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The Herald-Times' quirky religion rules

By Scott Tibbs, January 12, 2011

Last week, my letter to the editor was published in the Herald-Times, but not before a very strange request came from the editor. In an e-mail, I was told that "We'll either have to take the quote from Proverbs out or run this on our religion page." My response to that request follows:

The letter I submitted falls within the editorial page guidelines as established by Mr.. Zaltsberg in an editorial on April 5, 2010. The relevant portion of Mr. Zaltsberg's editorial is quoted below.


Letters that simply attempt to interpret the Bible will no longer be published in The Herald-Times editorial pages.

That does not mean the Bible or an interpretation of it will never again be allowed in the letters column. But the reference to the Bible must be part of a larger argument or opinion about an issue of some current relevance.

My letter speaks to a contemporary public policy issue. Furthermore, it addresses an upcoming local event, and decisions by local government on how public funds are spent. The quote from Proverbs is a small part of the overall letter.

If the Herald-Times has implemented a new policy that states Scriptural references are not permitted in letters to the editor even when connected to debate over a public policy issue, please remove the quote from Proverbs so it can be published as a LTTE.

If that is the case, I strongly encourage Mr. Zaltsberg to write another editorial announcing the change in policy so Herald-Times readers will know what the new guidelines are.

But if the policy has not changed, please publish my letter as written.

After years of back and forth letters about the interpretation of Scripture and complaints from some about those letters, the H-T announced that there would be no more letters published on the editorial page that deal only with interpretations of the Bible or trying to make an argument about religion. Because religion does play a large part in many contemporary debates about public policy and culture, religious arguments would still be published, but letters that deal only with religious doctrine and interpretations of that doctrine would be on the Religion page.

What makes the initial decision so unusual is because it was so clearly at odds with the very policy that the Herald-Times established last year, especially since the quote from Proverbs was only 6 percent of my total letter and that my letter addressed local government and how local tax dollars are spent. For several years now, the Herald-Times has gone out of its way to focus on local news.

The good news is that the Herald-Times relented and published my letter with the Bible quote intact.