Politics

None dare call it 'free speech'? Who actually used the term 'hate speech'?

None dare call it 'free speech'? Who actually used the term 'hate speech'?

This is a strange one.

In the following Philly.com story, it's hard to tell if we are dealing with with an ordinary advocacy journalism, or an outbreak of religion-specific "Kellerism" (click here for background), or maybe a case of a sloppy journalist, or two, not being specific enough in noting the origin of a particularly loaded phrase -- "hate speech."

As a former GetReligionista said, when sending in the URL for this one:

Did the judge call it "hate speech" or is the reporter deciding/siding with one side? I honestly can't tell...

Me neither, to be blunt. So here is the top of the story:

A controversial group of black street preachers who spew hate speech at whites, Asians, gays, women and some blacks they find objectionable, has a right to continue preaching, the state Superior Court has ruled.

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Houston, we have a church-state controversy: Sermons, subpoenas and the First Amendment

Houston, we have a church-state controversy: Sermons, subpoenas and the First Amendment

So, the other rocket blasting off in the news this week?

It's social media in the wake of the City of Houston subpoenaing pastors' sermons. Twitter, not for the first time, is abuzz with outrage and opinion.

Amid all the noise, the challenge for a journalist is to present the key facts and details in a fair and unbiased manner — and to help readers understand the relevant legal and constitutional questions.

For example, is a sermon about the moral issues involved in a law (the Houston equal rights ordinance, in this case) a political statement or an application of life to faith? 

On a national level, two former GetReligionistas — Sarah Pulliam Bailey of Religion News Service and Mark Kellner of the Deseret News National Edition — are among the Godbeat pros seeking to bring clarity to the issues involved.

The Houston Chronicle gave the story front-page treatment today, albeit not a banner headline.

 

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Flaws in new LATimes abortion piece revealed -- by old LATimes study

Flaws in new LATimes abortion piece revealed -- by old LATimes study

Whoaaa. This article in the Los Angeles Times on the "abortion wars." So much bias and tagging and cherry-picking.

If only there were some guide to help us spot the various ploys. Oh, wait, there is one -- from the L.A. Times itself.

It's a four-part study of media bias and abortion written by the late David Shaw of the Times, back in 1990. His 18-month study marked several ways that media push the abortion cause rather than just report. (Thanks to tmatt for finding this study.)

But first to the new Times story, which ran on Sunday. It's mainly on the resurgent pro-life movement, which has scored several legal victories in several states. Among the new laws are a requirement for abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and making abortion clinics conform to the same "stringent" requirements as hospitals. Some states also require pre-abortion ultrasounds or ban abortion clauses for government insurance.

From there, the story centers on Texas and especially Louisiana. The basic enemy, unsurprisingly, is that evil axis -- religion and conservatism:

A conservative juggernaut has sprung to life here along the Gulf of Mexico, where Bayou State politics work hand-in-hand with Christian churches, where some conservative pastors condemn abortion as a sin and tell parishioners that voting for a Democrat is too.
Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal has been so consistent in his opposition to abortion that the state is celebrated as the most "pro-life" in the country by Americans United for Life. The antiabortion lobby's annual scorecards are closely watched by legislators here.
"Abortion until recently was not a front-burner issue in Louisiana," said JP Morrell, a Democratic state senator. "Religious groups have made it a front-burner issue. The grass-roots movement here is as organized and effective as anything you've ever seen."

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Why, and how, should public schools offer classes about the Bible?

Why, and how, should public schools offer classes about the Bible?

PAT ASKS:

Why, and how, should Bible be taught in a public, non-religious, school setting? What is its value as part of a secular curriculum?

 THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:

Surveys show there’s appalling ignorance about the basics of the Bible, especially among younger Americans. Even religious skeptics would have to admit that’s a serious cultural and educational problem, wholly apart from Scripture’s religious role. Bible knowledge is essential to comprehending the art of Giotto and Chagall, Bach cantatas and African-American spirituals, Shakespeare’s plays, countless allusions in novels and poems, historical events like the Protestant Reformation and the civil rights and anti-apartheid movements, the rhetoric of U.S. presidents, populism and pacifism, and on and on.

This fiasco is not what the U.S. Supreme Court intended when it outlawed mandatory Bible readings in public schools for creating an “establishment of religion” that violated the Constitution’s First Amendment (in Abington v. Schempp, 1963). Though the justices barred ceremonial and devotional use of the Bible, they included this key clarification:

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Caste in India reporting: Did a politician play Reuters for a fool?

Caste in India reporting: Did a politician play Reuters for a fool?

Did a politician play Reuters for a fool last week, using claims of religious bigotry toward India's untouchables (Dalits) to bolster his political fortunes?

Comparing stories released the same day by Reuters and The Hindu on reports that Hindu priests cleansed a temple defiled by a visit from a lower caste politician suggest Reuters may have been too quick to see religious motivations at work in what was a political story.

