Is it a hate crime? Washington Post offers strong coverage of Muslim girl's D.C.-area slaying

Is it a hate crime? Washington Post offers strong coverage of Muslim girl's D.C.-area slaying

Is it a hate crime?

That's a key question after the slaying of a 17-year-old Muslim girl in the Washington, D.C., area.

Regardless of the motivation, of course, the death of Nabra Hassanen is an unspeakable tragedy. My daughter is 17, and I can't help but identify with what the local sheriff told the Washington Post:

“I can’t think of a worse instance to occur than the loss of a 17-year-old on Father’s Day, as the father of a 17-year-old myself,” Loudoun County Sheriff Michael L. Chapman said

From the beginning, the Post has offered strong, insightful coverage of the murder case — boosted in large part by the expertise of the newspaper's stellar religion reporters, including Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, a former GetReligionista.

That coverage has included excellent, factual stories (examples here, here and here) updating readers on the police investigation as well as how the victim's family and friends are handling the loss:

The Virginia teens were up late observing Ramadan, so they did what young people often do in the wee hours of the weekend: They went out for a bite to eat at McDonald’s.
But as they walked and biked back to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque in Sterling, along a major thoroughfare, a red car approached from behind about 3:40 a.m. Sunday and chaos erupted.
The driver, Darwin Martinez Torres, a 22-year-old construction worker from Sterling, got into an argument with a teen on a bike and then drove his car over a curb, scattering the group of as many as 15 teens, police said.
He caught up with them a short time later in a parking lot and chased them with a baseball bat, striking 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen and then abducting her in his car, police said.
Martinez Torres assaulted Nabra a second time, in Loudoun County, before dumping her body in a pond next to his apartment complex, where it was discovered about 3 p.m. on Sunday, police said. The medical examiner ruled Monday that the girl died of blunt-force trauma to the head and neck.
The horrific slaying of the South Lakes High School student reverberated beyond Virginia on Monday, as social media lit up with anger and grief, politicians expressed condolences and groups of various faiths condemned the violence.
Many feared it was another hate crime targeting Muslims, coming shortly before a man driving a truck in London plowed into a group of people who had just finished Ramadan prayers. It follows a national upswing in attacks targeting Muslims since the November election.
So far, Fairfax County police said they have no indication that Nabra was targeted because of her religion, saying her killing was probably a “road rage incident,” although they continue to investigate the motivation.

Beyond the straight-news stories, though, the Post has supplemented its coverage with pieces such as Bailey's overview of "What happens when tragedy strikes Muslims during Ramadan."

This is a case where, obviously, it helps to have a Godbeat pro — or in the case of the Post, more than one — on the team:

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Ties that bind in Warriors locker room: Might those game-day Bible studies be important?

Ties that bind in Warriors locker room: Might those game-day Bible studies be important?

Hello, all of you sports fanatics out there in GetReligion reader land!

Yeah, right.

I realize there may only be a dozen or so of you, based on the digital silence that has followed most GetReligion posts about sports-news topics. However, I (along with Bobby Ross, Jr., the Texas Rangers acolyte) have bravely soldiered on and written quite a few posts about the God-shaped holes found in the coverage at most mainstream sports-news outlets (hello, ESPN).

So here I go again, with a follow-up post to the recent NBA championship run by the Golden State Warriors. I want readers to answer a simple question about news coverage (one that will take us into territory linked to the never-ending saga of Steph Curry and his sneakers).

The question: Which of the following two news topics do you think will receive the most post-championship coverage?

(a) Debates about whether these Warriors from the deep-blue Bay Area will visit Donald Trump's White House.

(b) New evidence of faith ties -- a Bible study group to be precise -- that bind among some of the key players at the heart of this pro-hoops juggernaut.

If you are not following the White House story, here is a sample of the verbiage there, care of Rolling Stone:

Fresh off winning their second NBA Championship in the last three seasons, the talk about the Golden State Warriors quickly turned to whether or not the team would visit President Donald Trump at the White House. Within hours of defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5, CNBC's Josh Brown tweeted, "NBA champion Warriors skipping the White House visit, as a unanimous team decision per reports." Brown later said on Twitter, "I have no idea if its true, hence 'per reports.'" The tweets were later deleted, but the news spread and the team issued a statement clarifying their current position. ...
Several Warriors including Stephen Curry, David West, Shaun Livingston and coach Steve Kerr, have been outspoken regarding President Trump and his rhetoric.

