Discrimination

New York Times misses mark in coverage of Australia's rejection of unidentified Muslim refugees

New York Times misses mark in coverage of Australia's rejection of unidentified Muslim refugees

In May I posted an essay here on Australia’s open opposition toward accepting Muslim refugees. It included a reference to The New York Times management deciding to assign a staff correspondent to Australia. My post was headlined: “Will we be seeing more about Muslim immigration ‘down under’ in The New York Times?”

I can now report that the answer to my question is affirmative -- though you might not know it because the religious identity of the majority of the refugees seeking asylum in Australia covered in this new Times story went unmentioned. (Here’s an update to the story noted just above.)

Other than this not-so-minor oversight, the original Manus Island piece -- focused on Australia’s attempt to close a refugee holding camp it established in neighboring Papua New Guinea (the refugees had refused to leave) -- was both well-written and nicely produced (online, at least). It offered an assortment of accompanying dramatic photographs.

Anyone with any understanding of Muslim names and nations, will find the the oversight curiously obvious.

Could it be that the Times is testing our knowledge of the Muslim world? Is this a test-run for the next step in participatory journalism? You know -- match a name with a religion.

Just joking. Clearly, it's an oversight, deliberate or not.

By way of background, here’s the link to a Times opinion piece, not a news report, that caught my eye and led to my May post:

SYDNEY, Australia -- Like many Western countries, Australia has agreed to resettle refugees from the wars in Syria and Iraq. Unlike other countries, Australia explicitly favors Christians, even though they are a minority of those seeking refuge.
The Australian experience is a case study for Europeans grappling with an influx of refugees and for Americans considering the long-term implications of the Trump presidency: When Muslims are demonized, state-directed prejudice is more likely.

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Clueless in Seattle: Gay lawyer's lawsuit prompts no serious questions for reporters

Clueless in Seattle: Gay lawyer's lawsuit prompts no serious questions for reporters

Union Gospel Mission is probably Seattle’s most venerable charity. Starting with the Great Depression, it has an 85-year history with the Emerald City especially in terms of its help with the homeless and the addicted.

Also known as UGM, the mission has done the dirty week of patrolling the streets, helping clear homeless encampments and serving a city where homelessness grew by 7.3 percent last year. Seattle is third in the nation (behind New York and Los Angeles) in numbers of homeless even though it’s the 20th largest city in the country.

But no one seemed to figure out until recently that the “Gospel” in Union Gospel Mission meant the organization may have religious and moral standards for its employees. That is, until a gay lawyer tried to get a job there.

I’ll start with the Seattle Times account of what happened next, partly because it’s fairly long and it’s written by Christine Willmsen, who was one of the young reporters I oversaw as city editor of the Daily Times in Farmington, N.M. more than 20 years ago.

A bisexual Christian man is suing Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission after it refused to hire him because of his sexual orientation.
Union Gospel Mission, which has provided addiction recovery, one-on-one counseling, emergency shelter and legal support services for homeless people in King County since 1932, says employees must live by a “Biblical moral code.”
When a staff attorney position opened in October 2016 for the nonprofit, religion-based organization, mission volunteer Matthew Woods was encouraged to apply, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in King County Superior Court.
But as he started the application process, he disclosed he was in a same-sex relationship. David Mace, Union Gospel Mission’s managing attorney, told Woods, “sorry you won’t be able to apply,” because the Employee Code of Conduct prohibits homosexuality, the lawsuit says.

But Woods didn’t give up, deciding that a state law prohibiting job discrimination because of sexual orientation was more than enough ground to base a lawsuit on. Seattlepi.com explained how Union Gospel’s requirements for the job automatically excluded him.

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Previewing SCOTUS term, New York Times views wedding cakes through familiar Kellerism lens

Previewing SCOTUS term, New York Times views wedding cakes through familiar Kellerism lens

Hmmm, let's see now. It's the first Monday in October, and that means the Supreme Court of the United States, popularly known as SCOTUS, is back in session. It's as predictable as clockwork.

Equally predictable is having journalists at The New York Times view a controversial issue involving the First Amendment and deeply held religious beliefs through the lens of Kellerism. That's the GetReligion term for news coverage that says some issues are settled, hence airing both sides of an issue is unnecessary. We all know the Earth isn't flat, right? (That's a rhetorical question, gentle reader. I know the planet isn't flat, but thank you for asking.)

