Deseret News, Mormon-owned Salt Lake City newspaper, responds to quote-mining allegation

Faith & Religion reporter Joe Walker corresponds with an American atheist

A reader and American atheist sent us this correspondence she had with Joe Walker, the author of this recent article about our upcoming convention:

October 28, 2013

Dear Editors,

There is a serious problem with the article published on October 27, by Deseret columnist Joseph Walker entitled “Atheists plan Salt Lake convention”, and I believe a prompt retraction and clarification is called for.

By extremely selective use of quoted material, Mr Walker has made it appear as if American Atheists’ Public Relations Director Dave Muscato has said that atheists are coming to Salt Lake City to have fun at the expense of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Here is the sentence that appeared in the article:

‘Some of that “fun” will come at the expense of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Muscato said.”

You’ll note that the only actual quoted word by Muscato in that entire sentence is “fun”.  I think this is very irresponsible journalism indeed.  You need only read the comments to see what poor impressions of atheists readers have received from the article.  “ulvegaard” from Medical Lake, Washington writes “…I suspect though, that [atheists] are not coming to enhance the economy but to pick a fight. Interesting how most of the intolerance in this world is generated in the hearts and hands of those who pretend to abhor it the most.”

I will be attending the American Atheists’ convention in Salt Lake, and I can assure Mr. Walker that the very last thing I want is for residents to feel as though I’m coming there to fight with them.  Mr. Walker owes the atheist community a retraction and a clarification.


[name withheld by American Atheists]

cc: Joseph Walker [email protected]

Here is the reply from Joe Walker:

On Monday, October 28, 2013 10:08 PM, Joe Walker <[email protected]> wrote:

Hello, [name withheld by American Atheists]:

Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my story in today’s Deseret News. I understand your concern, even though you have taken the sentence out of context. The sentence just before makes it clear there are other objectives to the convention — speakers, worships, training sessions and cultivating a sense of community —  although the quote from Dave Muscato about “having fun” is completely accurate. And although I believe and respect your statement that you are not coming to the convention to fight with Mormons, Mr. Muscato made it clear in my interview with him that one of the reasons Salt Lake City was selected for the conference is to stand up to the LDS Church.

“We’re OK with going negative,” he told me. “I have no problem with saying that religion, or any religion, religion is a scam. It convinces people that they should give up their time and money to something that isn’t real. It convinces people to buy into something that isn’t true. It is intellectually dishonest to claim to know things they couldn’t possible know. And it is immoral to teach gullible and impressionable people that if they believe nonsense they can be saved from sin, which I don’t believe exists in the first place. We are coming to Salt Lake City to express that perspective to anyone who will listen.”

So even though Mr. Muscato’s views don’t reflect your own, what I wrote in the story DOES reflect Mr. Muscato’s view — at least what he said to me. So I stand by my story.

Thanks again for taking the time to write.

Joseph WalkerFaith & Religion Reporter

Deseret News
55 N. 300 West
Salt Lake City, Utah  84101
Office: (801) 333-7444
Cell: [cell withheld by American Atheists]
Email: [email protected]

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  • snoopcat

    I seriously doubt that Mr. Muscato said that American Atheists is coming to SLC at the expense of the LDS. The only “expense” the LDS will incur will be the burden of losing debates with us. We will be there to have a good time (at our expense) & to spread our message to anyone who who wants to hear it, just like Mormon missionaries do.

    • Linda

      And those people in utah, have the right to not listen without you hounding them correct. cause if you do you might not like what you get. then you will be treated like missionaries from all religions are by people who are pest. Most missionaries of different religions do not pester you. I have talked with a lot of people of other religions and non believers. Some I call friends, the difference is we agree to disagree.

      • snoopcat

        Linda: the real issue is that religions do not know how to respond to challenges to their core belief that gods exist. They cannot comprehend why anyone would question it.

  • campbell

    atheists won’t be pestering mormons in their homes.

  • No2shariaNo4islam

    I hope Mr. Muscato after the convention directly challenges Joseph Walker to correct his false quotes of what Mr. Muscato said. If he does not comply would a defamation of character suite apply in this situation?

  • dan

    Why does this organization try to promote the belief in no God? If someone truly does not believe in God why the need to try to eliminate Him? I don’t believe in San ta Claus but I don’t feel the need to take out billboards saying he does not exist. It seems to me you must not truly not believe so you are uncomfortable with seeing and hearing references to God.

    • Chikkipop

      The need to “eliminate Him” (with upper case “h”)!? How silly!

      Why the need to respond to irrational beliefs? A better question would be, why would anyone NOT want to respond to such things?

      This quote from Steve Allen says it well:

      “I do not understand those who take little or no interest in the subject of religion. If religion embodies a truth, it is certainly the most important truth of human experience. If it is largely error, then it is one of monumentally tragic proportions – and should be vigorously opposed.”

    • Robert miller

      they do not. where do you see them trying to promote a belief in no god? Religion is the curse of man. Reason is the cure. Atheism is reason. religion is supernatural mumbo jumbo. You claim there is a god,the burden is on you to prove it beyond a doubt. i will be waiting.

  • Doodle

    Moron’s was the shorter form of Mormon’s. It’s a good thing I exist and Jesus is dead with Mary and Joseph his mum and pop. I am the real lord.

  • Robert miller

    mormoms..jld….jeeezus.what a bunch of backward inbred weirdos. They have to indoctrinate from birth,no other way ppl could believ this rubbish.I cannot wait until the day the word “god” is stricken from our reality, and replaced by reason and science. what a wonderful world it would be.

Copyright 2013 American Atheists