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From gay-phobic to gay-friendly evangelicals; New York Times repeats familiar narrative

From gay-phobic to gay-friendly evangelicals; New York Times repeats familiar narrative

I saw the most fascinating (and very familiar) narrative in the New York Times about a personal war in one corner  of American evangelicalism: How a transgender dad changed the life of his son and the church that this son pastors. And how evangelicals, led by a few brave congregations, are bound to change their views on gay and transgender people sooner rather than later.

Why? Because of the power of narrative, of story, of the injustice visited upon those who want change by those who don't. 

You can't argue with a person's story, can you? And so the article begins:

Jonathan Williams was three months into his ministry when his father called to say they needed to talk. Paul Williams, Jonathan’s father, was prominent in the evangelical Christian world, chairman of an organization that started independent churches around the country. One of those churches was Jonathan’s, Forefront Brooklyn, a new congregation that met in a performance space downtown. Paul Williams’s organization, Orchard Group, had helped it raise $400,000 and assemble a staff.
Paul Williams had never felt entirely comfortable with who he was. When he was very young, he thought he would someday get to choose his gender, probably before kindergarten, and at that point he would choose to be what he felt, a girl. And when the figure he thought of as the gender fairy never materialized, he soldiered on.
He followed his own father into ministry, preaching as a guest in some of the country’s largest evangelical churches; he married a minister’s daughter, fathered three children and became a successful executive in a conservative Christian organization. From their home on Long Island, he loved to take Jonathan hiking or mountain biking. He was an alpha male, the head of a religious home. Whatever else was going on in his mind, he decided, was a secret that he would take to his grave.

One detail here bothers me; the observation that this Orchard Group organization is "prominent" in the evangelical world.

One quick survey of the folks on the GetReligion team didn't turn up any of us who'd heard of it, and together -- our combined Godbeat experience is something like 140 years -- we're aware of a pretty large swath of who's who in evangelicalism.

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Attack near Jerusalem's Damascus Gate illustrates deepening fog in which journalists now work

Attack near Jerusalem's Damascus Gate illustrates deepening fog in which journalists now work

This is often difficult for those outside the profession to take in, but producing quality journalism isn't easy. It never has been and, given the trends, its likely this work will become even harder as the trade keeps evolving.

The web’s democratization of the news -- the proliferation of outlets, the expansion of the very definition of news, and the industry’s currently dire financial picture -- have made it even harder to produce quality journalism (a subjective concept in any event).

An added level of complexity is doing it where a multitude of players seeks to spin basic facts, which quickly become politicized. Then there’s the needs of a multitude of imperfect news outlets competing for speed and eyeballs.

All of which is to say, welcome to covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

An incident last week in which an Israeli border policewoman was murdered by a Palestinian attacker, and ended with three Palestinian assailants shot dead by Israeli forces, exemplifies this journalistic sausage factory.

Let’s break it down, starting with the top of this story from the online journal, The Times of Israel. It's a pretty standard telling reflecting the mainstream Israeli Jewish perspective.

The Border Police officer killed in a coordinated stabbing and shooting attack in two areas in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday evening was identified late Friday as Hadas Malka, 23. The three attackers, who were allegedly members of Palestinian terrorist groups, were shot dead in the course of the attacks.
Staff Sergeant Malka was a resident of Moshav Givat Ezer in central Israel. She did her mandatory military service in the Border Police, and then extended her service 15 months ago and became an officer. She leaves behind parents and five siblings, three sisters and two brothers.
Malka was critically injured in a stabbing attack on Sultan Suleiman Street near Damascus Gate on Friday evening.

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London mosque attack: Are journalists covering a 'van driver' or a 'white Christian terrorist'?

London mosque attack: Are journalists covering a 'van driver' or a 'white Christian terrorist'?

