Same-sex Marriage

NYTimes (surprise) covers Mormon sexual ethics, without talking to Mormons

NYTimes (surprise) covers Mormon sexual ethics, without talking to Mormons

There are people out there in cyberspace (and in our comments pages from time to time) who think that, here at GetReligion, "balance" on stories about moral and cultural issues is all about finding the right number of voices on the right to say nasty things about the views of people on the left side of things.

Well, I would prefer to say it this way: When journalists cover controversial moral, cultural and religious issues, the journalistic thing to do is to talk to informed, representative voices on both sides of these hot-button debates. Of course, this journalistic approach assumes that journalists are willing to concede that there are two sides in these debates worth covering with respect.

This brings us once again to the term "Kellerism," a GetReligionista nod to those famous remarks by former New York Times editor Bill Keller. The Times ran a story the other day -- "Social Worker Spreads a Message of Acceptance to Mormons With Gay Children" -- in which it was crucial for readers to understand the moral doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as the view of those who disagree with them.

A GetReligion reader offered this critique:

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Fried-chicken wars: How much should Christianity mix with commerce?

Fried-chicken wars: How much should Christianity mix with commerce?

MICHAEL-ANN ASKS:

Businesses like Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A overtly follow Christian principles and thus promote Christianity. Is it profitable for them to have this ‘brand,’ or do you think the CEOs have some deeper evangelical goal?

THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:

These two remarkable corporations are the largest in the U.S. that operate on an explicitly “Christian” basis, and both have been in the news lately.

The Hobby Lobby craft store chain won U.S. Supreme Court approval June 30 of the religious right to avoid the new federal mandate to fund certain birth control methods the owners consider tantamount to abortion.

Sept. 8 brought the death of S. Truett Cathy, billionaire founder of the Chick-fil-A fast-food empire. His New York Times obituary said that to some he was “a symbol of intolerance” and “hate.” Such journalistic labeling stemmed from Cathy’s son and successor Dan criticizing same-sex marriage on biblical grounds in 2012. Afterward, the firm cut donations to groups that back traditional marriage. No-one claimed Chick-fil-A discriminates against gays in hiring or customer service.

With both companies, Christian commitment is accompanied by prosperity, and the question suggests their religious image may be calculated for “profitable” advantage. 

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Death of the Chick-fil-A patriarch: A classic religion-news story with two sides

Death of the Chick-fil-A patriarch: A classic religion-news story with two sides

It's safe to say that Chick-fil-A patriarch S. Truett Cathy was famous, or infamous, for two very different reasons with two radically different flocks of people. After his death, mainstream news organizations faced an obvious news question: What's the lede? What's the angle on this remarkable entrepreneur's life that deserved the spotlight at the top of the story?

You can see that struggle in the summary paragraphs near the top of The New York Times obituary:

Mr. Cathy, who died on Monday at 93, was by all appearances a humble Christian man from Georgia with little education who sold a simple sandwich: a breaded, boneless chicken breast on a soft, white, buttered bun with nothing more than a couple of pickles for garnish.
But as the founder of the Chick-fil-A fast-food empire, he was also a billionaire several times over and, as a conservative Christian who ran his business according to his religious principles, he was at once a hero and a symbol of intolerance. Many admired him for closing his outlets on Sundays and speaking out against same-sex marriage. Others vilified his the chain as a symbol of hate.

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We have a confirmed sighting of an old-school (think liberal) church-state coalition

We have a confirmed sighting of an old-school (think liberal) church-state coalition

The history of church-state relations in the United States is a very complicated subject, the kind of intellectual terrain that you could spend several semesters exploring in a graduate degree (as I once did, late in the Vietnam War era). 

In recent decades, roughly the era defined by the rise of the Religious Right, there have been several distinct stages in church-state affairs. At one point, it was rare for thinkers on the left and right to communicate with one another. Then came the Clinton White House years when -- I know this will be hard for some readers to believe -- there was serious progress and constructive dialogue, primarily because conservatives began to enthusiastically embrace the First Amendment. Yes, even though the politics of abortion loomed in the background.

As I wrote in a post early in the Barack Obama administration:

You see, once upon a time there was a wide coalition -- roughly from the ACLU to Pat Robertson -- that was focused on another issue altogether, which was free speech, freedom of association and trying to find ways (think "equal access" laws) that treated religious believers and nonbelievers the same when it came time for them to express their beliefs. ...
It was crucial, you see, for believers and nonbelievers to have the maximum amount of freedom without the government getting entangled (the key word) in determining which doctrines were acceptable and which were not. If the chess team got to use a room after school, then so did Campus Crusade for Christ (or the young atheists circle). 

Can you imagine that kind of truly liberal (in the old sense of that word) coalition existing today, in an era defined by bitter battles about gay marriage and, in a strange healthcare flashback, birth control? I know, it's hard to imagine.

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Pod people: Sports and religion, Tim Tebow and ESPN, Michael Sam and the locker room

Pod people: Sports and religion, Tim Tebow and ESPN, Michael Sam and the locker room

It was a quiet little National Football League story, tucked away in the back headlines of the sports pages. Former Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk -- yes, the guy from Harvard -- had been named to one of the quietest, but most influential, slots in pro sports.

