It's the (oh, no, not again) art of Trump’s deal with many old-guard evangelicals

From the You Can’t Make This Up Department: During Donald Trump’s summit with nearly 1,000 evangelicals (GetReligion podcast here), Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. proudly tweeted out a photo of himself and wife Becki greeting the man who would be president.

Seen on the wall behind them was a framed Playboy magazine photo of Trump alongside a nubile Playmate.

Online liberal satirist Sarah Wood noted the Playmate is currently in prison for drug smuggling, and wondered why Falwell was “honored” to associate with “a thrice-married man who has more than insinuated that he wants to date his daughter, is currently racist, made money off screwing people over, and has posed for Playboy. Praise Jesus!”

Less derisively, Professor Tobin Grant, a Religion News Service columnist, quoted Trump’s new friends who not long ago warned he “can’t be trusted,” needs to “repent,” is “embarrassing,” a “scam,” and a“misogynist and philanderer” laden with “untruthfulness.” 

A second Grant piece listed words Trump never uttered during the 90-minute encounter: that would be Jesus, Christ, Bible, prayer, faith. “God” was mentioned once, however.

Trump’s big promises were to pick conservative Supreme Court appointees and defend religious liberty. Journalistic congrats to for scooping up audio of the closed-door session and rapidly posting a very revealing transcript reporters should analyze. There are still uncovered stories between the lines in this document.

Though Trump demeaned Hillary Clinton’s faith, Historian Randall Balmer contended via NPR that the Republican would be the first U.S. president who “makes no credible claims to religiosity.” Now there's a topic worth debating.

Meanwhile, second-hand quotes from veteran activist James Dobson explained away Trump’s religious flubs because he only recently “made a commitment” to Jesus so is “a baby Christian.” Amid the carefully staged and soft if not obsequious  questioning of Trump, Franklin Graham (Son of the Rev. Billy) preached that biblical heroes were also sinners (Abraham, David, faithless apostles).

Enough! You probably know all of that. What’s the ongoing news significance here?

As the Religion Guy (and friend tmatt) have noted, the media somehow ignore that this election will likely turn on white Catholics. Rust Belt, anyone? (And don’t forget research indicating white evangelical churches over-all are the least likely to be politicized versus “mainline” Protestant, black Protestant, Catholic and Jewish congregations.) Still, RNS’s David Gibson reminded us, Trump badly needs to boost his current 62 percent support among white evangelicals (per CBS polling) since Romney got 79 percent and McCain 73 percent (per Pew) and yet lost.

It’s predictable when outsiders smirk about unloved evangelicals. More notable for the future is what certain evangelicals thought. Columnist Michael Gerson, once George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter, said the meeting was a “sad parody” that summarized “all the faults and failures of the religious right.” Or consider Michael Farris, a Moral Majority founder, top homeschooling strategist and president of Patrick Henry College, who declared, “This meeting marks the end of the Christian Right. ... This is a day of mourning."

Will a Christian Right crackup parallel a Republican Party crackup in the Trump Era?  Both scenarios may be overblown, but newswriters should be watching the chaos closely.

The other obvious story here is emerging power alignments. The meeting’s  handpicked questioners were former Southern Baptist President Ronnie Floyd, Christian Zionist David Jeremiah, First Liberty Institute’s Kelly Shackelford, and Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins. Former Trump opponents Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee facilitated the event along with a lesser-known comer, C.E.O. Bill Dallas of This P.R. firm hopes to rally conservative religious organizations to bring a U.S. “culture change” that’s “based on Judeo-Christian principles.”

Members of Trump’s new 26-member “evangelical advisory board” include Dobson, Falwell, longtime toiler Ralph Reed, influential African-American Pastor A.R. Bernard, former Congresswoman Michele Bachman and Southern Baptist mega-pastors Ronnie Floyd, Jack Graham and Robert Jeffress.

