Do Canadian journalists get the basic religious freedom issues in Trinity Western case?

Do Canadian journalists get the basic religious freedom issues in Trinity Western case?

An evangelical Christian university in British Columbia that has been blocked from starting its own law school got its day in court late last week. What was supposed to be Canada’s first Christian law school has had a lot of delays in getting off the ground because of lawsuits.

Nine judges on Canada’s Supreme Court, meeting in Ottawa, deliberated whether a law school can be accredited because its students must affirm traditional Christian doctrines on sex outside of traditional marriage (thereby excluding sexually active gay students) although, if you read Trinity Western University's covenant carefully, it does not mandate that students be Christian.

The case is known as  Trinity Western University v. Law Society of Upper Canada and Trinity Western University v. The Law Society of British Columbia Society.

I wrote about this case a few weeks ago and I thought Canadian media would be full of stories on the hearing -- but that’s not been the case. The Lawyer’s Daily, published by LexisNexis Canada, had the most complete account, which is what I start with here:

Day one of the much-anticipated Trinity Western University (TWU) hearing at the Supreme Court featured tough judicial questions for both sides, but most questions were directed to counsel for the evangelical Christian university which contends British Columbia and Ontario legal regulators shouldn’t have denied it accreditation for its proposed law school.
In the overflowing courtroom jammed with 69 counsel, and dozens of spectators watching on a big screen outside, nine judges probed TWU’s counsel Kevin Boonstra of Kuhn LLP and Robert Staley of Bennett Jones…

For those of you wanting to read this, there is a paywall, but you can get two weeks of it free, which means that all you need do is create a log-on to scan the piece.

Themes explored by the judges, who will also hear from 27 interveners on Dec. 1, included: How broad or narrow is the law societies’ statutory mandate to protect the public interest -- and did the regulators go beyond their jurisdiction by denying accreditation based on TWU’s controversial admissions policy requiring all would-be students, including those who are LGBTQ2, to sign a religious-based code of conduct restricting sexual intimacy to opposite-sex married couples. ...

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A visit from classic MZ: Concerning 2017's sort-of news about anti-Starbucks evangelicals

A visit from classic MZ: Concerning 2017's sort-of news about anti-Starbucks evangelicals

It's that time of year, again. I know that I keep saying that, but there's no way around it.

It's time for the annual alleged cursing of the Starbucks Holiday cup design.

Once again, several major branches of elite media -- including the all-important New York Times -- are dancing with delight to know that some knuckle-dragging evangelicals are upset with some element of this iconic symbol in the lives of urban consumers of over-priced coffee.

This year, we are talking about a culture wars topic, as well as a new round in the Christmas Wars. Now, in the following Times passage, pay close attention to the sourcing on information about this alleged evangelical cyber-lynch mob. I will then turn things over to M.Z. "GetReligionista Emerita" Hemingway for her Federalist critique of this mess.

The latest controversy has focused ... on a pair of gender-neutral hands holding each other on the side of the cup itself.

Those linked hands came to wider public attention after BuzzFeed published an article about them on Wednesday. It suggested the cup was “totally gay.”
“While people who follow both Starbucks holiday cup news and L.G.B.T. issues celebrated the video, the ordinary Starbucks customer probably didn’t realize the cup might have a gay agenda,” BuzzFeed said.

Thus saith BuzzFeed. Then:

After that, it was off to the races.
Fox News picked up the story of what it called the “androgynous” cartoon hands, referring to Bible-quoting critics of Starbucks and criticizing BuzzFeed, which it said had “asserted the hypothesis is fact.”

Thus saith Fox News, one of our culture's most popular arenas for all things Christmas Wars.

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Vikings, Islam, fabrics and a dose of magical thinking in The New York Times

Vikings, Islam, fabrics and a dose of magical thinking in The New York Times

Being the New York Times means never having to say you’re sorry.

The Grey Lady was, along with other media outlets, taken in by claims made by a Swedish university professor about Islam and Vikings. The story played into the post-Charlottesville progressive narrative denigrating the alt-Right. White supremacists had championed the Vikings as the progenitors of a superior Nordic race -- but new archaeological evidence showed some Vikings had converted to Islam and brought the faith to Scandinavia.

The problem with the story was that it was not true.

The New York TimesGuardianIndependent and other outlets uncritically ran with it, but the Independent, unlike the Times, followed with a second article walking back the story.