The lens-deployment comes in the matter of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In a long story on the new term, we get a lengthy, chunky section on this case. It's worth wading through the details contained in this long excerpt:

The court will re-enter the culture wars in a case concerning a Colorado baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple, saying it would violate his Christian faith and his right to free speech.
The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, No. 16-111, involves a clash between laws that prohibit businesses open to the public from discriminating based on sexual orientation and claims of religious freedom.
On one side are religious people and companies that say the government should not force them to choose between the requirements of their faiths and their livelihoods. On the other are gay and lesbian couples who say they are entitled to equal treatment from businesses that choose to serve the general public.
The Supreme Court’s earlier decisions and Justice [Anthony] Kennedy’s conflicting impulses about gay rights and free speech make the outcome hard to predict.

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Why not quote Buddhists in news about Buddhist mistreatment of Myanmar's Muslim Rohingyas?

Why not quote Buddhists in news about Buddhist mistreatment of Myanmar's Muslim Rohingyas?

Here at GetReligion we're constantly going on about the sources journalists rely upon when reporting religion stories. We keep asking, for instance, why religious liberals are the only voices quoted in stories critical of this or that traditionalist position.

One reason for this is Kellerism, the GetReligion term for when editors at a news outlet decide that it only needs to quote one side in a debate because the other side is simply on the wrong side of history or is flat out wrong.

However, there are many other times when appropriate positions are missing simply because journalists do not know they exist or how to find them.

That’s the case with Buddhist views on the goings on in Myanmar, where Rohingya Muslims are being harshly persecuted and forced to seek safety in neighboring, and Muslim, Bangladesh. Even the presence of a Nobel Peace Prize winner as Myanmar’s ostensible leader has not helped the Rohingya minority.

Why? Because Myanmar’s overwhelming Buddhist majority simply has little sympathy for its Muslim neighbors.

Surely, though, there must be some Buddhist leaders who are more sympathetic and who can be contacted for a quote or two that expresses another Buddhist viewpoint? Or do we have to make do with global political leaders and humanitarian groups for comments critical of Myanmar’s handling of the situation, as has generally been the case.

No, we don't. #JournalismMatters

Still, other than the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader that Western journalists, in particular, seem to think speaks for all Buddhists everywhere, prominent Buddhist voices are generally absent from the many stories being produced about the plight of the Rohingyas.

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Inside Higher Ed does best job of explaining a college president and a controversial meal

Inside Higher Ed does best job of explaining a college president and a controversial meal

When I was in Tennessee two weeks ago, one of the fun things my daughter and I did was wade among some cotton plants, which we had not seen since we'd moved to the Pacific Northwest three years ago. You see them all the time in the Volunteer State this time of year. They’re kind of pretty, actually, if you don’t cut yourself on the sharp bracts that result when the boll has burst open and dried.

Even so, they can serve as an inexpensive table centerpiece were you trying to entertain a crowd, which is what drew me to the news about the president of a Christian college in Nashville who did just that.

But the black students who were his guests one night felt the cotton arrangements were a racist statement, according to the New York Daily News.

But note: If you look for any hints of the religious background of this Nashville college in this story, you will find none:

A dinner intended to give African-American students at a Tennessee university the opportunity to discuss their experience at the private liberal arts school left attendees shocked after tables were decorated with cotton stalk centerpieces.
Lipscomb University president Randy Lowry invited black students to his Nashville home Friday night for a dinner, but many of the students deemed the tableware and menu offensive.

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Mirror image time: Zero news about Catholic nominee for federal court being grilled on her faith?

Mirror image time: Zero news about Catholic nominee for federal court being grilled on her faith?

So, did you read all the stories about the liberal Episcopalian who was nominated to a federal appeals court seat, only to be grilled about her religious beliefs -- with subtle references to her same-sex marriage -- by evangelical Protestants, Mormons and Catholics in a U.S. Senate hearing?

I mean, one senator called her a Communist because of her decision to speak at a meeting of the American Civil Liberties Union. One conservative Anglican on the committee questioned whether her vocal support for her church's doctrine should block her appointment to a federal court. Another conservative Anglican asked her point blank: "Are you a liberal Episcopalian?”

Wait, you didn't see coverage of that story by journalists at major newspapers and cable networks?

Right, I made that up. But can you imagine the mainstream press failing to spotlight a story in which fundamentalist yahoos did something like that to a liberal religious believer?

Me either. So did I miss something when we had that story in reverse? I searched all over for mainstream coverage of this real story, including at the newspaper of record. Scan this simple Google News search and tell me if I blinked and missed something important.

Now let's turn to alternative, "conservative" media outlets and look at this real story -- only reversed in a journalistic mirror. In the real world, we have a pro-Catechism Catholic nominee, a Notre Dame University law professor and mother of seven, facing a liberal Catholic senator. The consistently #NeverTrump National Review reported:

... [D]uring a confirmation hearing for 7th Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Amy Coney Barrett, Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein attacked the nominee for her Roman Catholic faith.
Barrett is a law professor at the University of Notre Dame who has written about the role of religion in public life and delivered academic lectures to Christian legal groups. ...
“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein said.

