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Spreading the word


Everyone's been talking about it -- the Gazette's decision to distribute New Testaments to all 91,000 of its subscribers.

Everyone, that is, except the Gazette.

Last week, we reported the Bible-to-Sinner plan (that column can be read in full at We figured that the editor -- who last week did not respond to our queries seeking clarification -- would surely include an explanation to her own readers the day the New Testament appeared. We thought she might describe the rationale behind the controversial distribution plan, and possibly include a little ditty about how it wouldn't impact the newspaper's commitment to fair and objective journalist. Something like that.

Then on Sunday, from the editor, Sharon Peters? Nothing.

But Editor & Publisher -- the bible, if you will, for journalists -- picked up on the story about the first daily newspaper in the United States to distribute the New Testament. The report quoted Susan Kelly-Gilbert, the Gazette's vice president of marketing, saying that only about half of a claimed two dozen phone calls that came in over the Bible flap were negative. The Gazette received a reported $36,000 from the Springs-based International Bible Society to distribute the New Testaments.

The Associated Press also picked up the story, quoting an unnamed Gazette spokeswoman saying it was "just like" delivering cereal or toothpaste samples with the newspaper.

Here at the Independent, we received a slew of response -- none of it positive. Colorado Springs resident Elizabeth Fineron was deeply offended by the pat explanation that she was given after calling numerous people at the daily newspaper to complain: "I just don't see the connection -- that this is the same as a sample of Colgate or hair conditioner," she said. "The New Testament is faith and it was sent without my permission into my home.

"It's selling Jesus, no matter how you look at it."

Julian Fisher forwarded this letter he sent to the Gazette:

"A newspaper that gives away the Bible has lost its objectivity and squandered its public trust. By so doing, you have declared yourselves to be a sectarian entity, a religiously oriented news source, not a public newspaper. You should be clearer in your editorial and news policies about that, so that your readers and advertisers can decide whether they want to support you. I for one certainly would not."

The Rev. Ahriana Platten, an interfaith minister, also forwarded her letter to the Gazette:

"I do not subscribe to the Gazette for the purpose of religious influence. I subscribe to get the news. This is not news. I do not expect my newspaper to act as a distributing arm for religious propaganda of any kind. I am deeply disappointed in your decision to distribute this material because I expect the Gazette to provide clear and objective information.

"I doubt you would include a version of the Koran, the Torah or the Tao Te Ching in your distribution and find a biblical inclusion to be a personal assault on all of those I serve who are not of Christian persuasion.

"It is an inappropriate use of my agreement with you as a subscriber. Needless to say, you may cancel my subscription and rest assured I will be encouraging others to cancel theirs."

The Gazette may have their official spokesperson spinning the Bible-is-toothpaste line, but meanwhile, a conservative Web site that purports to be "America's News" -- essentially lifted the Independent's report of last week and reprinted much of it without bothering to attribute their information as having originated in this newspaper.

Their "story," which was posted as of press time at archives/ic/2004/12/18/174134.shtml, was credited to "Carl Limbacher and Staff," and incorporated this barbed opener:

"In a move that is sure to upset the anti-Christian faction at the American Civil Liberties Union, subscribers to the Colorado Springs Gazette will find a healthy dose of holiday spirit in their Sunday editions: a Bible, and at no extra charge."

As of press time, editors had not responded to queries seeking an explanation of how the Independent column came to appear just slightly adulterated on their Web site and attributed to their reporter and staff.

And amid all this national attention focused on the Gazette, editor Peters still has not breathed a word.

Maybe she's waiting for her mouthwash sample to arrive.


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