National Council of Churches General Secretary Bob Edgar criticized a column in U.S. News & World Report critical of his organization as “journalistic malpractice.”

An Oct. 18 column in the magazine included the “reliably leftist” NCC in listing of human-rights efforts of mainline churches and groups that allegedly discriminate against Israel.

The column cited a report by the Institute on Religion and Democracy saying that of 197 human-rights criticisms by the groups, 37 percent were aimed at Israel and 32 percent at the United States, while ignoring human-rights abuses in nations including China, Libya, Syria and North Korea.

Edgar responded in a Thursday letter to the magazine’s editor describing the reporter’s source, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, as “a privately controlled political organization” committed to “a systematic campaign of disinformation, distortion and demagoguery” that is damaging many of America’s faith groups.

Edgar said since the NCC is an association of American churches, it is logical that most of its statements on public policy would deal with the U.S. government. He added, however, that in its entire history the NCC has adopted only two policy statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and both were comprehensive and balanced in their approach.

“Of the more than 650 resolutions adopted by the National Council of Churches since its founding in 1950, fewer than 40 have dealt with the Middle East, and many of these are not focused on Israel, dealing instead with such matters as conditions affecting Christians in Egypt, hostage situations in Iran and Lebanon and the Gulf War in Iraq and Kuwait,” Edgar wrote. “How the IRD could construe this public record as obsessed with Israeli policies is a mystery.”

Edgar said no one at the NCC was asked in advance of or since publication to confirm, clarify or refute the statements or statistics. “We expect more of a distinguished national publication,” he said.

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