Arlene's Flowers

This Kentucky printer won't make gay pride T-shirts. Is sexual discrimination or religious freedom key?

This Kentucky printer won't make gay pride T-shirts. Is sexual discrimination or religious freedom key?

Arlene’s Flowers.

Masterpiece Cakeshop.

And yes, Hands On Originals, the T-shirt shop that will be the focus of today’s discussion.

All of these businesses — in Washington state, Colorado and Kentucky — have been the subject of past GetReligion posts exploring media coverage of the intersection of sexual discrimination and religious freedom.

Often, the gay-rights side receives preferential coverage on this topic. News reports frequently focus on the “refusal of service” aspect as opposed to sincere claims of free speech and religion. But what about the Lexington Herald-Review story that we’ll critique today?

Does it reflect both sides? Does it treat everyone fairly? Does it make the clear the competing legal arguments?

Yes, yes and yes.

The lede explains the history:

More than seven years after a Lexington shop refused to make T-shirts for the 2012 Lexington Pride Festival, the Kentucky Supreme Court will hear arguments Friday about whether or not the company violated the city’s Fairness Ordinance.

Before the case began moving through the court system, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Right’s Commission accused the business of violating the ordinance that prohibits discrimination. In 2015, Fayette County Circuit Court Judge James Ishmael reversed the commission’s decision, saying there was no violation.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals upheld Ishmael’s ruling in 2017 with a 2-1 vote.

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Three questions for Dallas Morning News re: slanted coverage of traditional wedding venue

Three questions for Dallas Morning News re: slanted coverage of traditional wedding venue

It’s a tough time for the Dallas Morning News. Earlier this month, the Texas newspaper laid off 43 people in its newsroom and other parts of the company, citing declines in revenue. (Strangely, the same paper posted ads later in the month seeking to hire a city hall reporter and an aviation reporter.)

Here at GetReligion, we frequently lament the demise of what was — once upon a time — one of the nation’s premier news organizations for covering religion, with a handful of full-time Godbeat pros and a weekly stand-alone faith section.

I remain a paid subscriber, even though the Dallas Morning News’ skimpy and often uninformed (read: no religion beat specialist) coverage of the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s massive faith community repeatedly frustrates me.

The paper’s publisher recently acknowledged the problem:

We've heard from many readers that the role of religion in society deserves more coverage. So we're also launching a new initiative called Faith Forum, articles focusing on how faith informs major decisions in people's lives. A panel of North Texas faith leaders has agreed to advise on topics and contribute articles. The essays will not appear on any particular schedule, but as news warrants.

At the same time, the reference to “essays” gives the impression that the Dallas Morning News thinks it can cover religion with reader-submitted opinion pieces as opposed to news stories produced by actual journalists.

After that long introduction, let me get to the point of this post: Wednesday’s Metro & Business cover (yes, they’re one section after the recent belt-tightening) featured a story with this print headline:

Venue turns away gay couple, cites God’s design for marriage

That sounds like a religion story, right?

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When profiling ADF's Kristin Waggoner, why not include facts about her Pentecostal roots?

When profiling ADF's Kristin Waggoner, why not include facts about her Pentecostal roots?

In late 2005, back in my Washington Times days, I visited the Scottsdale, Ariz., offices of Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal firm that is best known today for litigating Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and a wave of other important religious-liberty cases before the Supreme Court.

I was very much aware of them, as they were beginning to outdo other stalwarts  -- such as the Rutherford Institute and Jay Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice -- in the Christian legal arena. I was researching a piece on ways legal groups were mounting annual campaigns to “defend Christmas,” which ran here. (My byline has been removed, but that is my piece. At the time, the ADF was known as the Alliance Defense Fund.)

It took other media nearly a decade to wake up and discover the ADF. There’s Think Progress’s 2014 piece on the “800-pound Gorilla of the Christian Right;" a similar piece, also in 2014, by the New York Times; a 2016 mention by Politico, a 2017 piece by The Nation on “the Christian legal army” behind the Masterpiece case and more.

