Judge not, lest ye be judged

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People of faith sometimes refer to themselves or others as “committed” Christians, “devout” Catholics or “observant” Jews as a way of indicating faithful practice of a religious tradition. Journalists shouldn’t do the same. It is not a journalist’s job to judge the depth of a person’s faith or steadfastness of practice. Instead, describe a person’s faith and practice with specific details. Journalists also can’t assume that what a person says is accurate; if it can’t be verified, simply attribute the statement to the person rather than proclaiming it as fact. For example, if an Orthodox Jewish candidate for political office doesn’t campaign on the Sabbath, you can state that as fact. But if a profile subject says she tithes (giving 10 percent of her income to her congregation) but doesn’t give you access to financial records, say she says she tithes; don’t take her word for it.