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Fired fire chief fires back at Atlanta: Washington Post produces fine indepth piece

Fired fire chief fires back at Atlanta: Washington Post produces fine indepth piece

In a time when mainstream media are constantly telling us which opinions matter, it's refreshing to read the Washington Post's detailed, lucid piece on the firing of Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran.

In writing up Cochran's lawsuit against the city, alleging that his firing was over his religious beliefs, the Post has an indepth report worthy of the name. The story cites the allegation that Cochran was canned over his published views on homosexuality. It also cites a city investigation and a source for the mayor, saying he was actually fired for misjudgment and mismanagement.

The article is well researched, with six quoted sources and links to 13 articles and other documents. It also has a couple of stumbles and doesn't clear up all questions. But more on that later.

Here's a decent summary high in the story:

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in January that Cochran’s firing was over his “judgment and management skills,” and that “Cochran’s personal religious beliefs are not the issue.” The city had suspended Cochran in November, after questioning whether the book’s passages on homosexuality violated the city’s non-discrimination policy.
But that is not at all how Cochran and his growing number of supporters see things.
“To actually lose my childhood-dream-come-true profession – where all of my expectations have been greatly exceeded – because of my faith is staggering,” Cochran said in a statement released with news of the lawsuit. “The very faith that led me to pursue my career has been used to take it from me.”

There's a fair amount of rhetoric like that, and the Post makes Cochran sound like an actual human rather than a talking head. The story offers some history, including a recent letter from six members of Congress on Cochran's behalf. It spends two paragraphs on whether Cochran got permission from the city's Board of Ethics to publish the book. And it shows how the case has become a cause celebre for both sides.

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Fox station interviews liberal 'Roman' Catholic, except he's not

Fox station interviews liberal 'Roman' Catholic, except he's not

Want some refreshment?  Here, have a nice, juicy Florida orange.

What? The crate says "California Oranges"? Well, what do they know?

That's often the attitude when secular media touch on -- more like skip along the surface of -- religious divisions. Case in point: a report from Fox 5 TV in San Diego on Wednesday about a new parish for people "from all walks of life, including divorcees, remarried people, the LGBTQ community and female ordained priests."

The story quotes Bishop Dermot Rodgers mouthing a grab bag of liberal bromides like "Judge none, love all" -- in the story and accompanying video. Four times, including the headline, the story identifies him as Roman Catholic, even saying he lives by Pope Francis' philosophy:

"One of the earliest statements the Holy Father made about equality and about gays and lesbians in the world is, ‘Who am I to judge?’” Rodgers said. “And a whole theology is being formed from that very statement, so not only to affect the LGBTQ community, but also divorced and remarried people and other people who feel excluded from the traditional Catholic Church."

Fox muddles on in the story, saying the Vatican gave VIP seating this week to a group called "American Gay and Lesbian Catholics" at the pope's weekly general audience. I'm guessing they mean New Ways Ministry, which serves gay Roman Catholics.

The TV station did ask the Diocese of San Diego about Rodgers, and that's where this report headed south. Rodrigo Valdivia, the chancellor, tells Fox that the bishop and his followers are not affiliated with the diocese. Even for someone with little experience in religion reporting, that should have set off a number of other questions.

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Does it matter that a pro-Second Amendment rights, pro-abortion-rights, pro-gay rights atheist killed three Muslim students?

Does it matter that a pro-Second Amendment rights, pro-abortion-rights, pro-gay rights atheist killed three Muslim students?

Well, you just knew that Craig Stephen Hicks had to be some kind of conservative, even if of an angry libertarian stripe.

So is it relevant that the man who is alleged to have gunned down three young Muslim college students has described himself -- his social media profile, or parts of it, are now fair game for mainstream journalists -- as a "gun toting" atheist and that he had a concealed weapons permit? Of course it is.

Does it matter that, as the Associated Press reported that:

... Hicks often complained about both Christians and Muslims on his Facebook page. "Some call me a gun toting Liberal, others call me an open-minded Conservative," Hicks wrote.

Yes, that matters, too. Still, I am not sure that "complained" is the right word, in this case. As The Los Angeles Times has noted, scores of people online are just not buying that:

"U won't see this on the news because it's about a Muslim," one Muslim user tweeted overnight, in a sentiment that was retweeted more than 1,400 times and that was widely shared across social media. Many users also criticized CNN for an early-morning tweet that asked, "Did their faith play a role in the shooting?"
"THEIR FAITH!!!" one Egyptian user tweeted back, earning dozens of retweets. "how about the beliefs of the terrorist who shot them, CNN?"

