'Cruxifiction': Numbing media reaction after a mayor renames Good Friday

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Come with us now to Bloomington, Ind., where Mayor John Hamilton has an announcement. He says the city's 700 employees will get two paid days off: Fall Holiday and Spring Holiday.

Don’t recognize those holy days? You may know them as Columbus Day and Good Friday. Hamilton wielded his mayoral power to rechristen them.

To be blunt about it, this is a story built for mainstream media. As usual, though, much of the mainstream news coverage is better at citing the secular side than the religious opposition.

You know, like the New York Daily News:

Hamilton espoused acceptance in a memo to city employees.
"We are terrifically proud of our diverse workforce at the city. That diversity makes us stronger and more representative of the public we proudly serve," he wrote. "These updated names for two days of well-merited time off is another way we can demonstrate our commitment to inclusivity."
Bloomington, home to Indiana University's largest campus, sits in predominantly liberal Monroe County.

Like other accounts, the newspaper also gives a rundown on the meaning behind Columbus Day and Good Friday.

That's nice, but how about some religious voices on the latter? How do church leaders feel about the safe, pastelized reference to Good Friday? It's not like journalists couldn't find local people of faith -- not with Google listing 20 congregations in several denominations in the Bloomington area. Can you say, "Google"?

The issue has even drawn attention abroad. The BBC's version sprouts so many partial quotes, it read almost like sarcasm:

The US city of Bloomington in Indiana has renamed Good Friday and Columbus Day as "Spring Holiday" and "Fall Holiday" to be more "inclusive".
Mayor John Hamilton said the move would "better reflect cultural sensitivity in the workplace", local media said.
Bloomington is a traditionally liberal city. Its county gave Hillary Clinton 58.6% in the presidential election.

Well, at least we know why the mayor thought it was a good idea -- Bloomington is said to be a liberal city. But Mayor Hamilton still must have some religious constituents. I wonder if he asked any feedback from them? More to the point for GetReligion's purposes, I wonder why professionals from BBC and other media didn’t ask if he asked?

BBC adds a couple of paragraphs on opposition to the Columbus Day name because of "centuries of oppression." And that's that. Apparently, church people are just fine with Spring Holiday.

You can read much the same in the Daily Mail, also across The Pond. Except that the Mail says Bloomington is "overwhelmingly liberal," although it cites only the 58.6 percent pro-Hillary vote.

Well, how about Alabama? Bible Belt and all? The faithful there must be up in arms over this scrubbing of a religious reference.

Nope, not to read Al.com tell about it. The Birmingham-based site finds space for Mayor Hamilton's comments about being "terrifically proud" of the city's "commitment to inclusivity." But it couldn't find time or space -- or, let's face it, the interest -- to include any faith-based feedback.

The Al.com story doesn't even spell "crucifixion" right -- the word is rendered "cruxifiction."

Maybe the Houston Chronicle? Nah. The only new stuff I see is a defense by Hamilton: "We do not set religious policies, we are not supposed to be part of religion and we are just trying to make sure that our government is open to all people and inclusive."

Even that part comes from WXIN-TV, the Fox outlet in Indianapolis. I'm not sure I see any original reporting in the Chronicle article -- just cut 'n' paste from other sources, including its own archives.

The Fox report does get someone's reaction: a resident who says, "I think that it is a courteous and respectful thing to do for various populations." Which part is courteous and respectful? Renaming Columbus Day, or Good Friday, or both? WXIN doesn't clarify. Nor -- once again -- does it seek out spokespersons in the faith that observes Good Friday.

Only one article I saw that quoted religious sources: Indiana Public Radio, an NPR station at Indiana University in Bloomington. Did they talk to a real person, perhaps using a telephone? No, we're talking about a quote taken from an online statement, as in digital paper.

Changing the name of Good Friday is striking a nerve with a lot of people, including the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. The group calls the move censorship of the Catholic church.
"Hamilton stuck his middle finger in the face of all Christians by taking his axe to Good Friday," said Catholic League President Bill Donohue in a statement. "Inclusivity is a ruse-it is a multicultural weapon used to foster intolerance of our Judeo-Christian heritage. In actual fact, Christians are being excluded by denying recognition of a central day in their religious calendar."

Props to the station for at least using that statement; Donohue raises some decent points.  But it's still deficient in three ways. It quotes a religious group in New York, instead of someone in its own back yard. It gets a statement by Donohue, rather than interview him directly. And it sticks the two paragraphs at the end of the story, almost as an afterthought.

With the aggressive secularism of some elected servants -- and worse, the numbing tone-deafness of many media -- I guess we should be glad no one has (yet) decided "Thanksgiving" sounds too Judeo-Christian for polite company. That's something to digest with your holiday ham and turkey today.

Photo: Crucifix at St. Ignatius Cathedral, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Thumb: Crucifix at St. Elizabeth of Hungary parish, Pompano Beach, Fla. Both photos by Jim Davis.

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