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Major newspaper falls for SBC hoax story

SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–A major newspaper in Utah fell for a hoax and printed a story that said the Southern Baptist Convention had backed “gay marriage,” only to delete the story from its online edition when notified of the error and print an apology and retraction.

The Deseret News, based in Salt Lake City, posted the story on its website Friday evening, July 8 — with the headline “Southern Baptists accept gay marriage,” and left it there more than 15 hours before pulling it after receiving phone calls and emails. It also appeared in Saturday’s print editions, on page 2 of the Faith section.

On Saturday afternoon the newspaper posted a follow-up story on its website acknowledging the error with the headline “Southern Baptist gay marriage story a hoax.” That story was printed in Sunday’s edition.

Newspaper representatives were apologetic Saturday when contacted by Southern Baptist Convention representatives. The Deseret News is the state’s second largest newspaper.

The false story was based on a fake press release from June 28 that claimed the Southern Baptist Convention was on the verge of formally supporting “gay marriage” and repenting of its stance on homosexuality. The press release claimed to be from the Southern Baptist Convention and it came with a phone number and a website, neither of which was the true SBC number or Internet site. Later in the day June 28, the group behind the press release, the Center for Responsible Christian Living, acknowledged it was a hoax.

“The Deseret News published the story based on a press release received at the Deseret News offices,” the second Deseret News story read. “It is Deseret News policy to call on all press releases and verify the information received. This did not happen in this circumstance. The Deseret News regrets the error, and offers apologies to our readers for having failed to do our duty responsibly. Special apologies are directed to the Southern Baptist community.”

The Center for Responsible Christian Living, which apparently does not have a website or a spokesperson, said June 28 the hoax was to “highlight the Southern Baptists’ anti-gay stance as both irresponsible and unchristian.”

The Deseret News’ story quoted Roger S. (“Sing”) Oldham, vice president for convention communications for the SBC Executive Committee, as telling Baptist Press, “Southern Baptists do not think it irresponsible or unchristian to uphold clear biblical teachings on human sexuality and marriage. God’s expectation of sexual purity is woven throughout every part of Scripture, across generational and cultural lines. The Bible is equally clear that all who receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, those who repent of their sins and trust in Christ alone, will be forgiven and delivered from the bondage of sin. To deny such a fundamental biblical teaching as God’s redemptive purpose is the height of irresponsibility and would clearly be un-Christian.”

The newspaper ended with a quote from Oldham: “‘Thankfully, most of the media recognized it for what it was,’ he said. Then he added good-naturedly: ‘Of course, we’re sorry you were taken in by it.'”
Compiled by Baptist Press staff. The Desert News’ updated story is available online at http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700150528/Southern-Baptist-gay-marriage-story-a-hoax.html.

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