The Guardian ran a correction today that could have been written by the PR department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, some of it was.
A headline, Fugitive Mormon leader's reign of fear ended by traffic violation, page 3, August 30, was inaccurate and has already been changed in the online version of the story to Fugitive sect leader's reign of fear etc. The man at the centre of the story, Warren Jeffs, is not a Mormon, the commonly used name for a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and never has been. The Mormon church discontinued the practice of polygamy in 1890 and insists that there is no such thing as a "Morman fundamentalist" or "Mormon sect".
I wrote to the Guardian to complain.
Dear Corrections people
I'm writing to complain about your first correction today, on Mormonism. No, it's not about the spelling mistake ('Morman'). It's that it's wrong on most substantive counts. The original headline was not inaccurate. The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is but the largest of dozens of Mormon sects in the US. Some, including those described as Mormon fundamentalists, would argue that the CJCLDS stopped being truly Mormon, stopped following Joseph Smith's teachings, when it bowed to the secular states' laws against polygamy. Warren Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of LDS is a Mormon sect, arguably more so than the CJCLDS itself. A well-researched article in the Phoenix New Times ends with this para.
The [LDS and the FLDS] are deeply intertwined. Their beliefs are based on the same scripture. They have the same founders. The key difference is that the FLDS practices what the LDS preaches.
The CJCLDS, which is rich and powerful, wants to claim the term Mormonism, and the initials LDS, for its own and to distant itself from its many sectarian off-shoots. But just because the CJCLDS insists that "there is no such thing as a 'Mormon fundamentalist,' nor are there 'Mormon sects'", as it did in a May 10 press release, and which you repeated verbatim today, does not make it true.
It is true that, because the CJCLDS is by far the largest Mormon sect, the original headline was potentially misleading. 'Fugitive Mormon sect leader' might have been clearer. But it was not "inaccurate" at all.
Did the CJCLDS contact you about this? Did you publish this correction in order to avoid possible legal action? Is there any chance that your column could take a neutral stand on the various Mormon sects, instead of acting as a mouthpiece for the propaganda of the most powerful one, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
Given my previous failure with the Corrections dept., I don't know why I'm doing this.