The first day stories followed the pattern set in the Independent’s “Researchers find name of Allah woven into ancient Viking burial fabrics.” It cited a study released by a Swedish professor that claimed in its lede: 

Allah's name has been found embroidered into ancient Viking burial clothes, a discovery researchers in Sweden have described as "staggering".

It doubles down on this “staggering” news to note:

The silk patterns were originally thought to be ordinary Viking Age decoration but, upon re-examination by archaeologist Annika Larsson of Uppsala University, it was revealed that they were a geometric Kufic script. They were found on woven bands as well as items of clothing, in two separate grave sites, suggesting that Viking funeral customs had been influenced by Islam.

In support of her claims, Larsson stated that the silks she examined contained “ancient Arabic script, Kufic characters, invoking both Allah and Ali.” There were, however, some questions still to be answered, she conceded.

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Game of fonts: Are questions about Meghan's faith linked to England's past or future?

Game of fonts: Are questions about Meghan's faith linked to England's past or future?

Well, I guess this lofty news source makes things extra, extra official.

Concerning the faith angle in the upcoming royal wedding, has proclaimed: "Meghan Markle Has to Be Baptized Before Marrying Prince Harry -- Here’s Why."

Wait a minute: "Has to be baptized"?

Yes, it's time for more British Royals talk, a subject that -- in certain corners of global media -- is even more important than politics. We're talking about the highest possible level of celebrity status and, in the world of click-bait, there is no higher value (check out the three Google News screens of Meghan Markle coverage at That sound you hear is editors and TV producers muttering: "If only Prince Harry had picked a Kardashian."

But the question of Markle's faith is, as I discussed earlier this week ("Royal wedding quiz: Must a 'Protestant' be baptized in order to become an Anglican?"), actually rather interesting.

The bottom line" Since when does some one "have" to be baptized in order to become a member of the Church of England? That would either mean, while consistently being called a "Protestant," she (a) was never baptized in the first place or (b) there was, doctrinally speaking, something flawed about her baptism. If we're talking about the later, that has some interesting implications in terms of ecumenical life.

So this baptism controversy was the issue that host Todd Wilken and I waded into (see what I did there) during this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to listen to that).

No, we didn't talk about, but the content there would not have addressed any of the questions that we raised. For example:

This bride needs to be baptized! Before marrying Prince Harry, Meghan Markle actually needs to be baptized in the Church of England, which her soon-to-be grandmother-in-law, the queen of England, heads.

Well, that's a complicated question, mixing church and state.

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It's the Friday Five: Our favorite religion story, our most popular post and more

It's the Friday Five: Our favorite religion story, our most popular post and more

Today's post is brought to you -- as they say on "Sesame Street" -- by the number five.

The GetReligion gang is trying out a new kind of post -- the "Friday Five."

At the end of each week, we'll share a few links and quick details in this listicle format. Along the way, we hope to provide a mix of important and insightful information and even a smidgen of humor. 

Here goes:

1. Religion story of the week: We mean for this to be a positive mention. Some weeks, this will be the best religion journalism that we spot. Other weeks, it'll simply be our favorite read of the week.

This week, who can ignore a Godbeat feature that makes reference to "concealed carry hymnals." Katherine Burgess of the Wichita Eagle wrote this story on a man who saved his church with a "hymnal and a body slam." 

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What drives hard choices made by ex-Muslims? BBC coverage stays on the surface

What drives hard choices made by ex-Muslims? BBC coverage stays on the surface

Years ago, I did a lengthy news piece on Muslims who leave Islam for other religions. Most of the ones I met turned to Christianity but there was a respectable amount who believed in nothing at all.

Most of these sources were afraid for their lives, so I had to stage cloak-and-dagger encounters in places where no one would spot us talking.

Shariah law decrees that leaving Islam is a punishment worth of death and that it’s incumbent on the observant Muslims to carry this out. There are, of course, different forms and interpretations of Shariah law, but the pattern is harsh punishments and death threats for ex-Muslims.

So it’s amazing that BBC found enough people to go on the record about their lives as ex-Muslims in the United States. Granted, the venue was a tour of several college campuses, but it is tough under any circumstances to get anyone in this movement to let their names be used on the record. BBC reported:

Muslims who leave the faith often face abuse and violence - but a grassroots group that's touring American colleges is trying to help.
Ten years ago, Muhammad Syed became an ex-Muslim. Born in the US, he grew up in Pakistan believing "100 per cent" in Islam. 
"You don't encounter doubt," he says. "Everyone around you believes it."
And then, in 2007, he realised something. He didn't believe at all.

