Fine Fine Sports Illustrated salute to Dean Smith, yet haunted by one ghostly error

Fine Fine Sports Illustrated salute to Dean Smith, yet haunted by one ghostly error

What we need here is a sports metaphor that will help me make a larger point about an amazing feature story that ran recently in Sports Illustrated, a tribute to the late, great University of North Carolina hoops coach Dean Smith.

This long and detailed piece story ran under the headline, "Hail and Farewell." The subhead provided the sad context: "Five years ago, amid his sad decline, the coach's former players and assistants found a way to say to him what he had always told them: Thank you."

I would love to link to this feature and share some of the finer points in it, in large part because both of my parents experienced dementia, of one form or another, in the last years of their lives. This SI story does a very sensitive job of dealing with the emotions involved in relating to loved ones caught in that bittersweet stage of life.

I would like to link to the piece, but I can't -- because it is behind a firewall, as is often the case with the best SI material (as opposed to swimsuit issue outtakes). I hope to add such a link in the future.

Anyway, my goal here is to praise this article, while also noting a really strange error at the end, during the crucial final passage. What I need here is a metaphor that links sports and religion to help readers understand the nature of this strange error.

Let's try this one, which uses a sports reference in a religion story, as opposed to this SI piece in which there is a timely religion reference in a sports story.

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Memories of Mother Teresa and a religious-freedom story worth watching in India

Memories of Mother Teresa and a religious-freedom story worth watching in India

One of the highlights of my journalism career came in 1982 in Bombay (now Mumbai) where I had the opportunity to conduct a news conference for Mother Teresa, the late Nobel Peace Prize-winning nun and current candidate for Roman Catholic sainthood. The occasion was a conference staged by the International Transpersonal Association. My wife, Ruth, and I handled the press and Mother Teresa was one of the star presenters, hence the news conference opportunity.

Her talk and media comments were boilerplate Mother Teresa. Love the unloved, love the unwanted, love the dying; love, love, love until you think you have no more love to give -- then force yourself to love even more, for that is the way of God.

The diminutive, stoop-shouldered nun repeated some variation of that formula endlessly, in her talk and in response to every question asked at her news conference, and I, for one, was impressed. So it came of something of a shock to me years later when she famously admitted -- despite her popular image of saintly devotion to the poorest of the poor and the global public's assumption that her faith gave her the strength to persevere -- that she suffered for years from a spiritual dryness that distanced her from feeling connected to her God.

I'm sure that long ago news conference was just another day on the job for Mother Teresa. For me, though, it was a day to remember.

Mother Teresa, however, was a controversial personality, despite all the charitable work done by her and the order she founded, the Missionaries of Charity.

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Sorry, Southern Baptists: AP slants Alabama same-sex marriage coverage in favor of gay-rights advocates

Sorry, Southern Baptists: AP slants Alabama same-sex marriage coverage in favor of gay-rights advocates

The Associated Press' quick-hit, 800-word coverage Tuesday night concerning the Alabama Supreme Court halting same-sex marriage licenses in that state seemed relatively straightforward and factual. It read like an unbiased news report.

"Bias" is, of course, contrary to AP's stated news values and principles.

Alas, AP's second-day, 1,000-word coverage Wednesday had a different look and feel than the breaking news. It read like advocacy masquerading as straight news.

Let's start at the top of the Day 2 report:

Alabama's stand against same-sex marriage regained ground Wednesday after the state's highest court ruled that its ban remains legal, despite federal court pressure to begin issuing licenses to gays and lesbians. But advocates said they're not giving up either — and that the justices in Montgomery will find themselves on history's losing side.
The Alabama Supreme Court ordered county probate judges to uphold the state ban pending a final ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which hears arguments in April on whether gay couples nationwide have a fundamental right to marry and whether states can ban such unions.
Stuck between the state's highest court and a series of federal rulings, many probate judges were at a loss early Wednesday. Mobile County, one of the state's largest, initially announced that it wouldn't issue licenses to anyone, straight or gay.
By mid-day, gay rights advocates couldn't find a single county still granting licenses to same-sex couples.
Dean Lanton said he and his partner, Randy Wells, had planned to wed in Birmingham on Aug. 12, the anniversary of their first date, but now might have to get married out of state because of the decision.
"It was a punch in the gut. It was out of the blue," said Lanton, 54. "It's just Alabama politics, deja vu from the 1960s."

