In beheading case, The Oklahoman digs and uncovers the crucial, sometimes conflicting details

In beheading case, The Oklahoman digs and uncovers the crucial, sometimes conflicting details

In a recent post, GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly highlighted the post-9/11 tensions faced by journalists covering the Oklahoma beheading case. Tmatt noted certain national news organizations' tendency to focus on a particular news template, be it "workplace violence" or "global terrorism."

But he pointed out the importance of reporters digging into the case — and the suspect's background — without prejudice.

The goal: producing the crucial basic facts.

In following national media reports, tmatt has found most news organizations relying almost exclusively on police, prosecutors and prison officials for their portrayals of the beheading suspect. See this Washington Post story, for example.

Here in Oklahoma, though, The Oklahoman has focused on peeling back every possible layer of the onion. In ongoing, front-page coverage, the Oklahoma City newspaper has approached the story from a variety of perspectives, including Muslim leaders as well as the suspect's relatives, friends and neighbors.

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Dear International Business Times: What in the world is the 'Second Trinity'?

Dear International Business Times: What in the world is the 'Second Trinity'?

So here is our thought for today: It's hard for journalists to write accurate news reports about confusing religious topics without a basic knowledge of the doctrinal subject material that is being discussed and often twisted.

That said, it is with some hesitation that I ask GetReligion readers to ponder the top of the recent "Faith and Belief" feature from the International Business TImes that ran under the headline, "Pope Francis Supposedly Claimed Virgin Mary At Second Trinity, At Godhead Level -- Report."

Say what? What in the world is the "Second Trinity"? Hold that thought, because it gets worse.

However, before we plunge in, let me note that -- as someone who has walked the long path from Southern Baptist life to Eastern Orthodox Christianity -- I have had more than my share of conversations with Protestants about what the ancient churches did or did not believe about the Theodokos and her role in the Incarnation. I have also had many conversations with Roman Catholics about the differences that have developed, through the centuries, between Rome and the Eastern Orthodox churches on this topic.

Folks, this is complicated territory. It is almost impossible to write a single paragraph of factual material on this subject without expert help. So with that said, check out the top of this story.

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With evangelical candidate, Brazil's politics interest European media

With evangelical candidate, Brazil's politics interest European media

Need evidence that you should follow more than one news outlet? Look south to Brazil, where the presidential race is drawing media attention even from Europe.

Both the London-based  Reuters and Paris-based Agence France-Presse (AFP) have produced recent indepth articles on the race for the top office for the 200 million people in Brazil. But although the Reuters piece is nearly twice as long, it isn't twice as good.

Reuters tries hard to make the campaign into a Religious Right power grab, relying largely on demographics and the support by the Assemblies of God for one of the candidates:

Marina Silva, an environmentalist running neck and neck in polls with incumbent President Dilma Rousseff, is a Pentecostal Christian who often invokes God on the campaign trail and has said she sometimes consults the Bible for inspiration when making important political decisions.
Some 65 percent of Brazil's 200 million people are Roman Catholics but evangelicals are rapidly gaining followers and power.
They grew from 5 percent of the population in 1970 to more than 22 percent in 2010 and the trend has continued. Evangelical groups have made particular inroads among urban working Brazilians who benefited from economic prosperity over the last two decades and are now demanding a greater say in politics.

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Go West, young rabbis: NPR produces interesting-but-incomplete feature on isolated Jews

Go West, young rabbis: NPR produces interesting-but-incomplete feature on isolated Jews

A decade ago, while working for The Associated Press in Dallas, I wrote a feature on frequent-flier rabbis.

I was reminded of that story when I came across an NPR report this week on "roving rabbis."

NPR's descriptive lede: 

Mountains and forests surround the little town of Show Low, Ariz. It's home to only 10,000 people, but the heavily Mormon community is still the biggest place for more than hour in every direction.
It's not the kind of setting that typically fosters a thriving Jewish community — which is exactly why Hasidic rabbinical students Zalman Refson and Yaakov Kaplan are here.
Residents of the rural West have historically relied on the talents of people passing through — traveling doctors, traveling circus performers and traveling preachers. So-called roving rabbis like Refson and Kaplan are carrying on that tradition, meeting rural Jews who otherwise might rarely interact with others of their faith.
They're two of the hundreds of rabbinical students who travel to rural places all across the globe each year. These roving rabbis make these journeys in the name of Chabad, a movement within Orthodox Judaism.
Young, bearded and dressed in black pants and long-sleeved white shirts, even in the Arizona heat, the two men stick out in Show Low. Kaplan says being a roving rabbi is all about helping Jews reconnect to their faith.

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Another Kellerism case? Or a priest refusing to violate the seal of confession?

Another Kellerism case? Or a priest refusing to violate the seal of confession?

Every now and then, a longtime reader sends your GetReligionistas a note that, in addition to the URL to a mainstream news story, includes their own commentary that almost writes a post for us.

That was the case with a note about a recent report from The Billings Gazette about yet another clash between a Catholic priest who is attempting to defend the doctrines of the church and one or more progressive Catholics who see themselves as loyal, practicing Catholics, even though they openly reject one or more specific teachings of the faith.