The piece details more of Muhammad’s spiritual journey and then:

Muhammad calls his family "relatively liberal". "Mom in particular was very open-minded," he says. So he decided to tell them he was an ex-Muslim. Not immediately, but "within a few weeks, certainly a month or two".
And what did they say? "They were obviously traumatised and shocked," he says.

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In this congressional race, the question apparently is: Which candidate loves Jesus more?

In this congressional race, the question apparently is: Which candidate loves Jesus more?

When I got home from work the other day, I found a political flyer on my door.

The full-color leaflet concerned a legislative race in the Oklahoma House district where I live. I don't have the shiny paper handy, but what I remember is: The candidate touts herself as a pastor's daughter and a devoted Christian. Apparently, that kind of thing matters where I live. (Smile.)

Unrelated side note: The woman running for the seat wrote a personal note to our family and said she was sorry she missed us. That'll probably stick with me longer than the mailer itself.

But anyway ...

I bring up the above little anecdote because of an interesting story (to say the least) in the Charlotte Observer this week. 

When I first printed out the piece to read, this was the headline:

Rep. Robert Pittenger airs new ad featuring Jesus Christ

But now there's a new headline, and yes, I'd say this one better nails my question about this U.S. House race:

How did Jesus Christ become an issue in this NC primary?

The lede provides the basic facts:

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Royal wedding quiz: Must a 'Protestant' be baptized in order to become an Anglican?

Royal wedding quiz: Must a 'Protestant' be baptized in order to become an Anglican?

If you hang out much with Anglicans, you know that many are not fond of references to King Henry VIII, and especially the role that his private affairs played in the history of their church. I have, as a reporter, heard my share of complaints about that -- especially during the decade when I was an Episcopalian.

However, it is kind of hard to talk about the history of the English Reformation without mentioning the guy.

In the end, the Church of England split off from the Church of Rome. For most people, especially low-church Anglicans, this (a) makes it part of the wider world of Protestantism. However, it should be noted that some people argue that (b) the Anglican via media -- a "middle way" between Protestantism and Catholicism -- is its own unique form of faith. The odds are good that some Anglican readers will be offended by my description of (a), (b) or (a) and (b). This is complicated stuff.

This brings us, of course, to the love life of Prince Harry and faith identification of his live-in significant other turned fiance Meghan Markle.

We will start with an Evening Standard piece that caused a bit of Twitter buzz. The double-decker headline proclaimed: 

This is why Meghan Markle will need to be baptised before she marries Prince Harry
Kensington Palace has confirmed that Meghan Markle will be baptised before her wedding next May

It appears that this report has been removed from the newspaper's website, but here is a cached version, allowing readers to know what all the buzz was about. The crucial section said:

Meghan will begin the process of becoming a UK citizen and will also need to be baptised and confirmed before the ceremony as she is currently a Protestant.

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Will Trump-Moore nexus be a turning point in history of American Evangelicalism?

Will Trump-Moore nexus be a turning point in history of American Evangelicalism?

Mark your calendars for Tuesday, Dec. 5, when the Brookings Institution and Public Religion Research Institute release results from the eighth  annual “American Values Survey.”

Those in the D.C. area can attend a 10 a.m. presser and panel at Brookings. (Media contact: or 646–823-2216). There will be special interest in the eight-year trend lines and how the Donald Trump Era is reshaping moral and political attitudes among white evangelicals.

Analysts inside and outside the evangelical movement note its famously moralistic past, including excoriation of President Bill Clinton. Countless articles have joined in head-scratching over the willingness of certain old-guard evangelical personalities and so many constituents to pooh-pooh sexual misconduct accusations as they back President Trump and now also  Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who faces Alabama voters Dec. 12.

The Religion Guy won’t rehearse those matters, which are all over the news, or assess the credibility of the two politicians’ denials of wrongdoing.

But let's look ahead. Here’s a big-think theme for reporters: Is the Trump-Moore nexus reinforcing a developing image of moral hypocrisy that could mar evangelical Protestantism the way molestation scandals grievously damaged the moral stature of U.S. Catholicism the past three decades?

You may want to start a research folder on this.

The evangelical plight has been examined by an outside critic, Molly Worthen of the University of North Carolina, Southern Baptist spokesman Russell Moore, and a conservative Catholic, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. Douthat’s piece in turn provoked notice from Eastern Orthodox author Rod Dreher (including a fascinating mini-essay from a reader). In addition, note this GetReligion podcast, featuring a classic Billy Graham take on this issue.

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