Bobby Ross Jr.

Nearly 1 million sign petition to boycott Target: Will the news media quote any of them?

Nearly 1 million sign petition to boycott Target: Will the news media quote any of them?

I have a problem with Target.

There, I did it. I admitted my bias.

But inevitably, the store closest to my house only opens a handful of checkout lanes, and I find myself waiting in a long line to buy milk and a loaf of bread. 

Oh, you thought I was going to talk about bathrooms?

OK, I guess I can do that, too.

Maybe you've heard that a #BoycottTarget online petition has gained nearly 1 million signatures. I'm not one of them, mind you. I think boycotts are silly and have no intention to stop shopping at Target (although I'll take this opportunity to call on management to hire more cashiers). I'll also keep eating at Chick-fil-A (as often as possible!). And I'll maintain my PayPal account, even though I hardly ever use it. 

However, from a journalistic perspective, I am interested in news coverage of the Target boycott.

Religion News Service had the basics in a story earlier this week (the number of signatures has kept growing since this report):

(RNS) Less than a week after Target, the nation’s second-largest discount retailer, announced that transgender customers may use the restroom that “corresponds with their gender identity,” nearly 500,000 people have signed a #BoycottTarget online petition launched by the conservative American Family Association.
In its April 19 announcement, the Minneapolis-based retailer with 1,802 outlets said, “We believe that everyone — every team member, every guest, and every community — deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally.”
The retailer, which had $74 billion in revenue last year, said it was motivated by legislation in about 15 states that would require individuals to use the restroom that corresponds with the sex listed on their birth certificate. The Williams Institute, a think tank based at UCLA, estimates there are 300,000 transgender people (13 or older) in those 15 states.
The day after Target’s statement, the AFA launched the boycott, saying, “Target’s policy is exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims. Target’s dangerous new policy poses a danger to wives and daughters.”
Mississippi-based AFA called on Target to install additional restrooms to be designated as single occupancy and unisex.

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What does she really believe? AP takes a shallow dive into Hillary Clinton's faith

What does she really believe? AP takes a shallow dive into Hillary Clinton's faith

The headline is nice.

The headline stirs my curiosity.

The headline entices me to click.

As I dive into this week's Associated Press story on Hillary Clinton's faith, I'm hopeful of learning more about what makes the Democratic presidential frontrunner tick — from a religious standpoint.

Here at GetReligion, of course, this topic has come up before.

In the latest story, the lede sets the scene:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Sunday mornings at Baptist churches fall right into Hillary Clinton's comfort zone.
"This is the day the Lord has made," Clinton said recently at Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, New York, as sunshine streamed through the stained-glass windows and hit the packed pews. "Being here at this church with these beautiful people, knowing how grateful I am for this spring day. I feel blessed and grace is all around us."
Black Baptist churches may not seem like an obvious match for Clinton, a white Methodist from the Chicago suburbs. But the Democratic presidential candidate, who's been criticized for her tentative, even awkward political skills, often seems most at ease in houses of worship. It's where she's shared her faith for many years and earned a loyal following.
"One thing not a lot of people really understand about her is the central role of faith in her life," said Mo Elleithee, Clinton's spokesman in her 2008 White House campaign.

OK, you have my attention. Please tell me more.

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Faith angle or not, this Washington Post story on civil asset forfeiture will outrage you

Faith angle or not, this Washington Post story on civil asset forfeiture will outrage you

Yes, the story we are about to discuss has a religion angle.

But it's not a religion story per se.

Rather, this is a story about what happens when law enforcement authorities with unchecked power trample on an ordinary person and take his personal property — with little recourse on the citizen's part.

Sadly, the case in question involves my home state of Oklahoma, as the Washington Post reports:

Eh Wah had been on the road for 12 hours when he saw the flashing lights in his rear-view mirror.
The 40-year-old Texas man, a refugee from Burma who became a U.S. citizen more than a decade ago, was heading home to Dallas to check on his family. He was on a break from touring the country for months as a volunteer manager for the Klo & Kweh Music Team, a Christian rock ensemble from Burma, also known as Myanmar. The group was touring the United States to raise funds for a Christian college in Burma and an orphanage in Thailand.
Eh Wah managed the band's finances, holding on to the cash proceeds it raised from ticket and merchandise sales at concerts. By the time he was stopped in Oklahoma, the band had held concerts in 19 cities across the United States, raising money via tickets that sold for $10 to $20 each.
The sheriff's deputies in Muskogee County, Okla., pulled Eh Wah over for a broken tail light about 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 27. The deputies started asking questions — a lot of them. And at some point, they brought out a drug-sniffing dog, which alerted on the car. That's when they found the cash, according to the deputy's affidavit.

