In lawsuit over transgender student using girls locker room, a surprising development

In lawsuit over transgender student using girls locker room, a surprising development

Hey, this is interesting.

The Chicago Tribune reports on a federal lawsuit challenging a high school's decision to let a transgender student use the girls locker room.

And guess what? The coverage is fair, balanced and informative. It's mostly just the facts, ma'am.

As GetReligion readers know, that's not always the case (examples here, here and here).

So what's the Tribune's secret?

The newspaper sticks to the simple lessons learned in Journalism 101. You know, the ones about reporting the relevant facts (without taking sides) and giving each side an opportunity to make its case — with a proper amount of background to put the lawsuit into a broader perspective. I do have one question about the story that I'll ask below.

But let's start at the top:

A group of suburban students and parents is suing the U.S. Department of Education and Illinois' largest high school district after school officials granted a transgender student access to the girls locker room.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday, the group contends that the actions of the Department of Education and Palatine-based Township High School District 211 "trample students' privacy" rights and create an "intimidating and hostile environment" for students who share the locker rooms and restrooms with the transgender student.
"Students have an expectation of privacy in restrooms and locker rooms, and that expectation is violated when a school puts the opposite-sex student in those kinds of private and intimate facilities," said Jeremy Tedesco, attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious legal advocacy group representing the plaintiffs.
The group also asserts that the Department of Education's inclusion of gender identity under Title IX, which aims to protect against discrimination based on sex, is unlawful.
Wednesday's lawsuit is the latest development in a heated national debate on the rights of transgender people in public spaces. Chicago Public Schools this week announced that transgender students will be able to use restrooms and locker rooms of their gender identity. Last month, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of a transgender student in Virginia who is seeking access to the boys restroom. Meanwhile, North Carolina recently adopted a law that limits public bathroom access for transgender people, though the U.S. Justice Department on (sic) said Wednesday that the law violates federal civil rights protections.

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#DUH -- That 'atheist' candidate for Congress turns out to be a liberal Jewish guy

#DUH -- That 'atheist' candidate for Congress turns out to be a liberal Jewish guy

Honestly. I thought we had handled the old non-Jewish Jew, humanist, probably agnostic, maybe atheist, cultural Judaism equation several weeks ago with Sen. Bernie Sanders.

You remember that, right? The whole affair reminded me of the infamous media brain freeze years ago when candidate Jimmy Carter started talking about being a "born again" Christian. As I wrote earlier in the primary season (which still isn't over, with everyone keeping an eye on the crucial FBI primary):

I understand that many journalists in New York City needed time to grasp the basics of evangelical Christianity. Hey, 40 years later lots of elite journalists are still wrestling with that.
However, is it really big news at The New York Times that there are million of people of Jewish heritage whose identity centers more on matters of culture than on the practice of the Jewish faith?

The main problem with the Times coverage back then was that it asked a pack of rabbis to explain who and what Sanders is, when it comes to religion, rather than asking other agnostic or atheist Jews to explain that -- statistically speaking -- they are in the heart of the Jewish community (and Democratic Party) mainstream.

Now, the Associated Press has put out a feature about the campaign by Jamie Raskin to win Maryland's 8th Congressional district. And what's the hook for this story? That would be a bad headline in a major online "news" source, building on a bad public-relations piece from the Freethought Equality Fund, a humanist political action committee. As the AP piece put it:

“If successful in the general election, Raskin will be the only open nontheist serving in the U.S. Congress,” the email said. The Huffington Post quickly published an article headlined, “Congress Likely To Get Its Only Openly Atheist Member in November.”
The only problem? Raskin is Jewish.

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Sound of the last trump: Where does this leave the Christian #NeverTrumpers?

Sound of the last trump: Where does this leave the Christian #NeverTrumpers?

With Donald Trump now set to be the GOP nominee thanks to Indiana, there’s a good piece waiting on the extinct “NeverTrump” movement's Christian wing, which spurns him over attitudes toward ethnic and religious minorities, personal life, vulgarity, and other matters.

There have been four basic strategies among those who believe Trump violates Christian moral standards. (1) Suffer in silence. (2) Speak out individually, hoping to influence others. (3) Organize a group declaration. (4) Seize this chance to bash Republicans and conservatives.

An early example of option No. 2 was the efforts by the Rev. Russell Moore, the social-issues spokesman for the nation’s largest Protestant body, the Southern Baptist Convention. He moved to the forefront Sept. 17, excoriating the billionaire as “decadent and deviant” in a sharp New York Times op-ed.

In a recent piece at Slate.com, Ruth Graham (no relation to Billy’s evangelical clan) ran down the anti-Trump fulminations by Moore, seminary President Albert Mohler and other Southern Baptists. She noted that Moore peeved some pastors (on that see the Religion Guy’s Feb. 9 Memo). In the clergy name-dropping, she noted, Trump can cite enthusiasm from Jerry Falwell Jr. and Robert Jeffress. However, World magazine’s latest survey among 81 “evangelical leaders and influencers” found 76 percent favored Ted Cruz vs. 5.1 percent for Trump.

