Update from Indy: About those emails

I had meant to post a note about this earlier in the week. This is an update on the alleged Indianapolis Star discrimination case from Baptist Press, which is a denominational source on the right, but it contains info that many readers will find interesting. Here is the Gannett side, via Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu. Lots and lots of details here, too. The key news: This may hit the courts in 10 weeks or so. If you read the whole BP thing, it is also clear that the key to the whole affair -- check out the Des Moines column -- is who saved the best emails. This is a wider issue: What is the legal status of emails inside a corporate office?

Here is a key chunk of the BP story, involving claims by former editorial board members James Patterson and Lisa Coffey that top newsroom managers demonstrated patterns of bias against conservative Christians:

Patterson alleges that Dennis Ryerson, The Star's executive editor and vice president, told the editorial department he was "repulsed and offended" by an editorial written by Patterson encouraging readers to pray for U.S. troops in Iraq.

Patterson also claims Ryerson stated that "in the future, he would not allow any editorials with any Christian overtones to be published or which could be construed as proselytizing on the editorial pages."

The editorial in question, written one day after the beginning of the 2003 war with Iraq, urged readers to "pray for safety of our soldiers, comfort of their families, courage for our leaders and the wisdom for all parties to war to find the quickest path to peace." It also urged prayers for the people of Iraq, "that their suffering be fleeting and that the freedom they deserve soon come to their troubled land."

The newspaper denies that Ryerson "has ever demonstrated hostility toward Christianity and Christians on The Star's staff" and that he told anyone he was "repulsed and offended" by the prayer editorial. Any claim that Ryerson harbors hostility toward Christians is "demonstrably false and preposterous," given the fact that Ryerson wrote an April 6 editorial "describing his own Christian upbringing and respect and appreciation for all religious beliefs," the newspaper said.

We will, of course, see "he said and she said" vs. "he said" in this case. I am interested in what the two sides wrote in emails and how much of that will come out. It also seems that we could have a heartland showdown between a red-zone faith in Patterson and Coffey and a blue-zone faith coming in with Gannett and Ryerson. Note the word "upbringing" in the editor's plea and the emphasis on "all religious beliefs." The implication, of course, is that the fired journalists did not share his broader view of faith. Yes, the "P word" is once again the key.

Will this settle early?

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