If you've somehow missed the controversy surrounding Patterson, check out tmatt's recent commentary on "Southern Baptists, domestic violence and divorce: Will SBC '18 be a must-cover press event?" and "Southern Baptists and domestic violence: It's a tough issue to cover after Twitter explosion."
Actually, this post is only tangentially about Patterson and the domestic violence issue.
I mention that news only because I find it ironic that Patterson also is a key source in a front-page Houston Chronicle story today — but one with a completely different topic and tone:
The Chronicle story quotes Patterson related to a Texas prison seminary run by Southwestern Baptist. It's a program that the Houston newspaper has covered before. In fact, I wrote a GetReligion post about the feature that ran two years ago. The title of that post: "Jailhouse religion in Lone Star State's toughest lockup raises church-state question."
A few months later, when the Dallas Morning News did a similar feature on state-sanctioned minister training inside the Lone Star State's toughest lockups, I repeated my original question:
My only criticism — and it's more a question than harsh criticism — is the same as I had concerning the earlier Chronicle story: What exactly is the relationship of the state and the seminary concerning this program? How does the state sanctioning pastor training inside a prison not violate the separation of church and state? What are the rules, and how is Texas making sure to follow them?
Not to sound like a broken record, but my question remains unanswered in this latest Houston Chronicle story, which fails to offer any skeptical analysis of a Christian seminary embraced and endorsed by public officials.
Please don't misunderstand: I enjoyed what the Chronicle wrote, including the inspiring opening scene:
ROSHARON — Kenny Calliham sat alone in the dark of a prison cubicle when it finally hit him: He couldn’t live like that anymore. He needed something different, something better.
Years of drugging and fighting had gotten the Greenspoint man where he was, in the middle of a 45-year prison sentence for aggravated robbery. He’d squandered a shot at probation, destroyed relationships with those around him, and gotten into “all the worst that prison had to offer.”
“I just looked at myself and saw that everything I’d started on my own had crumbled,” he said.
But on Monday, he started the process of rebuilding.
The 36-year-old was one of 35 prisoners who graduated from the four-year seminary at the Darrington Unit, a milestone marked by a jailhouse commencement attended by inmates’ families, high-ranking prison officials and state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston.
“Each and every one of us today is witnessing a miracle,” Whitmire told the new graduates, black graduation robes hiding their prison whites.
But beyond such glowing rhetoric, readers deserve to know more of the nitty-gritty. They deserve to know how such a program fits into constitutional law and whether any church-state boundaries are being skirted. Does the program have any critics? If so, why is none quoted?
Bottom line: I want a piece that reads more like an impartial newspaper story than a press release from a denominational public relations firm.
As for Patterson, the Chronicle hasn't ignored the controversy making headlines elsewhere. It has reported on that, too.