Should CNN Religion Writer Accept Award From Religious Advocacy Org?

The Becket Fund recently announced that Eric Marrapodi, Senior Producer at CNN and co-editor of the CNN Belief Blog, will be the recipient of its first annual Vine and Fig Tree Award.

Named for a reference in George Washington’s letter to the Jews of Newport, the award will be given on September 19, 2013 to a journalist who, in their estimation, demonstrates “excellence in reporting on religious liberty issues.”

Other figures honored by the Becket Fund include Gov. and Mrs. Mitt Romney, evangelical author Eric Metaxas, and National Organization of Marriage co-founder Robert P. George

Author, scholar, activist (and frequent RD contributor) Jay Michaelson references The Becket Fund 55 times in his 50-page report titled “Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Campaign Against Civil Rights,” noting that:

the nerve center of the conservative ‘religious liberty’ campaign is a small group of conservative Roman Catholic intellectuals and scholars concentrated around the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a public interest law firm based in Washington, D.C., and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

(The People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch offers additional analysis for those looking to further explore this organization.)

According to Time Warner’s Standards of Business Conduct (CNN is a Time Warner subsidiary), employees are to avoid conflicts of interest. While they do not address the particulars of journalists being honored by an advocacy group, The New York Times’Policy on Ethics in Journalism,” for example, offers clear guidelines for such circumstances: “Staff members may not enter local, national or international competitions sponsored by individuals or groups who have a direct interest in the tenor of our coverage.”

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Becky Garrison contributes to a range of outlets including The Washington Post's On Faith section, The Guardian, Free Inquiry, The Humanist, Killing the Buddha, Believe Out Loud, and American Atheist. Her seven books include Roger Williams' Little Book of Virtues (2013), and Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church (Jossey-Bass, 2006).