Not all have or will endorse Trump, and other influential evangelicals remain devout #NeverTrump figures, especially the Rev. Russell Moore, the official Southern Baptist voice inside the Beltway.

Journalists: At the very least, how about a thorough rundown of the players walking up to Cleveland? Who will change his or her stance and who will refuse to do so?

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The Supreme Court and pharmacists: CNN shines while Washington state newspapers punt

The Supreme Court and pharmacists: CNN shines while Washington state newspapers punt

Although I just moved to Washington state a year ago, I was unaware it is the only state in the country that mandates pharmacists to supply medicines they are opposed to on religious grounds. All other states have some sort of right of refusal for pharmacists.

Then along came Stormans Inc. v. Wiesman, a case involving an Olympia, Wash.-based pharmacy that objected to a state law mandating it sell certain forms of emergency contraception. The Tacoma News Tribune describes the background here.

Here is what CNN wrote about the latest Supreme Court action on this case:

Washington (CNN) -- Over the dissent of three conservative justices who expressed concern for the future of religious liberty claims, the Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to take up a case brought by the owner of a pharmacy and two pharmacists who objected to delivering emergency contraceptives such as Plan B.
The plaintiffs in the case, the Stormans family, sought to challenge Washington State regulation mandating that a pharmacy may not "refuse to deliver a drug or device to a patient because its owner objects to delivery on religious, moral or other personal grounds."
The Stormans are devout Christians and own a pharmacy in Olympia, Washington.
A federal appeals court held that the Washington regulations did not violate the First Amendment.

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The press missed this detail? Pat Summitt took a very timely walk into the waters of baptism

The press missed this detail? Pat Summitt took a very timely walk into the waters of baptism

During the 20-plus years that I taught a basic journalism class, I asked my students what I thought was a simple question during my lecture on strategies in beat reporting, including sports. The goal was to get them to think about the impact of one of the high commandments of the news business: All news is local.

In other words, you don't just cover news stories. You strive to cover stories with unique hooks into the lives and interests of your own, local readers. Thus, I would ask: If you were a reporter who wanted to specialize in covering women's basketball, where would you rather work -- Atlanta (or some other big market) or Knoxville, Tenn.?

For decades the answer was obvious. You needed to work in Knoxville, because of two words -- Pat Summitt.

As you would imagine, the media here in East Tennessee have been offering wall-to-wall coverage in the wake of the Tuesday morning death of the 64-year-old Summitt, who many consider the greatest basketball coach of all time, male or female. At the very least, the czarina of the Lady Vols was to the women's game what the great John Wooden of UCLA was to men's college hoops. Truth is, Summitt changed the whole world of women's sports.

I thought I knew quite a bit about Summitt and the challenges of her amazing life. Then a saw the tribute story at Baptist Press. Yes, Baptist Press.

It included a timely detail from her life that I had not seen in the local and national coverage. It's especially stunning that this detail -- yes, it's a religion ghost -- was not included in Knoxville coverage.

All news is local, you know, and just a few years ago Knoxville was named No. 1 in a poll of "Bible-minded cities" in the United States (and it's currently No. 11).

The key passage, starting with a quote just before she died:

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Istanbul's LGBTQ community: Dealing with 'conservative attitudes' or DNA of Islamic law?

Istanbul's LGBTQ community: Dealing with 'conservative attitudes' or DNA of Islamic law?

If you are reading a newspaper in India and you see a reference to "community violence," or perhaps "communal violence," do you know how to break that code?

As I have mentioned before, a young Muslim journalist explained that term to me during a forum in Bangalore soon after the release of the book "Blind Spot: When Journalists Don't Get Religion."

Whenever there are violent clashes between religious groups, especially between Hindus and Muslims, journalists leave out all of the religious details and simply report that authorities are dealing with another outbreak of "community violence." Readers know how to break the code.

As the student told me, if journalists write accurate, honest stories about some religious subjects in the nation's newspapers, then "more people are going to die."

