Revising history, for religion's sake

You have to look really closely to notice what's missing from the picture. Did you catch it? Just kidding -- can you believe that? Just airbrushing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Counterterrorism Director Audrey Tomason out of a picture? CNN's Belief Blog began their story with:

Faith has outweighed fact at Di Tzeitung, a Hasidic newspaper based in Brooklyn, New York.

The rest of the CNN story is great. It explains how the story was picked up:

The news of this broke Friday when Shmarya Rosenberg, 52, posted a quick piece on his blog Failed Messiah.

Rosenberg, of St. Paul, Minnesota, said he wasn't surprised by the photo doctoring and only posted something about it because "it was a slow news day."

A former ultra-Orthodox Jew, Rosenberg has been writing about the ultra-Orthodox community - mostly about crime and what he dubbed "strange media" - for seven years. He said the newspapers in that community have become "increasingly strange with their censorship of women's faces and women's bodies" over the past few years.

He said readers of the Yiddish-language paper used to see photos of rabbis with their wives and that there was then a time when the women were blurred. Now, they're just not there.

But then the story goes even deeper. It covers the written statement issued by the newspaper, which said the decision to leave women out of photos is religiously mandated and protected by the U.S. Constitution. Here's a portion:

"Because of laws of modesty, we are not allowed to publish pictures of women, and we regret if this gives an impression of disparaging women, which is certainly never our intention," it continued. "We apologize if this was seen as offensive."

And then it quotes the executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, who says revising history to remove important female leaders is not appropriate. I think that was a good choice, rather than just asking a non-Orthodox Jew feminist.

The various branches of Judaism are explained, as is the practice of debate within each tradition. It even gave the last word to the paper. The statement included the paper's claim of respect for Clinton. It was a nice, balanced story all around. For those unfamiliar with some of these traditions, it gave a nice lesson and it did so with interesting quotes.

The Washington Post also covered the kerfuffle, with a blog post. Brad Hirschfield also weighed in over at the Post's "For God's Sake" blog in the "On Faith" section, giving a more theological response to the controversy.

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