So, what are reporters supposed to call the driver of the white van that veered into a crowd of worshippers as they left  a mosque in north London?

That's a logical and totally appropriate question for journalists and multicultural activists to be asking, as the coverage digs deeper and deeper into the facts surrounding England's latest terrorist incident.

A "terrorist" attack? Obviously. This certainly appears to have been the work of an anti-Muslim terrorist who was reacting to previous attacks on civilians by terrorists preaching, in word and deed, a radicalized brand of Islam.

The New York Times team noted that a rather prominent writer -- J. K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter fame -- has spoken out on this topic. In a tweet that was later deleted, she opined: “The [Daily] Mail has misspelled ‘terrorist’ as ‘white van driver. ... Now let’s discuss how he was radicalised.”

To which I say, "amen" on the radicalized question. Still, I advise -- as in the past -- caution and some basic research before journalists start throwing labels around.

Does anyone remember that hellish 2011 rampage in Norway by Behring Breivik? People started using the term "Christian fundamentalist" before facts emerged that pointed in a radically different direction. As I wrote at that time:

... What are journalists looking for? ... We need to know what he has said, what he has read, what sanctuaries he has chosen and the religious leaders who have guided him.
Also, follow the money, since Breivik certainly seems to have some. To what religious causes has he made donations? Is he a contributing member of a specific congregation in a specific denomination? Were the contributions accepted or rejected?

In other words, journalists (and law officials, for that matter) need to ask the same kinds of questions when a terrorist attacks Muslims that they should be asking when radicalized Muslims attack those (Christians, Jews, secularists, other Muslims) who oppose their approach to Islam.

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Oh! Canada! -- Journalists ignore key questions in Alberta Christian school's Bible battle

Oh! Canada! -- Journalists ignore key questions in Alberta Christian school's Bible battle

Canada, which celebrates its 150th anniversary as a nation this year, is a unique place religion-wise, as my colleague Richard Ostling pointed out recently.

Despite being lampooned by the fictional McKenzie Brothers duo, Canadians are uniformly polite and are among the smartest people around. Any country that can produce literary titans such as Robertson Davies and Alice Munro is no slouch in the scholarship department.

Important trends that have accelerated in recent years are Canada's increased secularization and the acceptance of same-sex marriage. One of the commemorative postage stamps released for the sesquicentennial by Canada Post celebrates the passage of that nation's Civil Marriage Act as a national milestone.

Given those trends, the headlines coming out of the province of Alberta shouldn't be as jarring as they come across -- or should they?

Judge for yourself. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation picked up a Canadian Press news agency story with this blunt headline: "Alberta Christian school worried school division could ban Bible verses." There are several church-state holes in this story (think religious liberty issues, without the scare quotes), which we will be getting to shortly.

Let's dive in at the beginning. This excerpt is long, but necessary. Please read this closely and try to spot what I believe is a revealing typo:

A Christian school southeast of Edmonton says it fears the school division is moving to censor what parts of the Bible can be taught.
Several Bible verses were to be included in a handbook for students at the Cornerstone Christian Academy in Kingman, Alta.
Trustees from the Battle River School Division say they believe the verses might contravene Alberta's human rights code. 

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Teen sex and pregnancy in UK: The Daily Mail and The Times abstain from discussing religion

Teen sex and pregnancy in UK: The Daily Mail and The Times abstain from discussing religion

“If you want more of something, subsidize it; if you want less of something, tax it,” argued Ronald Reagan.

A study released last month in Britain reports this maxim is true not only of economics, but sex. 

The Daily Mail, The Times and other outlets report that claims that cutting government spending on sexual education would lead to a rise in teen pregnancy have been shown to be untrue.

Researchers actually discovered the obverse: cutting sex-ed spending leads to a decline in the rate of teen pregnancies. The question GetReligion readers will want answered, of course, is this: Might there be a religious or moral angle to this news story?

The lede in the May 30, 2017, story in The Times entitled “Teenage pregnancies decline as funding for sex education is cut” states: 

Teenage pregnancy rates have been reduced because of government cuts to spending on sex education and birth control for young women, according to a study that challenges conventional wisdom. The state’s efforts to teach adolescents about sex and make access to contraceptives easier may have encouraged risky behavior rather than curbed it, the research suggests.