Two examples of option No. 3: Early last December several colleagues at the Presbyterian Church (USA) seminary in Georgia decided to write “An Appeal to Christians in the United States.” Endorsers, largely Protestant, included former Fuller Theological Seminary President Richard Mouw, President Jul Medenblik of Calvin Theological Seminary and retired United Methodist Bishop Will Willimon. This text avoided mention of Trump, the obvious target, as it assailed unnamed politicians who “exploit fear and pride,” “slander our neighbors and blaspheme against the one God of all peoples” and demonize “the refugee and immigrant.” Posted by the Journal for Preachers quarterly, the petition drew thousands of online endorsers by word of mouth, but the public splash didn’t occur until April and an ad in Christianity Today.

Too little, too late.

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Banned for beliefs: Washington Post tries to tackle the fracas at Marquette University

Banned for beliefs: Washington Post tries to tackle the fracas at Marquette University

The long-smoldering struggle between Marquette University and a prickly professor made the Washington Post this week. But there's something funny about the headline:

A university moved to fire a professor after he defended a student’s right to debate gay marriage. Now he’s suing.

A little surprising, in itself, I guess. But what if I told you it's a Catholic university? A Jesuit one, at that? If criticizing gay marriage -- quoting, for example, the teachings of the Catholic church -- during a discussion in class is not allowed in a Catholic, Jesuit university …?

There is a good summary at the top of Post story, at least:

The conflict began in 2014: After a student complained after a philosophy class that he was disappointed that he and others who question gay marriage had not been allowed to express their views during the classroom discussion, the graduate-student instructor told him that opposition to gay marriage was homophobic and offensive and would not be tolerated in her theory of ethics class. John McAdams, an associate professor of political science at Marquette, blogged about it, writing that the instructor "was just using a tactic typical among liberals now. Opinions with which they disagree are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed ‘offensive’ and need to be shut up."
The story went viral, touching as it did on the heated debates over issues such as campus culture, gay rights, academic freedom, whether students should be protected from comments they find offensive or hurtful, and where the lines should be drawn in discussions of charged topics such as race and sexuality to ensure that people don’t feel stigmatized or unsafe. The instructor was targeted on social media by people angered by McAdams’s account of the incident and ultimately left the university.
McAdams was suspended without pay the following month and banned from campus, and in March of this year he was told by university president Michael Lovell he could not return to teaching unless he wrote a letter acknowledging that his behavior had been reckless and incompatible with Marquette values and that he feels deep regret for the harm he did to the instructor.
On Monday, McAdams and the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty filed a lawsuit in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, claiming breach of contract.

Now, Marquette would never be mistaken for Catholic University of America, in which faculty members are, to some degree, required to stick with traditional church teachings.

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In so-called news story on #BoycottTarget, Associated Press shows its bias

In so-called news story on #BoycottTarget, Associated Press shows its bias

The Associated Press Stylebook — the bible of American journalists — has this entry on use of the term "so called":

so called 
(adv.) so-called (adj.) Use sparingly. Do not follow with quotation marks. Example: He is accused of trading so-called blood diamonds to finance the war.

After reading the AP's latest story on some consumers' boycott of Target over its transgender bathroom policy, I'm thinking the wire service might want to use "so called" a little more sparingly. More on that in a moment.

First, though, let me back up and remind readers of what I said about the editorialized nature of "so called" nearly a year ago.

Back in the present: GetReligion earlier highlighted media coverage of the #BoycottTarget petition that has — as of this moment — close to 1.2 million signatures.

In that post, I suggested:

Here's what I'd love to see: an actual person who signed the petition quoted and given a chance to explain why. (Or maybe even more than one!)

So let's check out the AP story, starting at the top:

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AP report shows that college 'lifestyle' and doctrinal covenant issues are here to stay

AP report shows that college 'lifestyle' and doctrinal covenant issues are here to stay

I have met more than few students during my life -- which has included on-campus visits to at least 50 Christian colleges and universities -- who enrolled in a school without knowing much of anything about its doctrinal and denomination ties that bind.

In some cases, their parents did all of the homework and background reading and the student wasn't really part of the process. In other cases, it appeared that parents who were marginal believers or even secularists simply wanted to send their child to "a safe place."

Did they read the fine print when they signed on the bottom line? Did they sweat the details in the school's student handbook or the lifestyle-doctrinal covenant? Did they make an informed decision and truly commit themselves to the school's mission? In some cases -- not really.

I bring this up because clear, articulate, honest doctrinal statements are becoming more and more important, in an age in which the U.S. government seems determined to substitute "freedom of worship" for the Constitution's commitment to the "free exercise" of religious beliefs. For example, consider the lines drawn in the Health and Human Services mandate language between churches and other doctrinally defined ministries and schools.

