The AP’s Sleight of Hand on Religion

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J. D. Flynn does a nice job knocking down the Associated Press story trying to make it into a scandal that groups affiliated with the Catholic Church used the PPP for its intended purpose of avoiding layoffs. I’d add that this passage from Reese Dunklin and Michael Rezendes is really shameful:

Catholic entities amassed at least $3 billion — roughly the same as the combined total of recipients from the other faiths that rounded out the top five, AP found. Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Jewish faith-based recipients also totaled at least $3 billion. Catholics account for about a fifth of the U.S. religious population while members of Protestant and Jewish denominations are nearly half, according to the Pew Research Center.

This is artfully misleading.

Take a good look at the Pew data on our country’s religious demographics that Dunkle and Rezendes mention. Catholics make up 20.8 percent of the population. Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, and Jews make up a combined 25.5 percent.

So all the second sentence is really telling us is that Catholic groups got “roughly the same” amount that groups from religious traditions that add up to roughly the same proportion of the population got. But sentence number three, by suddenly adding every other flavor of Protestantism into the mix, and not noting that we’re now talking about a different group of religious traditions, makes it look like Catholic groups got a disproportionate share.

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