RMIG Members’ Publication

RMIG members Brian J. Bowe (Western Washington University) and Jennifer Hoewe (The University of Alabama) recently published a study titled “Night and Day: An Illustration of Framing and Moral Foundations in the Oklahoma Shariah Amendment Campaign” in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly.

When Oklahoma’s “Save our State” amendment was passed, Oklahoma voters decided that the Islamic Shariah moral code could not be used in courtroom rulings. Though the amendment was eventually overturned in higher courts, the repercussions were felt and expressed across the state, particularly in the opinion pages of Oklahoma’s newspapers. To understand these responses to the amendment, Bowe and Hoewe examined the moral arguments made in letters to the editor.

Using Moral Foundations Theory to guide a cluster analysis of the frames used in these letters, the study unveiled three frames. First, the Patriot frame emphasized the harms surrounding Shariah, and it was only found in letters in favor of banning Shariah. Second, the Heritage frame focused on loyalty and commitment to the American way, again only appearing in letters favoring the ban. Third, the Golden Rule frame was used by letter writers against the amendment, and this frame promoted the equal treatment of Muslims.

The emergence of these frames surrounding a discussion of Shariah illustrated individuals’ reliance on moral arguments to shape their opinions. However, the content analysis showed that individuals who supported the ban of Shariah in Oklahoma were more likely to frame their arguments using morally-motivated language.

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