This leads me to an important Associated Press story from the other day that religion-beat journalists (ditto for those covering politics) will want to read. This is the rare story that will please LGBT activists and, while AP writers may not have realized it, it will also (behind the scenes, maybe) please the leaders of some proudly conservative religious schools. Here's the overture:

BOSTON -- Massachusetts Congresswoman Katherine Clark is pushing legislation she says will help members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community make more informed decisions about college.

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Why a pastor who served as St. Louis Cardinals' chaplain was fired by his megachurch

Why a pastor who served as St. Louis Cardinals' chaplain was fired by his megachurch

Back in March, I critiqued a newspaper profile of the St. Louis Cardinals' team chaplain — a pastor named Darrin Patrick.

My review focused on the lack of details concerning Patrick's actual faith and church background.

Well, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch followed up that earlier feature with an in-depth story on Patrick today.

The new piece made the front page, but it's not positive news.

The lede:

ST. LOUIS — Shepherding a megachurch is tied in many ways to America’s celebrity culture. There’s a push for big-stage events and around-the-clock access through social media to a pastor’s life and thoughts.
It’s a formula that amplifies the message and multiplies the flock, in congregants who show up on Sunday for worship and in tens of thousands more followers online.
High visibility can also set pastors on a correction-course with humility that evangelical Christians call getting right with Jesus.
The Rev. Darrin Patrick, 45, of Webster Groves, is one of the latest on such a path. Elders at The Journey, a popular megachurch he founded with his wife in 2002, fired him a few weeks ago for what they viewed as pastoral misconduct.
Among the allegations:
• Lack of self-control.
• Manipulation.
• Misuse of power.
• History of building an identity through ministry and media platforms.
• Not adultery, but “inappropriate meetings, conversations and phone calls with two women.”
Reached by telephone, Patrick said he didn’t have more to say other than what The Journey outlined in a three-page letter to members, heavily footnoted in Scripture.
“I have four kids, little kids,” Patrick said, voice cracking. “I am trying to protect my family and figure this out.

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Elvis statues, segregation: Atlanta paper lays Deep South template over Nashville news

Elvis statues, segregation: Atlanta paper lays Deep South template over Nashville news

The Atlanta Journal Constitution raises Deep South, Civil War-era caricatures in its weekend story on cultural stresses in Tennessee.  And it does so in almost a robotic, paint-by-the-numbers style.

The article strains mightily to contrast urbane, liberal city dwellers with backward, "ignorant" -- yes, one source uses that word -- country folk. It takes a patronizing attitude toward these yahoos and pits people on the street against scholars and think-tankers. It even compares so-called "bathroom bills" in some states with "White" and "Colored" signs from segregation days.

How else to read paragraphs like:

Across the country -- the South in particular -- a wave of bills, proposals and court fights in recent months are again ramping up the culture wars. The measures come in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage, a decision many religious conservatives see as an assault on their beliefs.

And:

The South finds itself in the middle of that conflict. It’s a place where city folks may have a decidedly different take on social issues than their peers in the country, a region where progressive notions rub up against more traditional, conservative values.

For context, the article brings Georgia's"religious liberty" bill -- complete with sarcasm quotes -- vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal. There's also Gov. Bill Haslam vetoing a bill to make the Bible the state book in Tennessee, then signing a bill to let counselors refer out people who conflict with their "sincerely held principles" -- yes, more sarcasm quotes -- to reject gay, lesbian, transgender and other clients. Would it be better for these religious counselors to handle these cases, even though they have a clear conflict of interest?

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A great loss for old New Yorkers; a greater loss for Serbian Orthodox believers at Pascha

A great loss for old New Yorkers; a greater loss for Serbian Orthodox believers at Pascha

If you have seen images of the fire that gutted the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava in New York City -- with the flames blasting through the rose window -- then you know why onlookers described this as a scene from hell.

In terms of the news coverage, this was a pretty straightforward story that metro-desk journalists know how to cover. You get quotes from eyewitnesses, you nail down the details from the proper city authorities and that is pretty much that.

A reader asked for my reactions and, frankly, I didn't think there would be much that was worthy of comment, in terms of journalism. I could offer my reactions as an Orthodox believer, of course.

This morning, however, I saw the two-story package in The New York Times and there are several points I would like to make -- about the bad and the good.

As you would expect, the Times team made it very clear this building was a historic and beloved landmark in the city, offering an entire sidebar on the sanctuary's history -- stressing that it once was an Episcopal chapel created by the historic Trinity Church congregation in lower Manhattan. In other words, this wasn't just a New York landmark. This was a landmark of "old" money New York. In the past, this was a church that really mattered.

But the coverage did not slight the Serbians who have called the church their spiritual home for decades. However, there is evidence in the main report that some members of the Times team may not have understood all of the details provided by the Orthodox witnesses.

Here is the my main point: The story does not include details of the Easter -- the Orthodox call this greatest of all feasts "Pascha" -- services that took place in the hours before the blaze.

Why is this crucial? To be blunt, the church would have been full of hundreds of people with candles.

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