Newspapers often suffer from a journalistic schizophrenia when reporting on religion. Either they ignore the faith element in a story entirely, or they are too deferential to religion and religious leaders, taking at face value their truth claims. This article from Reuters exhibits the second tendency -- when religion is offered as the motivation for an action, it stops asking questions.

The Reuters story entitled “Indian temple 'purified' after low-caste chief minister visits” opens with the statement:

The government in India's northern state of Bihar has ordered an investigation after reports that a Hindu temple was cleaned and its idols washed after a visit by the state's chief minister, who belongs to a lower caste community. Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, a member of the Musahar community, said he had been told the shrine in Bihar's Madhubani district was "purified" after he visited it last month.

The story then quotes Manjhi as saying:

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Time searches for red line between good religious liberty and bad religious liberty

Time searches for red line between good religious liberty and bad religious liberty

Day after day, that must-read Religion News Service email digest offers readers an interesting collection of links to news about religion, politics, entertainment, gossip and sex -- almost always delivered with some wit, which veers off into snark, from time to time.

That's fine, since your GetReligionistas appreciate the occasional bit of snark, especially when a news product is clearly defined as commentary. Anyway, here is a timely sample: 

Now that most people in the country live in states that allow gay marriage, and it looks as if the momentum for same-sex marriage is growing yet stronger, those who oppose it are searching for a new front, writes Reuters. Many of them have found it in a fight for “religious freedom,”defined in some cases as the right not to bake a wedding cake for lesbians.

Or the right of a lesbian Episcopalian -- as a matter of conscience and doctrine -- to refuse to do photography for a Catholic ministry that encourages gays and lesbians to live chaste lives, in keeping with Catholic teachings. Or whatever. You know, that whole First Amendment thing.

Anyway, it is clear that some journalists are struggling to find that bright red line between good religious liberty and bad religious liberty.

That task used to be so much easier, when it was simply neo-Nazis fighting for the right to march through a Chicago suburb full of elderly Holocaust survivors. Now you have poverty-fighting nuns trying to avoid paying for birth control that violates the Catholic doctrines that define their own ministry. Times are tough.

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Federal workers inside DC beltway? Just don't ask The Sun about their souls

Federal workers inside DC beltway? Just don't ask The Sun about their souls

Over the past decade, I have been doing graduate-level studies in the art of commuting into the Washington, D.C., area from the very blue -- in the political sense of that word -- world of greater Baltimore. However, in many ways I remain a stranger on my Beltway-land commuter train for one obvious reason. I am not a federal worker.

I know this species pretty well by now, from the 50 shades of gray in their wardrobes to many of their favorite forms of reading (iPhones have overwhelmed Blackberries as the years have rolled past). However, there is one major difference between the federal workers who fill my train and the ones that dominate our nation's capital.

What, you ask? Most of the people I know are African-Americans. Thus, it is very common to see people on my train who are reading study Bibles.

A simply exercise in crude stereotyping on my part? Kind of.

However, you can see some elements of these stereotypes in a very interesting, and totally haunted in the GetReligion sense of that word, report in yesterday's Baltimore Sun about the lives and some elements of the worldviews of federal workers. The totally shocking headline states: "Hopkins study: Feds are whiter, richer, more liberal than most Americans."

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Your weekend think piece: The roots of those omnipresent Catholic political 'frames'

Your weekend think piece: The roots of those omnipresent Catholic political 'frames'

There was an interesting exchange in our comments pages this week linked to a subject that is frequently discussed here at GetReligion, which is the nasty tendency among journalists to use political labels to frame believers who are involved in debates over doctrine. The hook for this discussion was Dawn's post that ran with the headline, "What is this? Seeing red over RNS piece on 'conservative' cardinals."

I feel rather torn on this issue, because everyone knows that there are doctrinal conservatives (some call this the camp of the orthodox) and there are doctrinal liberals (some prefer the camp of the progressives). What really frosts my oleanders is when journalists use the term "reformer" in discussions of doctrine (as opposed to, let's say, matters of bureaucracy, worship and tradition.

Perhaps readers may recall those dictionary definitions of "reform," as a verb:

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Holy ghosts in Hong Kong: Is there a religion angle on the democracy protests?

Holy ghosts in Hong Kong: Is there a religion angle on the democracy protests?

In a story on Hong Kong's democracy protests, the Los Angeles Times provides this background:

In Beijing, the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily continued to condemn the protests in Hong Kong. The newspaper said the demonstrations are aimed at challenging "China's supreme power organ" and are doomed to fail.
"There is no room to make concessions on issues of important principles," the commentary said.
Hong Kong, a former British territory, returned to Chinese rule under a formula known as "one country, two systems." Those in the territory of 7 million were promised greater civil liberties than their mainland counterparts.
Chinese leaders have said Hong Kong voters can for the first time cast ballots in 2017 for the chief executive, now chosen by a Beijing-friendly committee of 1,200 people. However, authorities want to limit voters' choice to two or three candidates who pass muster with Beijing, which protesters say amounts to "fake democracy."

The Times story gives no hint of a religion angle. Ghosts, anyone?

Enter the Wall Street Journal.

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