At another point in this drama:

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Keeping an eye on religion-infused intolerance in Chechnya, Myanmar and the U.S.A.

Keeping an eye on religion-infused intolerance in Chechnya, Myanmar and the U.S.A.

Here’s yet another ripped-from-the-headlines example of political oppression girded by cultural norms rooted in religious beliefs. This time it's from the Russian republic of Chechnya -- the Putin-aligned, North Caucasus dictatorship that numerous reports say ruthlessly persecutes gays.

In defense, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov argues, in essence, that because Chechnya is devoid of gays there simply is no way they can be persecuted, so it's case dismissed.

As I said, numerous reports contradict Kadyrov, a hardline Sunni Muslim and the son of an assassinated former president. Kadyrov also backs honor killings and polygamy.

Here’s one such report from The New Yorker. Here’s another from Toronto’s The Globe & Mail detailing how Canada has given asylum to gays who've escaped Chechnya.

Why bring this up? As a warning of the havoc that theocracies can cause when possessing unchallenged authority. It's religion’s shadow side that Godbeat reporters and other scribes should keep in mind. Pollyannaish coverage is no better than censorship, whether imposed or self-generated.

Because homosexuality offends Kadyrov’s Muslim beliefs does not mean that heterosexuals are necessarily safe from his oppressive hand.

His latest move is to force divorced heterosexual couples -- some long divorced -- to get back together “for the sake of the children” and his idea of family values. It's a story receiving broad international coverage. Here’s the top of a New York Times piece on the development.

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Connect dots: After Charlottesville, journalists should cover anti-Semitism as distinct from 'racism'

Connect dots: After Charlottesville, journalists should cover anti-Semitism as distinct from 'racism'

The past week once again underscored for me the connectedness of earthly phenomena -- including, most decidedly, what's happening in the news business.

Comments made in Washington -- or Bedminster, N.J. -- reverberated in Panmunjom. An ugly and disconcerting clash in Charlottesville produced global bulletins, with good cause.

So excuse me if this post strays from my assigned GetReligion role, which is to focus on analysis of international stories and trends, and instead zig-zags between the foreign and the domestic.

Call it connecting the dots -- in a very personal way.

The week saw a plethora of screaming headlines (and shouting cable talking heads) going on about the threat of nuclear war with North Korea and -- incredibly -- the threat of U.S. military intervention in hapless Venezuela. And then, at week’s end, came Charlottesville, the consequences of which will surely keep the news media engaged for some time, or at least until the next all-engulfing story comes along.

President Donald Trump finally got specific Monday about the underlying cause of Saturday’s clash between an assortment of alt-right white supremacists and their fellow travelers, and a large number of counter demonstrators, one of whom was killed when a man identified as a white supremacist and new-Nazi sympathizer is alleged to have driven his car into the crowd of counter demonstrators.

North Korea surely has potential consequences that are far greater formore people in Asia and elsewhere than do Venezuela (a non-story born out of another thoughtless remark by our commander in chief) and Charlottesville.

But I'm going with Charlottesville here, because, as I was told in Journalism 101, all news is local and personal. And I happen to be an American and a Jew and what I learned a half-century ago in journalism school remains true.

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A world religion few readers know about: Sikhs get some news coverage from ProPublica

A world religion few readers know about: Sikhs get some news coverage from ProPublica

ProPublica, the investigative journalism powerhouse, doesn’t have a religion reporter even though it has a raft of other specialties ranging from civil rights, the military and health care to consumer finance, tech and education.

Why this newsroom doesn't cover the motivating force behind how billions of people live their lives is a puzzle but recently the organization did come out with a piece about religion.

Called “Sikhs in America: A History of Hate,” it chronicles how a blameless religious minority has been mistaken for Muslims for years and often murdered in cold blood because of that misperception. Remember, it was not a Muslim but a Sikh: Balbir Singh Sodhi, who was murdered at a gas station in Arizona right after 9/11.

The lengthy first-person feature begins with an incident that took place not far from where I live.

The 1907 episode in a seaside timber town in Washington came to be known as the Bellingham Riots. Really, though, there were no riots. There was a pogrom.
At the time, the U.S. was suffering through deep economic distress, a panic-filled recession that had begun the year before. Angry anti-immigrant sentiment was ascendant. And hundreds of Sikh men who had traveled from India to Bellingham to toil in the lumber mills paid the price.
Some 500 white men, many of them members of the local Asiatic Exclusion League, descended on the Sikhs and other South Asians, routing them from the bunkhouses where they roomed and chasing them into the streets. Within hours, the entire Sikh population of Bellingham had fled, frantically piling onto trains and boats in search of some sort of refuge. Many had been physically battered.

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