Gays

Culture war of cakes: Associated Press story on gay rights, religious freedom less than perfect

Culture war of cakes: Associated Press story on gay rights, religious freedom less than perfect

There's a new twist on the ongoing story of Colorado bakers caught in the middle of the culture war.

The Associated Press boils down the latest development this way:

DENVER (AP) — A dispute over a cake in Colorado raises a new question about gay rights and religious freedom: If bakers can be fined for refusing to serve married gay couples, can they also be punished for declining to make a cake with anti-gay statements?
A baker in suburban Denver who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding is fighting a legal order requiring him to serve gay couples even though he argued that would violate his religious beliefs.
But now a separate case puts a twist in the debate over discrimination in public businesses, and it underscores the tensions that can arise when religious freedom intersects with a growing acceptance of gay couples.
Marjorie Silva, owner of Denver's Azucar Bakery, is facing a complaint from a customer alleging she discriminated against his religious beliefs.
According to Silva, the man who visited last year wanted a Bible-shaped cake, which she agreed to make. Just as they were getting ready to complete the order, Silva said the man showed her a piece of paper with hateful words about gays that he wanted written on the cake. He also wanted the cake to have two men holding hands and an X on top of them, Silva said.
She said she would make the cake, but declined to write his suggested messages on the cake, telling him she would give him icing and a pastry bag so he could write the words himself. Silva said the customer didn't want that.

Overall, the AP story is pretty straightforward and makes an effort to present a range of viewpoints on the cake — er, culture — war.

But the opening sentence bothers me. 

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Where will various religions stand in the same-sex marriage church-state showdown?

Where will various religions stand in the same-sex marriage church-state showdown?

The U.S. Supreme Court’s April hearing and June ruling on same-sex marriage will be historic for the nation’s religions as well as for partisan politics, law, and society. There’s sharp division in this case among faith groups, and sometimes within them, so reporters will want to carefully monitor the inflow of religious and moral arguments as “friend of the court” briefs are filed in coming weeks.

The court defines two issues: Does the Constitution’s “equal protection” clause require that all states issue same-sex marriage licenses? Does the same clause require that a state recognize all marriages lawfully licensed by other states?

An implicit issue: whether judges or state legislatures and voters have power over contested social policies.

Religious proponents of marriage change are confident of Supreme Court victory and likely to file briefs. They include liberal Jews, Unitarian Universalists, and the Metropolitan Community Churches (whose primary ministry is with gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered), along with organizations of atheists and humanists.  Defending traditional marriage  are the the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, evangelical and conservative Protestants, some African-American Protestants, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“Mormon”), Orthodox Judaism and Islam.

But what about the so-called “Mainline” Protestants who’ve lately been shifting -- especially at the level of pulpits and church boards -- in favor of gay couples?

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With USA Today and gay marriage, impatience is a virtue

With USA Today and gay marriage, impatience is a virtue

Come on, Catholic schools! Iit's been a whole week since gay marriage was legalized in Florida, and you still haven't given them medical and retirement benefits!

That's the impression that emerges from the lede of a story that USA Today ran on Jan. 14. A federal judge legalized same-sex marriage on Jan. 6, but Catholic schools didn't immediately extend to gay couples the same benefits as those for heteros.

The USA Today story seems to brim with impatience:

One week after gay marriage was legalized in Florida, several Catholic universities have not provided a clear same-sex benefits package for employees. There is increasing pressure for public and private employers alike to offer all benefits — from medical insurance to retirement — to all married couples regardless of sex, starting on the day that state gay marriage was legalized. In this case, that date was Jan. 6, 2015.

By "several Catholic universities," USA Today means two schools: Barry University in Miami Shores and St. Leo University in west-central Florida.  The state's other three Catholic schools of higher education -- St. Thomas University, Ave Maria University and Ave Maria School of Law -- are not in the article.

