Sin of Omission

How long can religious conservatives go on about protecting kids from dangerous drugs without saying anything about smoking?


Several years ago, Forest Jones, the youth minister at the First Assembly of God in Raleigh, North Carolina, joined a local campaign against teen smoking. He counseled his young flock about the temptations of tobacco, enlisting the teens to lobby local merchants to stop selling cigarettes to kids. “The tobacco industry started taking note,” Jones recalls. Soon afterward, when he moved to a church five counties away, Jones got a creepy phone call from the local officer of a tobacco company. “It was somebody in management,” the minister remembers. “He wanted to know if I was here to pastor, or was I going to start any trouble?”

Similar questions confront a growing number of conservative Christian clergy and political activists as they grapple with the contradiction between their beliefs about the sanctity of life and the Christian right’s conspicuous silence about the tobacco industry. Successive revelations about smoking-induced death and disease, the marketing of cigarettes to children, and the manipulation of nicotine to encourage addiction are gradually reducing cigarette purveyors from the status of honest businesspeople to that of pushers, pimps, and pornographers. Yet the industry provides the Christian right with a vast grassroots base and a staunch Republican ally. Will religious conservatives continue to accept tobacco’s support in exchange for their silence? Or will they start making trouble?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.