Media mockery of prayer, 'subtle smears' against Christianity marks coverage of Nashville massacre

One faith leader said our nation must 'address the moral decay and brokenness plaguing our culture

Pastors and conservative leaders weighed in on reaction by journalists and entertainers who have mocked prayer and brought attention to Tennessee's drag show ban amid the Christian elementary school massacre that took six lives Monday. 

As the nation grapples with the murders of three adults and three children at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, faith leaders responded to the criticism by journalists, commentators, entertainers and activists who have mocked prayer and blamed conservatives for outlawing drag shows for kids and not guns.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins reiterated that people should still turn to prayer as a way to combat the "spiritual battle" that "is raging for our country and our culture" which "is targeting our children."

"We must return to the only lasting source of hope and freedom – the Lord Jesus Christ," he added. "The Church must stand uncompromisingly upon the truth of God’s word, which is the source of hope and freedom. Nothing Washington is doing will matter until we acknowledge and address the moral decay and brokenness plaguing our culture." 


Covenant Presbyterian senior pastor Chad Scruggs lost his 9-year-old daughter, Hallie, during the massacre Monday. Two other 9-year-old students, Evelyn Dieckhaus and William Kinney, as well as school janitor and father of 8 Michael Hill, the head of the school Katherine Koonce and substitute teacher Cynthia Peak were also killed during the attack. 

Curtis Houck of the right-leaning Media Research Center, who practices the same Presbyterian faith as the school, said the coverage had been "horrendous." 

"The media coverage is absolutely tainted by the facts of the case with both the location and victims being outside what one could view as the traditionally liberal, secular world in which much of the journalism profession operates. So, there’s already a bias and lack of both compassion and knowledge about the victims of this school run by a church in the right-leaning denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America," he told Fox News Digital. "But along with the proximity bias, the coverage has been horrendous on account of the fact that the victims represent the kind of worldview that the left views as backward and hateful and whose very existence contributes to the suffering of groups they hold dear — supporters of abortion, the LGBTQ community, traditional views on sex, etc."

A police officer comforts a mourner outside of The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. On Monday, six people - three adults and three children - were killed inside the school in a mass shooting.

A police officer comforts a mourner outside of The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. On Monday, six people - three adults and three children - were killed inside the school in a mass shooting. (KR/Mega for Fox News Digital)

The shooter, who was killed at the scene during a shootout with responding officers, has been identified as former student Audrey Hale, who also identified as transgender. 

Despite the tragedy and loss of life, many public figures have criticized conservatives and Christians for their faith and prayer. 


"As a nation, we owe these families more than our prayers. We owe them action," President Biden said during a speech addressing the shooting Tuesday. 

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, R., tweeted that he was "closely monitoring" the tragic situation at Covenant on Monday, asking people to "please join us in praying for the school, congregation & Nashville community."

Associated Press reporter Kimberlee Kruesi criticized Lee, who in 2019 "said he believed if Tennesseans prayed to God to favor the state - specifically mentioning school shootings - God would answer those prayers. Ever since, Lee has resisted calls to strengthen gun control laws - a common theme in TN."

"If thoughts and prayers alone worked to stop gun violence, there wouldn't have been a shooting at a Christian elementary school," It's your actions - including weakening the state's gun laws - that's killing kids in Tennessee. SHAME ON YOU. Covenant School," Gun control activist Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action tweeted in response to Lee's call for prayers. 

Left-wing sports writer Mike Wise responded in agreement to one Twitter user who said, "I don't condone Audrey Hale's actions, though I understand their outrage against an intolerant state that brainwashes children through religious indoctrination. The reality is this human still identified as that child attending that school and carried that pain into adulthood." 


"This is as deep and real as it gets. Thank you," Wise tweeted in response. 


Progressive talk show host David Pakman mocked the Covenant School community for not "praying enough."

"Very surprising that there would be a mass shooting at a Christian school, given that lack of prayer is often blamed for these horrible events," he wrote in a since-deleted tweet. "Is it possible they weren't praying enough, or correctly, despite being a Christian school?" 

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, R., called out those who said "thoughts & prayers aren’t enough."

"The Covenant School shooting was horrific," he tweeted. "For everyone who says ‘thoughts & prayers aren’t enough,’ I AGREE. Ask why EVERY SINGLE SENATE DEM voted against my bill doubling police officers in school. One armed officer could have stopped this lunatic, BEFORE a child was killed."

A mourner visits a memorial outside of The Covenant School for the six victims who were killed in a mass shooting in Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. On Monday, three adults and three children were killed inside the school.

A mourner visits a memorial outside of The Covenant School for the six victims who were killed in a mass shooting in Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. On Monday, three adults and three children were killed inside the school. (KR/Mega for Fox News Digital)

Television show writer Lee Aronsohn scoffed at prayer and criticized Tennessee's recent legislation passed this month that bans drag shows on public property and near schools. 

"Dead, Maimed Children = Thoughts & Prayers™ Drag Queen Story Hour = Impassioned Condemnation and Priority Legislation,"he tweeted. "The thing is, If we gave an assault rifle to every drag queen the GOP would make Story Hour a national holiday."

Several others slammed the state for banning drag shows and gender-affirming care for children instead of guns.


"Drag shows and gender-affirming care for minors were banned in Tennessee this month, while assault weapons remain legal," Newsweek tweeted.

"Thank god Tennessee protected the children from the so-called horrors of drag and gender affirming care so they can be shot up at school by an AR-15 instead," civil rights attorney and Harvard law clinical instructor Alejandra Caraballo said in a since limited tweet. 

Houck said "subtle smears" had marked the press coverage, such as ABC's Terry Moran noting the "state of Tennessee earlier this month passed and the governor signed a bill that banned transgender medical care for minors."

"If this had been a MAGA-hat-wearing Trump supporter murdering three children and three adults inside a mosque, the media coverage would be teeming with stories making broad generalizations about Christians and conservatives, suggesting they’re a danger to the rest of the country and should be thought of as such," Houck said.

Despite the criticism, many faith leaders and Christians have stayed strong in their resolve that prayer is the path forward to deal with the pain surrounding the tragic event.

"Prayers to the victims families of the Nashville Christian school shooting," Fox News political analyst and podcast host Gianno Caldwell tweeted. "There is an attack on our faith and our children which MUST come to an end."



Christian singer Lauren Daigle held a prayer vigil for the shooting victims in Nashville Monday night instead of her previously scheduled concert. 

"Today’s shooting is truly heartbreaking for our Nashville community and all of those impacted. I’m going to postpone my performance tonight, and in its place, host a community-wide Prayer Vigil," the star shared on Instagram. "To everyone who was planning to come out, please continue to come join us as we share in a time of prayer and worship to honor the victims and everyone in need."

"To those in the local Nashville area, if you need a safe place to come pray, mourn, and be with your community, please join us. The doors are open for all. Same location. Same time. With all my love and support, Lauren Daigle," she wrote. 

The Covenant School issued a statement on Monday asking for "privacy as our community grapples with this terrible tragedy- for our students, parents, faculty and staff."

As law enforcement conducts its investigation, the school noted they understand there will be a lot of interest, discussion and speculation around what happened, but stated they will continue to prioritize the well-being of their community. 

"Our community is heartbroken," the statement said. "We are grieving tremendous loss and are in shock coming out of the terror that shattered our school and church. We are focused on loving our students, our families, our faculty and staff and beginning the process of healing."


"We appreciate the outpouring of support we have received, and we are tremendously grateful to the first responders who acted quickly to protect our students, faculty and staff," the statement concluded. 


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