I thought of that again reading the top of a recent Washington Post story about the tensions in Istanbul between civil authorities and the LGBT community in modern Istanbul, symbolized by confrontations during gay pride parades. Please consider this a post adding additional information to the complex religious issues that our own Bobby Ross, Jr., described in his post about terrorist attacks -- almost certainly by ISIS -- at the always busy Ataturk International Airport in that city.

Here is the overture for that earlier Post report:

ISTANBUL -- It was just after sunset when patrons began to arrive, climbing a dark stairwell to the bar’s modest entrance. Here, in dimly lit corners, is where the mostly gay clientele come to canoodle and drink -- but without the threat of violence or harassment.

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That religious freedom law in Mississippi: Newspapers struggle to clarify basic issues

That religious freedom law in Mississippi: Newspapers struggle to clarify basic issues

Of all the stories I've seen on Mississippi's new religious freedom law, the one in the Jackson Free Press is one of the few that remembers what the debate is really about: the First Amendment. Specifically, the Establishment Claus versus the Free Exercise Clause.

Not that the newspaper delivers totally on its promise to cover all bases. It stumbles and wanders and omits in places.  Here are the first two paragraphs:

JACKSON -- "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." How those words affect the language in House Bill 1523 could lead to a historic Establishment Clause ruling this week when U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves decides whether or not to issue a preliminary injunction to keep HB 1523 from becoming law on July 1.
Pastors, priests, advocates and other Mississippians named as plaintiffs in two lawsuits that challenge the constitutionality of the bill claim that it advances a certain religious view, discriminates by favoring three particular beliefs and favors religion over non-religion, specifically targeting LGBT citizens.

It's a tantalizing start for anyone who still cares about religious rights, and how far the law should protect them.  In a time when people can be fined and shamed for not photographing a wedding or not decorating a cake for one, legal matters can take a painfully personal tinge. And several states, from Florida to Indiana, have passed various versions of the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act to cope.

As the Free Press points out, HB 1523 brings in New York-based attorney Roberta Kaplan, who helped bring down Mississippi's law on same-sex marriage. The two argue that the pending state law "favors three particular religious beliefs over others." Those beliefs are that "marriage should be recognized between one man and one woman, sexual relations are reserved to that marriage and that gender is assigned at birth."

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Concerning the dozens dead in Istanbul: Why religious affiliation of victims matters

Concerning the dozens dead in Istanbul: Why religious affiliation of victims matters

Dozens dead at the Istanbul airport.

Hundreds injured.

Are we even surprised anymore when images of yet another terror attack linked (it seems) to the Islamic State bombard our screens?

There is, as almost always seems to be the case, a huge religion angle on this latest attack (and not the one you might think). But first, the latest lede from The Associated Press:

ISTANBUL (AP) -- Suicide attackers armed with guns and bombs killed 41 people and wounded hundreds at Istanbul's busy Ataturk Airport, apparently targeting Turkey's crucial tourism industry. The government blamed the attack on Islamic State extremists but there was no immediate confirmation from the group.
Scenes of chaos and panic unfolded Tuesday night as gunfire and explosions on two different floors sent crowds fleeing first in one direction, then another.
Airport surveillance video posted on social media appeared to show one explosion, a ball of fire that sent terrified passengers racing for safety. Another appeared to show an attacker, felled by a gunshot from a security officer, blowing himself up seconds later. A growing stream of travelers, some rolling suitcases behind them, fled down a corridor, looking fearfully over their shoulders.
"Four people fell in front of me. They were torn into pieces," said airport worker Hacer Peksen.
The victims included at least 13 foreigners and several people remained unidentified Wednesday. The toll excluded the three bombers. The Istanbul governor's office said more than 230 people were wounded.

As GetReligion readers know, historic details really matter in Instanbul.

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This just in: Lots of Texans oppose abortion. How many are pre-meds and doctors?

This just in: Lots of Texans oppose abortion. How many are pre-meds and doctors?