Yes, Hicks is a man who appears to have had many, many beliefs and they don't add up to a convenient label that fits in 140 characters.

The key question, as the day-two coverage rolls in: Which of his religious, political and cultural beliefs are relevant when discussing possible motives?

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A tale of three stories: Confusion over same-sex marriage in Alabama

A tale of three stories: Confusion over same-sex marriage in Alabama

Few things, it seems, bring out a newspaper's attitudes like a rebellious state. Three papers produced varying accounts of Alabama's reaction to court orders on same-sex marriage.

And we're not even talking about those bad ol' Eastern liberal rags. We're talking good ol' Sunbelt newspapers like the Los Angeles Times, the Dallas Morning News and the Montgomery Advertiser.

The basic facts are the same: A U.S. District Court judge said Alabama's nine-year-old constitutional amendment for traditional marriage was itself unconstitutional. The state asked for a stay, but the U.S. Supreme Court refused. Then, on the urging of Chief Justice Roy Moore, most probate judges stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether.

Now come the different lenses. First up is the Times, which favored colorful writing over consistency:

Like lightning striking a Southern oak, the conflict over gay marriage split the judges of this state Monday.
Some followed the prodding of their own state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who ordered probate judges not to obey a U.S. District Court order striking down Alabama's same-sex marriage ban.
Others agreed with the federal court; they started marrying people in the morning.
Then, there were those who hired their own lawyers — and tried to stand in the middle as best they could.

Trying to grasp that passage is like trying to picture a lightning bolt splitting a tree three ways.

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Dear Time editors: Why couldn't Obama talk about his liberal Christian faith in 2008?

Dear Time editors: Why couldn't Obama talk about his liberal Christian faith in 2008?

Well, here is a real shocker. Not.

Still, this Time headline is precisely the kind of thing that creates water-cooler buzz here inside the D.C. Beltway:

Axelrod: Obama Misled Nation When He Opposed Gay Marriage In 2008

The key words in this story are, of course, "misled," "conceal," "modified," "evolving" and "deception." The word "lied" is not brought into play. Here is the top of the story, leading up to the soundbite that everyone will be discussing:

Barack Obama misled Americans for his own political benefit when he claimed in the 2008 election to oppose same sex marriage for religious reasons, his former political strategist David Axelrod writes in a new book, Believer: My Forty Years in Politics.

Axelrod writes that he knew Obama was in favor of same-sex marriages during the first presidential campaign, even as Obama publicly said he only supported civil unions, not full marriages. Axelrod also admits to counseling Obama to conceal that position for political reasons. “Opposition to gay marriage was particularly strong in the black church, and as he ran for higher office, he grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage, which he would term a ‘sacred union,’ ” Axelrod writes.
“I’m just not very good at bullshitting,” Obama told Axelrod, after an event where he stated his opposition to same-sex marriage, according to the book.

Now, three cheers for the Time team for using quoted material that cited the specific hook -- it's a religion hook, of course -- that led to this political decision.

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'Kellerism' comes to Alabama same-sex marriage wars, care of a political blast by New York Times

'Kellerism' comes to Alabama same-sex marriage wars, care of a political blast by New York Times

Heads up. We have a "Kellerism" reference on another blog today, including a shout-out for a GetReligion response.

But before we get to that, we need to look at what's going on down in Alabama right now, including that New York Times report that proclaimed:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Amid conflicting signals from federal courts and the chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, some Alabama counties began granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday in a legal showdown with echoes of the battles over desegregation in the 1960s.
In major county seats like Birmingham, Montgomery and Huntsville, same-sex couples lined up outside courthouses as they opened and emerged smiling after being wed.

As you would imagine, in the newspaper of record's own words, its "reporters have fanned out across Alabama to explore and explain how the same-sex marriage process is playing out in a handful of locations." The commitment is obvious and demonstrated at length.

Later in the story readers are told, with a hint of religion language thrown in:

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Daily Beast tells of ex-gay Michael Glatze's conversion -- but to what?

Daily Beast tells of ex-gay Michael Glatze's conversion -- but to what?

Michael Glatze was gay. Really, really gay. The Daily Beast wants to settle that firmly before looking at a film on his life.