That doesn't stop USA Today from scolding all of the schools.  The newspaper literally lays down the law, via a quote from a gay rights leader:

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U.S. Supreme Court and gay marriage: Baltimore Sun offers a very, very, simplistic report

U.S. Supreme Court and gay marriage: Baltimore Sun offers a very, very, simplistic report

As so often happens here in Beltway land, our nation's principalities and powers -- when dealing with subjects that are both momentous and highly divisive -- strategically drop major news stories into the fading hours of Friday afternoons, as journalists and other chattering-class folks exit their offices.

Saturday newspapers and broadcasts are, of course, the thinnest of the typical news week. Even the Sunday newspapers are dominated by major stories and packages submitted by reporters earlier in the week.

Thus, elderly GetReligion readers who pay money for analog news (thus providing most of the funding for independently reported news and information in this land) ventured into their front yards this morning and retrieved bundles of ink and dead-tree pulp that led with wire-service or bureau reports about the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to address the national legal status of same-sex marriage.

If you live in New York or Washington, D.C., and truly elite news markets, your front page may feature a staff-written story. But I live in Baltimore and thus, like most of the nation, the newspaper that lands in my front yard -- the ever-shrinking Baltimore Sun -- first ran wire reports and, later, a story from the Tribune chain's Washington, D.C., bureau.

We are going to carefully walk through that bureau report and, as we do, let's look for the views of three major groups of believers who should be represented in the material gathered for this story.

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Damage already done? Charlotte Observer replaces slanted report on gay substitute teacher let go by Catholic high school

Damage already done? Charlotte Observer replaces slanted report on gay substitute teacher let go by Catholic high school

The Charlotte Observer posted a "news story" on its local news page this week concerning Lonnie Billiard, a substitute teacher at a Catholic high school, who lost his job after revealing on Facebook that he plans to marry his same-sex partner later this year.

The Pew Research Center highlighted the story on its daily email roundup of U.S. religion headlines Tuesday.

This was the link:

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2015/01/12/5443494/charlotte-catholic-fires-gay-teacher.html#.VLWWRWTF8YK

Over at "The Deacon's Bench," blogger Greg Kandra — a Roman Catholic deacon who spent three decades as a writer and producer for CBS News — criticized the piece:

Editorial note: the rest of the Observer piece is a weepy, hand-wringing, breast-beating portrait of a wronged employee who expresses anxiety for all the gay students who fear expulsion simply because they’re gay. It’s a sustained exercise in victim journalism, with fully half of it devoted to quotes by the teacher talking about how this hurt his feelings and that he “never expected to be treated so badly by the diocese.” (Did it ever occur to him that he had violated the terms of his employment? That question never comes up.) It’s a biased, unbalanced journalistic shambles, beginning with the lead sentence: “The local Roman Catholic diocese is in hot water again for anti-LGBT discrimination…”

For readers who looked closely, the story identified the writer not as an Observer staff member but as someone with QNotes. The Observer link did not explain what it QNotes is — perhaps Charlotte readers are expected to know — but a Google search reveals that it's "the Charlotte-based LGBT community newspaper of North Carolina." 

Thus, the story published on the Observer local news page fell squarely into what GetReligion calls "What is this?" As in, is this news? Is it a column? Is it advocacy? 

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How does the Catholic Church work? Miami Herald didn't get the memo

How does the Catholic Church work? Miami Herald didn't get the memo

"Can't imagine where this piece goes, can you?" a faithful reader says in tipping us about a Miami Herald story. "At least they're clear in the headline."

They sure are. "Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski’s memo draws fire from marriage-equality groups," the headline says. Wenski, like other Catholic bishops, opposes same-sex marriage. So he's against "equality."

The story lede, too, reads like a DUN-dun-DUNNN!

After judges in Florida lifted the state’s ban on same-sex marriage this week, thousands of employees in Miami’s Catholic Archdiocese got a memo from their boss, Archbishop Thomas Wenski, that read as a warning: watch what you do or say, even after work or on social media, or you might lose your job.
Wenski’s note, after a brief reference to court decisions that he said “imposed the redefinition of marriage,” merely quoted from the employee handbook as a reminder to Church workers of longstanding policy: Every archdiocese employee, Catholic or non-Catholic, from ministerial leader to school teacher and custodian, is considered a Church representative and is expected to abide by Catholic teaching, and any conduct “inconsistent” with that can draw disciplinary action, up to termination.