After (1) Lanton, AP proceeds to quote directly (2) a Democratic county probate judge skeptical about the ruling, (3) the chairman of an Alabama gay-rights group who pledges a continued fight, (4) an attorney for a lesbian couple who challenged the state's ban on gay marriage and (5) the legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a prominent gay-rights organization.

Anybody picking up a theme here?

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Washington Post runs Spock-tacular story on Leonard Nimoy

Washington Post runs Spock-tacular story on Leonard Nimoy

Whenever Trekkies flash Spock's Vulcan "Live Long and Prosper" sign, they're actually borrowing from Judaism, Leonard Nimoy often said. That fact came to the fore in numerous retrospects after Nimoy's death Feb. 27.

"People don’t realize they're blessing each other with this!" he says in one of the better stories, based on a recorded interview reported by the Post.

Nimoy became a photographer, a director, a narrator, even a singer over his career. But his best-known role was, of course, Spock, the logic-minded alien in three TV seasons and eight films based on the original Star Trek. The religious/spiritual gesture? Abby Ohlheiser of the Washington Post nails it in the first two paragraphs:

Leonard Nimoy first saw what became the famous Vulcan salute, “live long and prosper,” as a child, long before “Star Trek” even existed. The placement of the hands comes from a childhood memory, of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue service in Boston.
The man who would play Spock saw the gesture as part of a blessing, and it never left him. “Something really got hold of me,” Nimoy said in a 2013 interview with the National Yiddish Book Center.

The story is absorbing both on a personal and religious level. Ohlheiser, with contributions by ace religion writer Michelle Boorstein, fills in Nimoy's Ukrainian background and upbringing in Boston. His acquaintance with Yiddish led him to helping support the book center.

In a little disclosure, Ohlheiser says she worked at the book center as a college student. Her experience led her to ask about anything that Nimoy had done there, leading to the gold mine of the recorded interview.

Religiously, the story is, as Spock might say, fascinating:

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Anglican wars update in Fort Worth: Star-Telegram misses a date or two in timeline

Anglican wars update in Fort Worth: Star-Telegram misses a date or two in timeline

The Anglican wars timeline keeps getting longer and longer, as the court cases roll on and on and the lawyers keep cashing the checks. It is very hard for reporters to keep up with all of the details, of course, especially since there are brilliant experts on both sides whose views of the facts clash more often than not.

However, as always, it helps to know what happened when.

Take the case that is unfolding in Fort Worth, Texas, the subject of another amazingly short update in The Star-Telegram. I can understand the temptation to cut to the chase, but the problem with this story is that it is not nearly as complicated as it should be.

The new headline is that the old guard in the local diocese -- doctrinally conservative Anglicans -- won a major victory over the progressive Episcopal Church establishment , which, of course, will now be tested in another court. Let's walk through this story a bit and see where editors needed to plug in a bit more history.

FORT WORTH -- After a bitter, seven-year legal dispute, state District Judge John Chupp ruled Monday that the Episcopalians led by Bishop Jack Iker who broke away from the national Episcopal Church are entitled to an estimated $100 million in property in the 24-county Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.
Fort Worth-area Episcopalians who remained loyal to the national Episcopal Church and reorganized the diocese under Bishop Rayford High have the right to appeal the decision.

Now, the key to this case -- from the point of view of the Anglican right -- is that Iker had for years been, and his supporters believe he still is, the leader of the real Fort Worth diocese. He was there first. This story hints at that fact -- note the word "reorganized" in the reference to Bishop High -- but doesn't state it clearly.

Why does that matter?

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Front-page news in Indianapolis: 5-year-old survey data on 'animus' toward same-sex marriage

Front-page news in Indianapolis: 5-year-old survey data on 'animus' toward same-sex marriage

In a front-page story this week, the Indianapolis Star reported on "the real reason behind opposition to same-sex marriage."

Prepare to be shocked.

Religion plays a role:

Why do you oppose same-sex marriage?
Indiana University sociologist Brian Powell posed this question to hundreds of people across the nation as part of a research project.
He was curious to see if what people say actually matches the legal arguments being made to justify bans on same-sex marriage.
The legal arguments are rooted in public policy considerations. The public responses decidedly were not.
From his survey results, published recently in the sociological journal Social Currents, here's one response that reflected the majority of opposition to same-sex marriage: "Because I don't believe God intended them to be that way."
"It's beastly," said another. A third: "Well, they're sinners."

What the Star doesn't bother to mention: While Powell's paper was published recently, the survey itself was conducted in 2010 — five years ago.

As you might have noticed, there has been a little publicity on the issue since then — and rapidly changing attitudes, from the American public to the U.S. president. 