At least before dropping the bomb on Glatze's conversion to Christianity:

He was serving as the managing editor of XY magazine, a popular gay San Francisco-based publication that dispensed invaluable advice to men on how to survive young and gay. He was fascinated by queer theory and disturbed by Christian fundamentalism. He was in a loving relationship with fellow XY editor, Benjie Nycum. On the weekends, the two would go out to raves and enjoyed being gay and liberated. They even shared a home with a third man they’d picked up during a brief stay in Nova Scotia. Glatze and Nycum eventually left XY and started the non-profit Young Gay America, aimed at shaping the lives of gay youths for the better, before launching the magazine Young Gay America (YGA), which was awarded the National Role Model Award from the gay organization Equality Forum. The two lovers toured the country filming Jim In Bold, billed as the first major documentary to tackle the suicide epidemic among gay teens.
And then—out of the blue—Glatze became a born again Christian and renounced his homosexuality.

If only the Beast showed as much interest in Glatze's new life as a Christian -- a pastor, no less, as numerous websites report.

"Gay No More: The Story of Michael Glatze" is pegged on the premiere of the biopic I Am Michael, at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. The Beast gets interview time with director Justin Kelly and actor James Franco, who plays the title role. And it digs rather deep into clips.

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That big U.S. Supreme Court case isn’t only 2015 gay dispute for religion-beat reporters to watch

That big U.S. Supreme Court case isn’t only 2015 gay dispute for religion-beat reporters to watch

Alongside that big U.S. Supreme Court case on gay marriage, another 2015 showdown merits journalistic attention.

It involves Gordon College, an evangelical campus located in the onetime heartland of the Massachusetts Puritans. Meeting Feb. 5-6, and again in May, Gordon’s trustees will ponder whether to scrap a rule  that “sexual relations outside marriage, and homosexual practice will not be tolerated” among students and staff, whether on or off campus.

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges has directed the college to explain its policy for a meeting in September. The association has the power to remove  accreditation if Gordon violated the requirement of “non-discriminatory policies and practices in recruitment, admissions, employment, evaluation, disciplinary action, and advancement.”

Background: Gordon’s president, D. Michael Lindsay, is no backwoods rube but a Princeton Ph.D. who was an award-winning sociology professor at Rice University. Gordon’s sexual stance drew attention because Lindsay gave a helping hand to groups like Catholic Charities, the National Association of Evangelicals’ World Relief and Bethany Christian Services, the largest U.S. adoption agency.

Last July he joined Catholic and Protestant leaders in writing a letter to President Barack Obama seeking exemption for such religious employers in a pending executive order to forbid federal contractors from discrimination against  lesbians, gays, bisexuals and the transgendered.  The religious petitioners lost that fight.

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Gays and Mormons: Times headline chooses the frame, then paints the picture

Gays and Mormons: Times headline chooses the frame, then paints the picture

When my "rights" clash with your "beliefs," who should win? Right. That's how the Frame Game is played.

That's why the headline for a New York Times story on gays and Mormons is manipulative in the extreme. "Mormons Seek Golden Mean Between Gay Rights and Religious Beliefs," it says.

"The Frame Game" is tmatt's term for framing the conversation to shape your opinion, perhaps without even realizing it. Fortunately, the Times article itself is better, with the lede framing the issue as "gay rights and religious freedom." Although it could still be construed as rights trumping freedom.

At least the hed is accurate in reporting the balancing act of Mormon leaders: trying to oppose anti-gay discrimination while preserving the right to disagree with gays. In states like Utah -- where pro-gay legislation has stalled for years -- that could make a big difference, the Times says:

But they also called for these same laws, or others, to protect the rights of people who say their beliefs compel them to oppose homosexuality or to refuse service to gay couples. They cited examples of religious opponents of same-sex marriage who have been sanctioned or sued or have lost their jobs.
“Such tactics are every bit as wrong as denying access to employment, housing or public services because of race or gender,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of a group of church leaders known as the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “It is one of today’s great ironies that some people who have fought so hard for L.G.B.T. rights now try to deny the rights of others to disagree with their public policy proposals.”

This gets points just for balance. It brings up the conscience issue without belittling it or hinting that it's a cover for bigotry. It directly quotes a church leader, not just a static statement from LDS offices. And it allows Oaks to bring up the irony that many conservatives have cited: gay activists demanding rights for themselves, then denying rights to others.

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