The short ESPN report was typical, including the following summary statements:

Matt Birk was named the NFL's director of football development, the league announced Thursday. ...
In his new role, Birk will assist in developing the game at all levels, from players to coaches to front-office personnel. He will guide the evolution of the NFL scouting combine and regional combines as well as the all-star games for prospects, such as the Senior Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game. Birk will also over see the career development symposium and the Bill Walsh minority coaching fellowship program. ...
Birk, 37, played his first 11 seasons in the league with the Minnesota Vikings before joining the Ravens for the final four seasons of his career. He retired after he won his first Super Bowl following the 2012 season. In 2011, he was the recipient of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award for his excellence on and off the field.

Now, in light of the media tsunami surrounding gay defensive lineman Michael Sam, it showed remarkable restraint that ESPN leaders did not mention that this Matt Birk was also THAT OTHER Matt Birk, the husband of a crisis pregnancy center volunteer, the father of six children, the articulate Catholic whose beliefs on marriage had inspired so many headlines. 

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Same-sex marriage decision in Louisiana: With AP, it's a pigment of the imagination

Same-sex marriage decision in Louisiana: With AP, it's a pigment of the imagination

All too often, Associated Press articles look like those paint-by-the-numbers pictures. Especially articles about same-sex marriage, like one this week.

Pro-gay viewpoint? (paint, paint) Got that colored in.

Conservative labeling? (brush, brush) Got that one.

Touch of ad hominem? Got that, too.

This time it was Louisiana's turn, with a U.S. district judge upholding the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

AP follows the template in rendering the decision as "a rare loss for gay marriage supporters who had won more than 20 consecutive rulings overturning bans in other states." Not as, say, a rare victory for supporters of the historic understanding of marriage.

The story also brings out a law professor at Loyola New Orleans, who said "she didn't see the ruling as a significant road block." Even if the ruling is upheld on appeal, it will affect "only" three states -- Texas and Mississippi as well as Louisiana.

In one case, AP even appears to contradict its own cited source. Watch this.


It's likely the Texas case will be the first to go to the 5th Circuit, and cases elsewhere likely will reach the Supreme Court before Louisiana's, said Professor Carl Tobias of the University of Richmond School of Law in Virginia. Nevertheless, he said, Feldman's ruling is significant.
"It is important, because Feldman is a very experienced federal district judge, and no other federal judge has ruled that way at the trial level," Tobias said in a telephone interview. Feldman was appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.

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Baltimore Sun sing-along: We are one in the spirit (with a lower-case 's')

Baltimore Sun sing-along: We are one in the spirit (with a lower-case 's')

Anyone who has had any contact -- post-Jesus Music era -- with American evangelicalism will know the lyrics of the classic campfire song, "We are One in the Spirit." Some people may know this song under a different title, "They'll Know We are Christians by Our Love."

One thing is for sure, no doubt about it. The word "Spirit" in this song definitely has an upper-case "S," representing -- even under Associated Press style rules -- a reference to the Holy Spirit, one Person in the traditional Christian Trinity. The first verse of this famous song goes like this: 

We are One in The Spirit, We are One in The Lord. 
We are One in The Spirit, We are One in The Lord. 
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, 
Yes they'll know we are Christians by our love.

Now, I bring this up because of a very interesting musical reference at the end of the latest in a long list of Baltimore Sun stories written as tributes to brave progressive Christian congregations -- defined as those with doctrines acceptable to editors at the newspaper that lands in my front yard -- that are fighting to remain alive here in Charm City. In this case, we are dealing with a story about three congregations that are sharing a building in West Baltimore, in an attempt to make ends meet.

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Yo WaPo: All those disaffected evangelicals are singing a very old song

Yo WaPo: All those disaffected evangelicals are singing a very old song

Does anyone out there remember the wave of press coverage for the gigantic Promise Keepers "Stand In The Gap" rally on the National Mall long, long ago?

I was there as a color commentator for MSNBC, believe it or not, and all through the day I watched the national press try to turn the event into a Republican rally. That was hard, since nearly half of the speakers were African-Americans and the crowd of a million or so included lots of men whose views were focused on moral and cultural issues, as opposed to partisan politics.

This was the Woodstock of the multiracial charismatic movement, I noted, and by the end of the day it was very clear that most of the speakers were convinced that they were not going to be able to count on the Republican Party to defend centuries of Judeo-Christian doctrines on marriage, family and sex. Forget Bill Clinton, I said, if anyone had reason to worry at the end of that rally it was Newt Gingrich.

That was Oct. 4, 1997.

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The master sergeant, Obama, Chick-fil-A and missing details about religion

The master sergeant, Obama, Chick-fil-A and missing details about religion

First things first: Yes, I know that people who volunteer to join the military need to realize that they are surrendering some of their First Amendment rights.

Nevertheless, there are some interesting issues linked to politics and, yes, religion in the recent Military Times article about the retired master sergeant who has filed a lawsuit claiming that toward the end of his 15-year service in the U.S. Army Band he was "systematically persecuted by a politically correct cabal."

The key is that Nathan Sommers claims that the leaders who controlled his career -- leading to a sub-par job evaluation and a shove out the exit door -- consistently "tried to censor his speech and mock his religious beliefs.”

So, what are the crucial details that a journalist would need to include in this piece in order to cover this man's claims in an accurate and fair manner?

At the very least, we need to know some specific details about his political beliefs and speech. But the most controversial angle here is the religion hook. That is essential. We need the details.

GetReligion readers will not be shocked to learn that the Military Times team does a good job with the political material. Religion? Not so much.

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