In the aftermath of the horrific Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka that killed 321 Christians and others who were observing the holiday and wounded 500 others, some commentators and media figures criticized statements from prominent Democrats as being biased (subconsciously or not) against Christians and downplaying the status of Christians as a victimized group.
Many journalists pointed out that prominent Democrats — including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Colorado Governor Jared Polis, and Rep. Greg Stanton (D - AZ) — used the term “Easter worshippers" to describe the bombing victims instead of the word “Christians":
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There was a stark difference in how left-wing and right-wing media outlets covered the criticisms. Let's break down the bias claims.
The Right Believes The Term "Easter Worshippers" and Lack of Statements from Key Politicians Reveals Anti-Christian Bias
Many of those on the Right believed that the use of the term “Easter worshippers" was a euphemism that was not only inaccurate — Christians don’t worship Easter, they celebrate or observe it — and downplayed or omitted the persecution of Christians as a group.
Other journalists noted that some prominent political figures, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D - NY) and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D), were silent on the attack despite being quick to comment on the recent terror attack on Muslims in New Zealand.
Many on the Right said that the term "Easter worshippers" and the silence of some prominent politicians showed media bias against Christians.
"Christians are among the most persecuted groups on the planet," writes Matt Walsh at the Daily Wire (Right media bias). "On a monthly basis, hundreds are murdered for their faith, hundreds more are locked in prison without just cause, and dozens of churches are burned or vandalized … This fact — that Christians are not only a victim group, but are one of the most victimized groups — is extraordinarily inconvenient for Democrats, who have structured their whole agenda around their victimhood narrative. By their telling, racial minorities, women, homosexuals, and Muslims are The Victims while white men and Christians are The Bad Guys. This dichotomy would be thrown wildly out of balance and sent into disarray if Christians were admitted into the victim column — especially because they are so often victimized by Muslim extremists."
"Essentially, the Left’s rule is that nothing bad — no matter how true — may be said about Muslims or Islam and nothing good — no matter how true — may be said of Christians or Christianity," Dennis Prager writes at The National Review (Right media bias). "[Clinton] made sure to condemn "Islamophobia," but she wrote not a word about the far more destructive and widespread hatred of Christians in the Muslim world, seen in Muslims’ virtual elimination of the Christian communities in the Middle East, the regular murder and kidnappings of Coptic Christians in Egypt, and the murder of Christians in Nigeria."
The Left and Others Believe the Term "Easter Worshippers" is Descriptive
The issue was largely ignored on the Left. I found only find one Left media outlet that ran a story defending the use of the term "Easter worshippers" — Slate (Left media bias). (If you find another, please let us know!)
“Let me try to help: “Easter worshippers" describes Christians in church on Easter Sunday," wrote Ruth Graham at Slate. “The term is more descriptive than “Christians," because it conveys the additional fact that the victims were actively celebrating Easter when they were killed. They are worshippers, and it is Easter."
Libertarian outlet Reason magazine (Lean Right media bias) took a similar view:
“These barbs are little more than partisan point-scoring," Christian Britschgi writes. “The reference to "Easter worshippers," while perhaps clumsy phrasing, is hard to see as anything but an attempt to highlight the religious motivations of these attacks, and the fact that they struck at Christian churchgoers as they were peacefully observing a religious holiday. What else is an Easter worshipper but a Christian?"
Bias Is In the Eye of the Beholder
The controversy over the phrase “Easter worshippers" is another reminder that bias is in the eye of the beholder. While some see the phrase “Easter worshippers" as a euphemism that downplays or ignores Christian persecution, others see it as descriptive.
The conversation is also a reminder that we rarely see people on opposing sides acknowledging the other’s view in good faith. None of the Right-leaning outlets acknowledged that political leaders might have been trying to be descriptive of the event where the bombings took place, and the Left-leaning outlets and others either ignored the concerns of conservatives by omitting the discussion from their coverage entirely, or downplaying their concerns that political figures have a blind spot when it comes to Christian victimization. In American political discussions today, we rarely acknowledge that The Other Side might have a point, and that their perspective is often valid — even if we disagree.
Repairing our democracy requires understanding, not dismissing alternative viewpoints. AllSides partners with civic dialogue groups to help Americans practice respectful dialogue, to see and understand multiple perspectives.
Instead of disregarding the concerns of “The Other Side," we ought listen first — and try to understand.
Julie Mastrine is the Director of Marketing at AllSides. She has a Lean Right bias.
This piece was reviewed by Samantha Shireman, Information Architect at AllSides. She has a Lean Left bias.
Update 4/25: The Sri Lankan Health Ministry lowered the death toll in the attacks from 321 to 253 on Thursday.