As the story continues, readers learn:

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How liberal is this denomination? Canadians debating whether a pastor must believe in God

How liberal is this denomination? Canadians debating whether a pastor must believe in God

At first, this story reads like it must be news satire from The Onion.

Or, given the religious nature of the piece, maybe the Babylon Bee would be a more appropriate fit.

But actually, this in-depth report on whether a Christian pastor must believe in God is real news out of Canada, via The Guardian. And here's what kind of surprised me: It's fascinating and generally handles the subject matter well.

Let's start at the top:

TORONTO — There is not one mention of God during the 70-minute service at Toronto’s West Hill United church. Bibles are nowhere to be seen. The large steel cross – one of the few remaining religious symbols in this church – is hidden behind a cascade of rainbow streamers.
But that is perhaps to be expected in a church led by an avowed atheist.
“I do not believe in a theistic, supernatural being called God,” says Gretta Vosper, the United Church of Canada minister who has led West Hill since 1997. “I don’t believe in what I think 99.99% of the world thinks you mean when you use that word.” Tor her, God is instead a metaphor for goodness and a life lived with compassion and justice.
Vosper’s outspoken commitment to a seemingly clashing set of beliefs has prompted turmoil in the open-minded United Church of Canada. A progressive Christian denomination that began ordaining women in Canada 80 years ago and for decades has allowed openly gay men and women to lead ministries, the church has been left questioning its boundaries.
In the coming weeks, an unprecedented review will be carried out to determine whether Vosper can stay on as a minister. At its most basic level, the review will ask a simple question that’s likely to yield a complicated answer: can the United church of Canada have an atheist minister?
For the 100-strong congregation at West Hill, the answer is an unabashed yes. Stripped of God and the Bible, services here are light on religious doctrine and instead emphasise moral teachings. The service begins with a nod to the First Nations land on which the church stands and goes on to mention human rights in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Palestine. Global concern is coupled with community-building, with members invited to share significant moments of the past week.

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Your news report on porn addiction is missing a crucial 'M' word — no, not that one

Your news report on porn addiction is missing a crucial 'M' word — no, not that one

"There seems to be a crucial word missing from this report," editor Terry Mattingly said in one of our regular email exchanges among the GetReligion team. "Thoughts?"

OK, I'll play along and click the link.

Interesting:

It’s official: Pornography is a public health crisis. At least in Utah.
The state proclaimed as much Tuesday after Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed off on a resolution that deems pornography “a public health hazard” that can result in wide-ranging harm to individuals and society at large.
“We hope that people hear and heed this voice of warning,” Herbert said at a signing ceremony. “For our citizens know that there are real health risks that are involved and associated with viewing pornography.”

If you're a news junkie, you know that porn has been making headlines — and not just in the religious world — the last few weeks.

Time magazine featured a recent cover story making the case that easy access to explicit images and videos has emasculated an entire generation of young men. Tmatt critiqued that story in a recent post.

Meanwhile, Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service's new national reporter focused on covering Christians and Christianity, wrote about a recent global summit aimed at "setting free" Christians from porn.

But back to the Washington Post story: I kept reading, seeing if I could spot the missing word.

Tmatt gave a hint: "Starts with an 'M.'"

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'Islamophobia': In reports on student kicked off Southwest flight, there's that term again

'Islamophobia': In reports on student kicked off Southwest flight, there's that term again

We journalists love victims.

Victims make for easy stories and enticing clickbait.

For one example, see GetReligion's posts on this week's alleged-gay-slur-on-a-cake-sold-by-Whole-Foods brouhaha: here and here.

For another, perhaps you've heard about the college student who was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for the crime of ... speaking Arabic.