The Times story is behind their paywall, but the Daily Mail’s version, entitled “Sex education classes DON'T help to curb teenage pregnancy rates and may encourage youngsters to have unprotected intercourse” lays out the same story.

 

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Religious freedom vs. gay rights: Will new adoption laws mean more or fewer kids get permanent homes?

Religious freedom vs. gay rights: Will new adoption laws mean more or fewer kids get permanent homes?

The Associated Press claims to abhor bias, but when it comes to reporting on clashes between gay rights and religious freedom, the global wire service often slants its coverage toward the LGBTQ side.

That's particularly true when the byline atop the story belongs to David Crary, a New York-based AP national writer who covers social issues. Think Kellerism — reporting in which certain "settled" matters are declared unworthy of balanced coverage.

With all of the above in mind, AP's — and Crary's — treatment of new adoption laws protecting faith-based providers in Texas and South Dakota should surprise no one paying attention: 

With tens of thousands of children lingering in foster care across the United States, awaiting adoption, Illinois schoolteachers Kevin Neubert and Jim Gorey did their bit. What began with their offer to briefly care for a newborn foster child evolved within a few years into the adoption of that little boy and all four of his older siblings who also were in foster care.
The story of their two-dad, five-kid family exemplifies the potential for same-sex couples to help ease the perennial shortfall of adoptive homes for foster children. Yet even as more gays and lesbians adopt, some politicians seek to protect faith-based adoption agencies that object to placing children in such families.
Sweeping new measures in Texas and South Dakota allow state-funded agencies to refuse to place children with unmarried or gay prospective parents because of religious objections. A newly introduced bill in Congress would extend such provisions nationwide.

A fair, full treatment of the subject matter would approach the laws impartially. Such coverage would give both supporters and opponents an opportunity to make their best case. It would seek advocate and expert insight — not to mention relevant numerical data — into whether the measures will result in more or fewer children receiving permanent homes.

But AP approaches the story almost entirely from the perspective of gay parents. The wire service (Crary specifically) seems uninterested in questioning whether protecting the sincere religious beliefs of faith-based foster and adoption providers actually will allow more children to find homes. 

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Strike a pose, ask a question: So what kind of name is 'Nikos Giannopoulos' anyway?

Strike a pose, ask a question: So what kind of name is 'Nikos Giannopoulos' anyway?

When people talk about a piece of digital media going "viral," this is precisely what they are talking about.

I am referring to the official White House photo that was taken the other day -- the kind of photo-op that presidents do day after day -- with Mr. and Mrs. Donald Trump and the Rhode Island Teacher of the Year for 2017, one Nikos Giannopoulos, a 29-year-old special education teacher at the Beacon Charter High School for the Arts.

It's one of those photos that takes a few minutes to unpack, because Giannopoulos packed in quite a few symbolic statements during his moment in the spotlight.

However, the professionals at National Public Radio were TOTALLY up to the task, in terms of asking the questions that legions of enquiring minds would want asked -- with one exception that will be of interest to GetReligion readers. Hold that thought.

First things first, as described by NPR -- there is the matter of the "sassy" teacher's "fabulous" delicate black lace fan.

The fan was actually my partner's. He bought it as a souvenir on a trip to Venice, but I found it about five years ago. Since then I've integrated it into my day-to-day life. I'm extremely campy, and it's a popular prop of mine. I've taken it with me all over the country whenever I go on vacation, so that's why I had it.
But ultimately, I have been visibly gay my entire life; I was more feminine than a lot of boys and I carried myself in a nontraditional gender expression. And I got a lot of flak for it. As a boy, I think I internalized that and didn't embrace that part of me. Now, as an adult, I adjusted to my queer identity. So the fan represents self-acceptance and being unabashedly myself in a society that's not always ready to accept that.

Trump praised the fan from the get go, according to Giannopoulos. When members of the White House team questioned whether the fan was an appropriate element in this kind of picture, the teacher asked the president what he thought. The result was an image straight out of a music video (nod to Madonna, of course).

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