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Shocker! Archbishop Cordileone attempts to defend Catholic Catechism in his schools

Shocker! Archbishop Cordileone attempts to defend Catholic Catechism in his schools

It’s a sign of the times that the idea of the Catholic archbishop of the nation’s most gay-friendly city standing his ground on sexual practice is front-page news. There’s been quite the media war going on this past month ever since Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone lowered the boom, making it clear how he expects teachers in Catholic high schools to behave.

First, some back story: The San Francisco Chronicle laid out his new requirements in a straightforward piece on Feb. 3:

The conservative Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco has developed a new document for Catholic high school faculty and staff clarifying that sex outside of marriage, homosexual relations, the viewing of pornography and masturbation are “gravely evil.”
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s document applies to faculty and staff at four Catholic high schools: Riordan and Sacred Heart in San Francisco, Marin Catholic in Kentfield and Serra High School in San Mateo. It states that administrators, faculty and staff “affirm and believe” the controversial statements, which will be part of the faculty handbook.
The document goes on to say that marriage is between “one man and one woman,” despite California law allowing same-sex marriages. It also notes that sperm donation, the use of a surrogate and other forms of “artificial reproductive technology” are also gravely evil.
The document notes that while not all staff at the schools are Catholic, they are “required to stand as effective and visible professional participants and proponents of truly Catholic education.” Those who are not Catholic “must refrain” from participating in organizations that “advocate issues or causes contrary to the teachings of the church.”

Apparently this is news to some of the 317 teachers affected by this rule although you must wonder what planet they’ve been on to not know where the Catholic Church stands on these issues.

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Shocker! Erskine College covenant affirms 2,000 years of Christian doctrine on sex

Shocker! Erskine College covenant affirms 2,000 years of Christian doctrine on sex

GetReligion readers who know a thing or two about religious colleges and universities (also private schools for younger students) know that there is nothing unusual about these institutions asking students, staff and faculty to sign a "doctrinal covenant," often called a "lifestyle covenant," which confuses matters a bit.

This is an issue that frequently comes up in GetReligion critiques of mainstream news coverage, in part because many journalists don't seem to realize that it's normal (think First Amendment, once again) for voluntary associations on both the left and right to ask those who choose to become members to affirm, or at least not to publicly oppose, the goals and teachings (think "doctrines") of these groups. Thus, there is nothing unusual about the leaders of a network that opposes global warming to insist that its members to oppose global warming. There is nothing strange about a group for vegetarians choosing not to have officers who are openly affirm eating meat. Few Jewish groups want Messianic Jews/Southern Baptists as leaders. Ditto for Muslim groups welcoming Zionists.

This brings us to the hands-down winner of the worst headline of last week, care of The Washington Post. Once again, this headline graced one of those strange, brave new journalism (What is this?) "reported blog" pieces that was, nevertheless, promoted by the Post in lists of major news stories. News? Editorial? Who knows? Oh well? Whatever? Nevermind? The headline:

South Carolina college bans homosexuality after two volleyball players come out as gay

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In the New England forecast: Lots of snow, with a chance of coffers drying up at houses of worship

In the New England forecast: Lots of snow, with a chance of coffers drying up at houses of worship

New England's tough winter is starting to make headlines — on the religion beat.

The Associated Press reported over the weekend:

BOSTON (AP) -- Religious leaders in snowbound New England are beginning to ask themselves how on Earth their houses of worship will make ends meet after all these acts of God.
Churches, synagogues and mosques report attendance is down at services, as poorly timed winter storms have hit on or close to days of worship. And getting the faithful to come out is challenging, with limited parking and treacherously icy sidewalks plaguing the region.
For many places of worship, that has meant donations are drying up just as costs for snow removal, heating and maintenances are soaring.
"You have this perfect storm of people not being able to go to worship and so not bringing in offerings, combined with much higher than usual costs," says Cindy Kohlmann, who works with Presbyterian churches in Greater Boston and northern New England.

The AP lede's emphasis on "churches, synagogues and mosques" drew this response from Ira Rifkin, one of my fellow GetReligionistas:

Hmmm ... just the big three, once again. I believe the Boston area has more Buddhist centers than any other city in the nation (needs fact checking). But even if not, it's just the big three. America's more diverse than that.

Interesting point, and honestly, not one that would have struck me on my own. Alas, Massachusetts does have more Buddhists than Muslims, according to a 2010 demographic report by the Association of Religion Data Archives.

Still, give AP credit for a timely, enterprising religion angle on the weather.

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