New adventures in 'scare quotes,' in which New York Post has doubts about prayer

Every now and then, GetReligion readers see something online -- several weeks after the item actually appeared in a mainstream newsroom -- and send it to us. That time delay matters, if there is a strong time element in the piece.

That isn't a problem with this recent piece at The New York Post. This is another one of those strange updates on one of your GetReligionistas favorite topics -- "scare quotes." No this isn't another "religious liberty" case.

This is totally new territory, so hang on. First you have to know the context for this strange issue in journalism style. Here is how the story begins:

A nearly six-hour standoff in Columbus Circle ended Thursday morning when a suicidal man wearing a red helmet suspected of tossing a hoax bomb into a police vehicle was taken into custody without incident.
The man, identified by police as Hector Meneses of Queens, was taken into custody on a stretcher at around 8 a.m. after cops were forced to pepper spray him, police said. Dozens of officers, their guns drawn, had surrounded the car and SWAT team members had cleared the circle, as they brought in equipment to deal with Meneses.
“I have a bomb strapped to me, and I want to die,” he’d told cops, according to police officials.

Now the two cops inside the patrol car where Officer Peter Cybulski and Sgt. Hameed Armani.

Now, if you were in that patrol van, in the current atmosphere surrounding police in America, and some unknown person tossed a strange package into the vehicle, package making a strange noise, what would you think?

Next question: What would you do? The odds are that you would do several things at once, including a rather predictable religious behavior. Read carefully.

“We both looked at each other and we knew exactly what the other was thinking without even having to say it,” Cybulski said at a press conference this morning. “[It was] a very crowded area, multiple children around, multiple families around. We’re not going to let this take out someone else with us, multiple casualties.”
The two cops started “praying,” according to Armani, a 10-year veteran of the department who immigrated from Afghanistan.
“I was nervous. [Cybulski] looked at me and said ‘Boss, what are we doing?,” Armani said.”’ I said ‘we’re driving, alright.’” Halfway through we said our prayers to each other and I was like, alright, if it happens it happens. I’m not going to stop here.”

The GetReligion reader's question was quite simple: What is the difference between praying and "praying"?

Most strange. Does the Post copy desk doubt that the two cops were, in fact, praying? Or are scare quotes required in this case because the editors are not sure that tabloid readers in the greater New York City area know what the word "praying" means, these days? Perhaps, at this stage of the game, just about any reference to religion is scare quotes territory?

Yes, it is also possible that someone just messed up. But this was not a typo. A reporter or an editor had to think, "Hmmmmm. Were these cops really praying?" Either that or someone had to think something even strangers.

Anyone have another theory?


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