If you have been following the headlines, you know that the topic of abortion rights in the state of Texas has been in the news. That's what happens when the U.S. Supreme Court gets involved in what is already a hot-button topic.

My goal here is not to cover territory that our own Bobby Ross, Jr., mapped out in his post on the court decision to strike down Texas laws on abortion and clinic safety standards. Click here to catch up on that.

Instead, I want to deal with a related topic covered in a recent National Public Radio report, as in the difficulty that abortion-rights advocates have finding Texans who are willing to be trained to do abortions in the first place. The headline: "Politics Makes Abortion Training In Texas Difficult."

I have no doubt that there are political issues, as well as "political" issues, that make abortion training a touchy subject in the Lone Star state. However, might there be other forces at play in addition to politics?

A mass-communications professor out in GetReligion reader land thinks so, stating:

This article has more holy ghosts than a Jack Chick Halloween comic book. I mean, let's ask the obvious question: could it be that many doctors in Texas believe that abortion is murder? Could that be a major factor? In other words -- it's not just politics that makes doctors shy away from teaching abortion in Texas.

This journalist really needs to answer the clue phone. So does her editor.

As you would expect, this NPR package spends most of its time talking about issues linked to Texas tensions linked to the funding of abortion, as well as issues linked to the safety and privacy of doctors who make their livelihoods terminating pregnancies.

Let me stress that these are issues that simply must be covered.

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Musing about Brexit lessons in the literal birthplace of the Spanish Inquisition

Musing about Brexit lessons in the literal birthplace of the Spanish Inquisition

As the repercussions from the momentous Brexit vote play out, I find myself in the charming and more than 1,000-year-old  hillside village of Sos del Rey Catolico in northeast Spain. Ferdinand III of Aragon, who with his wife Queen Isabella I, launched Cristobal Colon on his voyage to the New World -- and the start of the destruction of the indigenous tribes of the Americas -- was born here.

The royal couple also threw the Jews out of Spain and can lay claim to the Spanish Inquisition. Pretty accomplished, weren't they?

A day earlier I was in Madrid. When I arrived, a large banner hung from Madrid's City Hall, proclaiming in English, "Refugees Welcome." The following day, Spain held parliamentary elections in which gains by the conservative establishment made for banner headlines.

And the day after that, the "Refugees Welcome" banner was gone.

Was it a coincidence? A political decision? For all I know the banner lacked official approval in the first place.

But between the banner and my stay in Sos del Rey Catolico -- which, of course has its ancient and now Judenrein Jewish quarter that persists as a tourist site -- it all feels hopelessly tribal.

I've written here before that journalists need to understand that globalization has been and is about far more than cheaper products. That its about people -- people moved by dreams and a desire, perhaps "need" is a better word -- to be the consumers of those products and no longer only the producers. If they were lucky enough to have a job, that is.

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Here we go again: California, courts, abortion, Catholics, colleges, covenants, religious liberty

Here we go again: California, courts, abortion, Catholics, colleges, covenants, religious liberty

Did you think you’ve heard enough about religious employers, the federal government, the Little Sisters of the Poor and so on to last a lifetime?

Buckle up, because a new battle has begun.

It’s based in California, which is becoming the new Ground Zero on abortion. There, the issue isn’t federal laws, as has been the case previously.

It all began when some faculty at two Catholic institutions in southern California wanted health care plans that included abortion coverage. Here, we’re dealing with state laws; in fact, 50 sets of them. As Bloomberg explains:

... State laws on abortion coverage are governed by a different legal regime than federally mandated contraceptive care. The 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act bars Washington from imposing a "substantial burden" on most religious practice and was at stake in the 2014 Hobby Lobby case as well as the Little Sisters case. But it doesn’t apply to the states.  

That’s the crux right there. All the lawsuits we’ve been hearing about for the past few years (Little Sisters, Hobby Lobby) had to do with the feds. That national angle is just one layer of the wider story.

I’m going to include a few paragraphs from the beginning of a Los Angeles Times story to bring you up to date:

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