Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A New Sheriff In Town?

Is it my imagination or is the Church taking the gloves off in the public arena?  Specifically I refer to Church PR head Michael Otterson’s recent letter published in the Tribune.  He has some pretty harsh words for reporter Rebecca Walsh.  Walsh, a few days earlier, rather snarkily called out the Church for its yearly pre-legislative session with lawmakers.  Walsh sees these meetings as proof that Utah is just short of a theocracy.  She thinks the meeting is a violation of the separation of Church and State.  I don’t really agree with her but I can see her point, and her criticism is nothing new. 

But the response from the Church PR -- now that caught my eye.  Otterson, the managing director of PR for the Church, blasts Walsh for thinking the Church isn’t entitled to its say in public issues like everyone else.  He makes some valid points but his manner in doing so it pretty surprising.  He gets a little personal and mean about it.  He doesn’t do a full Glen Beck on her but he comes close.  He even makes it personal, calling her "someone who invariably sees a conspiracy behind every pew.

Now I have to think that something like this gets run up the Church flagpole before it gets sent to the newspaper, so what gives?  Is this PR or is this a dog fight?  It almost seems like the Church has decided that it is not going to be a punching bag anymore.  Could it be that with PR savvy President Hinckley’s passing, the new leaders have decided they are not going to take it lying down anymore?  Is President Monson less willing to turn the other check?  Or is this just an angry manager making what I think is a poor PR move?

I don’t think President Hinckley would have authorized such a response.  I can see him reading Walsh’s column and shaking his head a little bit and then saying leave it alone. When I was just starting college my brother and I were canvassing our neighborhood to drum up business for a lawn fertilizing company.  We knocked on the door of our neighbor, Gordon B. Hinckley, and he invited us right in.  He was very friendly and curious about what we were doing with our lives.  I told him that I went to the U. of U. and mentioned that the university newspaper, the Daily Chronicle, had been running some stories that were critical of the Church.  He nodded a little and said that that was nothing new and what could you expect?  He wasn’t particularly upset; he had seen it all before. He just shrugged it off.  I think maybe that’s how he ran the Church as well.  He may not have liked criticism of the Church but he was careful not to encourage more by issuing angry responses to it. 

Which brings me back to Walsh and Otterson.  Have the brethren decided to quite shrugging?