As a frequent freelancer for the Florida Catholic newspaper -- and a former religion writer for the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale -- I was naturally interested in the story. I've known Wenski since he was an earnest young priest ministering to Haitian immigrants in the 1980s. He has always struck me as a John Paul II-type Catholic: tough on doctrine but warm toward people. So the image of a ruthless overlord seemed out of place.

I also note that the story appears on the Herald's "Gay South Florida" page. So I have to ask, as the logo above says: "What is This?" News? Editorial? Commentary? If the former, why wasn’t it in sections A or B of the newspaper? If the latter, why isn't it marked as such?

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Update on Atlanta fire chief war, as well as journalism -- left and right -- in the age of 'Kellerism'

Update on Atlanta fire chief war, as well as journalism -- left and right -- in the age of 'Kellerism'

When I was teaching at Denver Seminary in the early 1990s, seminary students and pastors used to ask me this blunt question: Why should I risk taking to reporters from secular newsrooms?

Their assumption was that mainstream reporters (a) knew next to nothing about the complicated world of religion, (b) had no interest in learning about religion and (c) were already prejudiced about believers in traditional forms of religion, especially conservative Christians because of biases (all of those media-elite studies began in the late 1970s) linked to hot-button topics such as abortion, gay rights, etc.

I responded that (a) their concerns were not irrational, but (b) it was simplistic to argue that all journalists were both ignorant and hopelessly biased when dealing with religion and (c) how could they expect journalists to accurately report their views on complicated topics if they didn't talk to them? At some point, clergy and other religious leaders should respect the role of the press in a free society (just as journalists need to respect our First Amendment protections for religious faith and practice) and take part in what should be a two-way learning process.

In the 20-plus years since that time, things have only become more tense and more complicated. To cut to the chase, we now face the rise of "Kellerism" (click here and especially here for a primer on this crucial GetReligion term), with more journalists openly blurring the line between basic, accurate, balanced news coverage and advocacy/commentary work. It's hard to have an edgy social-media brand without some snark, you know (said tmatt, speaking as a columnist and commentary blogger).

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Atlanta fire chief fired: New York Times uses 'antigay' label, while Washington Post listens to one side, on key facts

Atlanta fire chief fired: New York Times uses 'antigay' label, while Washington Post listens to one side, on key facts

Here is a question for reporters covering the big story down in Atlanta, where Mayor Kasim Reed has fired Fire Rescue Department Chief Kevin Cochran after he published a book in which it appears that he affirmed centuries of orthodox Christian doctrine on sex and marriage.

There are several issues to examine in some of the main reports, but let's start with the headline in The New York Times: "Atlanta Ousts Fire Chief Who Has Antigay Views."

This raises a crucial question linked to the labeling of religious believers in this day and age. For example: Is Pope Francis "antigay"? This is, of course, the leader of a church that affirms, in its most bulletproof volume of doctrine:

Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. ... Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

Is that statement officially "antigay," which would make those who affirm the Catechism officially "antigay"? Ditto for millions of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and others who embrace traditional, orthodox versions of their faiths.

In other words, at the level of headlines, when are believers being "anti" one thing, as opposed to being "pro" something else?

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Attention editors: Concerning a seriously neglected church-state drama in the District of Columbia

Attention editors: Concerning a seriously neglected church-state drama in the District of Columbia

An important church-state story in the nation’s capital has largely been ignored in the news media except for an op-ed and online articles from the conservative Catholics at the Cardinal Newman Society.

On Dec. 2, the District of Columbia Council unanimously amended the city's Human Rights Act in order to end exemptions that aided religions opposed to same-sex relationships.

That's big news. Then on Dec. 17 the  Council unanimously amended that same act to forbid discrimination against employees’ “reproductive health decisions” to choose abortion, sterilization and contraception.

The D.C. votes create conscience-clause problems -- especially for those associated with Washington’s Catholic school system and for the Catholic University of America. The university’s unique status turns this from a mere local fuss into a nationally significant challenge to the institution of the Catholic Church.

Why is that?

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