No. Stop sharing this link: Christian Pastor In Vermont Sentenced To One Year In Prison After Refusing To Marry Gay Couple. [I hope you don’t even click the link, but I include it so that those who may have shared it can know it is fake.]
The “NBC” site is fake. It’s not the actually NBC everyone knows. Instead, the website for this purported news site is NBC.com.co. That .co at the back means it has nothing to do with the real NBC.com or NBC’s news site NBCnews.com.
It’s not real. Don’t share it. And no, it does not matter if you say “but this could happen.” Pastors have not been arrested for refusing to perform a same-sex marriage and you aren’t helping matters by saying it has.
Remember in 2004 when conservatives (rightly) mocked Dan Rather for saying the documents that allegedly proved President George W. Bush were “fake, but accurate.”
If you are too young or need a refresher, leading up to the election between Bush and John Kerry, 60 Minutes and Rather claimed they had documents to prove Bush was given preferential treatment in the Texas Air National Guard and never actually completed necessary requirements.
Shortly after the 60 Minutes episode aired, conservative websites began questioning the authenticity of the documents. They quickly and rather simply demonstrated the forms were recent and could not have been made, as was claimed, in the 1970s.
CBS’ story unraveled and Dan Rather’s credibility went out the window as he continued to defend the documents long after nonpartisan experts had supported the claims of the conservative websites.
Rather responded that the documents were “fake, but accurate.” In other words, sure the actual proof may have been faked, but they accurately represented the truth.
It’s a laughable claim then and now. But it’s not just laughable, it completely undermines the credibility of the one making the claim, which is why Rather is no longer a respected news journalist. His refusal to acknowledge the truth in this caused everyone to doubt all that he said.
For the Christian, we should have a higher standard that even the journalist. We do not have the reputation of a news organization to protect, but rather we bear the name of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Even practically speaking, it harms the defense of actual religious liberty when Christians make false claims of persecution. Current cases when religious freedoms have been curtailed are dismissed by critics by connecting them to these false stories.
Not to mention, if that fake story ever did accurately represent reality, we will have been the boy crying wolf on Facebook and no one will believe us if it actually is the truth.
Do not share this fake news story. If you see someone share it, gently correct them and let them know it is fake.
Just like the rumor that Facebook would take control of your account unless you posted some specific status update, or Pope Francis saying “all religions are true,” or a new document proves Jesus miracles, fake stories spread because people don’t check what they share and no one corrects them.
Here are a few tips I shared before about how you can double-check an article or site that has some shocking news story.
Dig around the site more – Look and see if they have other outlandish stories or barely any stories. NBC.com.co only has a few stories on their site, one of which claims Breaking Bad is filming a new season. This has been proven false.
Google the story topic – If something is newsworthy, other sources will have covered it. No reputable news site, including those run by Christians, like World Magazine orChristianity Today, have said anything about this pastor supposedly being arrested.
Google the website – Often enough, one of the top links will be to a blog post explaining the website in question is fake. On the first page of results for NBC.com.co, you find the link debunking the Breaking Bad rumor, which says this:
NBC.com.co is not affiliated with the NBC channel at all, and it does not publish genuine news.
In fact the NBC.com.co is a new website (from the time of writing) created in June 2015 and seems to be publishing fictional stories related to the world of entertainment. It has links to other well established fake news websites.
Truth cannot be carried forward on the shoulders of lies. Religious liberty will not be protected with religious-sounding lies. As much as possible, make sure something is true before you share it.
Related: You may have also seen a story about Bible publishers being sued for verses about homosexuality. I deal with that here: Is a Gay Man Suing Bible Publishers for $70 Million?