their congregation from exercising their right to vote.

This article may be used in training to:
  •  Demonstrate how it is possible to access both women and men, across different viewpoints on an issue, in roles other than those that are the traditional portrayal of them, to present a balanced and fair representation of an issue.
  • Illustrate how a journalist should be able to identify and follow an idea that might emerge in unexpected circumstances and turn it into a story.
 Trainer’s notes:
The story is covered from an unsual and interesting angle. The angle emerged out of comments during a community focus group discussion organised by the Echoes News Service ahead of the Namibia’s 2004 elections. The story illustrates well how a journalist should follow an idea and turn it into a story.
Given the variety of sources (6 females and 4 males), this story provides a balance of views on religion and the State. There’s no dominant voice in this story because of the diversity of sources and their different viewpoints. Thus this story is a good example of accessing both women and men, across different viewpoints on an issue, to present a balanced and fair representation of an issue.
There is limited coverage of religion in the news. When religion does appear on the media’s agenda, the traditional portrayal of women in the Church tends to be as worshippers and followers in religious movements.
This story shows women in roles other than that. The women sourced are reflected as ‘thinkers’ on the issue of the separation between Church and State, and one of the women accessed is a leader of the Namibian churches.
One point missing in the story is what the Namibian constitution says about the separation between the Church and the State.
Training exercises:
1) Discuss the coverage of religion and women in the media:
  • How much is there coverage of religious issues in the media?
  • What do these stories tend to cover, and from whose perspective?
  • In stories about religion, how are men and women normally portrayed, in what kinds of roles?
 2) With reference to the case study discuss in group:
·         In what way can this article be regarded as a news analysis?
·         Who are the main sources?
·         Are there any missing sources? What other sources could have been consulted, and with what effect?
  • How are women portrayed in the article?
  • How does this article depict women’s roles in the church?
  • What message about women is conveyed in this article?
  • Is a story like this likely to spark debate? In what way are debates of this nature important? Does the media have a role to prompt such debates?
 Links to other training resources:
“Gender in Media Training, a Southern African Tool Kit”, chapter nine: Human Rights
“Culture, Religion and Gender, a Training Manual for the Media”. Interpress Service 2002

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