To read the news reports, it seems obvious that the student is a victim of "Islamophobia." Yes, that vague, undefined term shows up in most of these stories with no real explanation of what it means. Again.

If you're a regular reader of GetReligion, you know how we feel about that.

The only problem: When you read the full details of what happened in the latest scenario, it becomes a bit more complicated than the simple headlines.

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Guilty until proven innocent: Whole Foods denies selling anti-gay cake, makes headlines anyway

Guilty until proven innocent: Whole Foods denies selling anti-gay cake, makes headlines anyway

This is national news?

Yes, apparently it is.

Whole Foods denies that its flagship Austin, Texas, store sold a cake with an anti-gay slur on it. Nonetheless, "America's Healthiest Grocery Store" chain finds itself the focus of a slew of negative headlines.

Fifty-plus stories show up on Google News related to this, including links to BuzzFeed News, the New York Daily News, CBS News, Fox News and the Daily Mail (guess that would make this international news).

GetReligionista emeritus Mollie Hemingway rightly asks:

since roughly 100% of these things turn out to be fake, shouldn't media do due diligence BEFORE spreading tale?

This is the lede from the Austin American-Statesman:

Whole Foods is being sued by an Austin pastor who claims the grocery store gave him a cake with a slur against gays.
In a video posted on YouTube, pastor Jordan Brown says he ordered a cake from the Whole Foods flagship store on Lamar Boulevard with the personalized message, “Love Wins.” When he picked up the cake on April 14, he said the cake he picked up had the message “Love Wins Fag.”
Brown, who is openly gay, said he reported the incident to a Whole Foods employee but was told the store did nothing wrong and no action would be taken.

In the fourth paragraph, the American-Statesman gets around to Whole Foods' denial of the allegation:

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This surprising thing happens when AP quotes real people on guns in churches

This surprising thing happens when AP quotes real people on guns in churches

In a 650-word news story, one doesn't expect a deep exploration of theological questions associated with "God and guns."

The Associated Press' report on Mississippi's new Church Protection Act certainly doesn't provide one.

But on the positive side, I was pleasantly surprised by what could have been a routine bill-signing story:

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A holstered gun sat on top of a Bible on Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant's desk Friday when he signed a law allowing guns in churches, which he said would help protect worshippers from potential attackers.
The Church Protection Act allows places of worship to designate members to undergo firearms training so they can provide armed security for their congregations. It specifies that those designated can carry guns into church buildings and gives them legal protections.
The law also loosens gun permit requirements by allowing people to carry holstered weapons without a permit, making Mississippi the ninth state with such a law, said NRA spokeswoman Amy Hunter.
The Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police says that part of the bill dismantles the state's licensing system and makes it harder to check if someone with a gun is a violent criminal. Other opponents say it endangers people by putting more guns in untrained hands.

Yes, that inverted-pyramid lede qualifies as pretty conventional.

But after that, the story improves.

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Presbyterians, Baptists, Churches of Christ: Do denominational affiliations matter in Tennessee Bible debate?

Presbyterians, Baptists, Churches of Christ: Do denominational affiliations matter in Tennessee Bible debate?

I'm typing this on a lazy Friday afternoon after eating a rather filling lunch of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy at my mom and dad's house in Texas.

Frankly, I'm a little drowsy and could use a nap.

So I can't swear that I'm thinking totally clearly or that my questions about a news report on Tennessee's governor vetoing a bill to make the Bible that state's official book will be relevant to anyone except me. But since I get paid the big bucks to do so, I'll go ahead and ask.

As you may recall, I first posted on the Tennessee debate last week.

In recent days, Godbeat pro Holly Meyer and her colleagues at The Tennessean have done some excellent coverage on the issue.

However, the story that sparked my questions was produced by The Associated Press.

The AP's lede:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday vetoed a bill seeking to make Tennessee the first state to designate the Bible as its official book.
Haslam, who considered entering a seminary before deciding to join the family truck stop business after college, said in his veto message that the bill "trivializes the Bible, which I believe is a sacred text."
The bill had narrowly passed both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly after sponsors said it aimed at honoring the significance of the Bible in the state's history and economy, as opposed to a government endorsement of religion.
"If we believe that the Bible is the word of God, then we shouldn't be recognizing it only as a book of historical and economic significance," Haslam said.

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