At first glance, this story looks like a classic "Kellerism" case of advocacy journalism, with a team of journalists doing everything they can to stack a story with materials that back the brave, faithful Catholics who want to see doctrines changed or ignored, while turning the orthodox side of things into a small circle of grim canon lawyers and literalists. 

Thus, the opening of the story:

LEWISTOWN -- The first thing you need to know about Tom Wojtowick and Paul Huff is both are lifelong Catholics.

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A tale of Twin Cities: Pioneer Press outdoes Strib with stellar story on bishop's meeting with abuse survivors

A tale of Twin Cities: Pioneer Press outdoes Strib with stellar story on bishop's meeting with abuse survivors

After I wrote in this space that the Minneapolis Star-Tribune 's over-reliance on SNAP marred an otherwise good story on Archbishop John Nienstedt's meeting with abuse survivors, I received an e-mail pointing me to the Pioneer Press's take on the same story.

The e-mail was from the meeting's organizer, Bob Schwiderski, and although he himself did not say which story he preferred, for me it is no contest. Pioneer Press columnist Rubén Rosario didn't look to SNAP, or any outside advocacy group, to tell readers how they should feel about the archbishop's meeting. Instead, he did all his reporting from the ground, gathering information only from those directly involved with the event. In this way, Rosario has composed an outstanding piece of journalism, hitting all the right notes while writing on a topic that is notoriously difficult to get right. What is more, he has achieved such balance even while being personally close to the issue, "[as] a victim of childhood sex abuse[, ...] raised Catholic." 

I could and will go on about some of the things about Rosario's article that particularly struck me, but I urge you to read the entire piece.

Like the Strib story, it begins with a dramatic vignette:

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A few of my favorite things -- in OC Register's story on Christ Cathedral

A few of my favorite things -- in OC Register's story on Christ Cathedral

In telling about the redesign of Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral, the Orange County Register sounds like it's imitating the song My Favorite Things:

GARDEN GROVE – Ceiling lights that mimic stars.

Dozens of crape myrtle trees.

A rebuilt organ.

Those are some of the elements included in the restoration of Christ Cathedral, according to plans announced Wednesday by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange and its architects.

Kinda singsong, dontcha think? But stay with it; the story turns out as light 'n' bright as the glass building itself. Especially compared with the heavier, wordier account in the Los Angeles Times.

The Register briskly sets out the more eye-catching changes in the already stunning, 78,000-square-foot structure. Those include petal-like shades for some of the glass panels; a lawn for outdoor Masses of up to 8,000; outside lights that will make the cathedral glow at night; and painting the walnut organ white, to keep from distraction attention from the altar.

Some sparkly words are sprinkled through the story as well. They include calling the shade panels "petals"; the cathedral as a "Box of Stars"; and the whole 35-acre campus as a "sacred heat map." Nice.

The latter phrase, by a principal architect, summarizes the planned experience of approaching the church:

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A BBC puzzler: Defense of a universal human right is now an 'evangelical' thing?

A BBC puzzler: Defense of a universal human right is now an 'evangelical' thing?

If there are readers out there in cyberspace who have been reading GetReligion for a decade-plus, the odds are good that they have heard of the the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially Article 18. That's the one that proclaims, in the name of the United Nations:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Long ago, this statement was considered a cornerstone on the political and cultural left. However, that is no longer (alas) always the case today. Here at GetReligion I have been asking the following questions in recent years, while probing some of the shallow labels that journalists often use with little or no thought. They are:

* What should journalists call someone who is weak, when it comes to defending freedom of speech?

* What should journalists call someone who is weak, when it comes to defending freedom of association?

* What should journalists call someone who is weak, when it comes to defending freedom of religion?

I'm not sure what the correct answer is, these days, but anyone familiar with the history of political thought in the West will know that the correct answer is not "liberal."

Why bring this up right now? Well, because of an absolutely bizarre statement at the end of a recent BBC report that ran under this strange (it's almost a fragment) headline: "Sudan apostasy woman Mariam Ibrahim 'to campaign'."

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So who speaks for Islam in a time of terrorism?

So who speaks for Islam in a time of terrorism?

THE RELIGION GUY interrupts this blog’s usual answers to posted questions and feels impelled to highlight a development that ought to receive far more attention than it has.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly Sep. 24, President Obama said “it is time for the world -- especially Muslim communities -- to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of organizations like al-Qaeda and ISIL” (the group also called ISIS or “Islamic State”).

As if in response, that same day 126 Muslim leaders issued a dramatic 15-page “Open Letter” to ISIL’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his followers that denounced them on religious grounds.

Implicitly, the letter targets as well the tactics of al-Qaeda, Nigeria’s Boko Haram, and similar terrorist movements claiming Islamic inspiration. The technical argument relies on dozens of citations from the Quran, Hadith (accounts of the Prophet Muhammad’s words and deeds), and Sharia (religious law).

The signers of this blunt challenge, all from the faith’s dominant Sunni branch, come from 37 nations including the U.S. 

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