So I was interested to see yet another profile on the group; this time a spotlight on Kristin Waggoner, who has litigated ADF’s most high-profile cases this year, by Washington Post feature writer Jessica Contrera.

There were delicious details but major gaps. For example, try to find any specific, factual information about this woman's faith. Some excerpts:

Two days before the announcement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s retirement, a woman who stood to gain from it was on the steps of the Supreme Court once again. Kristen Waggoner’s blond bob was perfectly styled with humidity-fighting paste she’d slicked onto it that morning at the Trump hotel. Her 5-foot frame was heightened by a pair of nude pumps, despite a months-old ankle fracture in need of surgery. On her wrist was a silver bracelet she’d worn nonstop since Dec. 5, 2017, the day she marched up these iconic steps, stood before the justices and argued that a Christian baker could legally refuse to create a cake for a gay couple’s wedding.

Her job was to be the legal mind and public face of Alliance Defending Freedom., an Arizona-based Christian conservative legal nonprofit better known as ADF. ...

Then follows some back story, then a pivot to Waggoner’s personal life.

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Don't let the headline fool you: USA Today's story on Masterpiece Cakeshop case is a tasty read

Don't let the headline fool you: USA Today's story on Masterpiece Cakeshop case is a tasty read

When I started in journalism — back when cavemen and Terry Mattingly roamed the earth — reporters at major newspapers typically didn't write their own headlines.

They'd file their story to an assigning editor, who would give it a first read, ask questions, make revisions and eventually ship it down the line, either to another assigning editor or to the copy desk. It was not unusual for a handful of editors to handle a story — particularly a major one — before it hit the press and landed on readers' driveways before sunup.

The copy desk — often late at night — would check for grammar, spelling and Associated Press style errors. And at some point, a slot editor would place the story on a page with a headline that could be any number of lines and columns, depending on the ads around it.

Before the days of easy fixes online, the copy editors saved reporters from egregious and embarrassing mistakes in smelly black ink. But yes, sometimes, those same editors — under deadline pressure — came up with headlines that were, um, less than representative of what the story actually said.

So a common defense of the writer class to headline fails was: "Reporters don't write their own headlines." In other words, don't blame us!

Is that still true? In the web-first age, do writers still depend on editors to craft their headlines? In some cases, yes. But in general, it varies. So I have no idea who wrote the headline on the USA Today story I want to highlight today.

But I will say this: The newspaper's story on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case (click here if you somehow have no idea what I'm talking about) is interesting and informative.

The headline? Not so much:

Same-sex marriage foes stick together despite long odds

Blah.

That's not really what the story is about. 

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As Supreme Court bites into same-sex wedding cake dispute, how to tell good media coverage from bad

As Supreme Court bites into same-sex wedding cake dispute, how to tell good media coverage from bad

What a busy day on the religion front for the U.S. Supreme Court!

Here's how Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post religion writer and former GetReligionista, put it in a public post on her Facebook page:

In case you missed it, the high court sided with a church in an important religious liberty case, it allowed Donald J. Trump's travel ban to take effect, and it will hear a case involving a wedding cake baker.

Oh, is that all?

Seriously, I won't attempt to cover all three of those major stories in one post. I'll save the Trinity Lutheran case and the refugee travel decision for another day. But I will take a quick bite of wedding cake and hit a few high points on media coverage of Colorado baker Jack Phillips.

Actually, on second thought, why don't I just keep it simple and stick to one high point? Because it's one that so many news organizations have such a difficult time grasping. And yes, it's one that will be extremely familiar to regular readers of GetReligion.

I'm talking about the specific way that journalists choose to frame the Masterpiece Cakeshop case (and similar religious liberty disputes, such as the one involving Barronelle Stutzman, the sole owner of Arlene's Flowers in Richland, Wash.).

See if you notice a difference — however subtle — between the following two ledes today.

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With The New Yorker, you can have your cake and gain insight into flowers and same-sex weddings, too

With The New Yorker, you can have your cake and gain insight into flowers and same-sex weddings, too

If you've followed the religious liberty headlines of recent years, you're familiar with Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., and Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene’s Flowers, in Richland, Wash.

The New Yorker has a piece out this week that references both.

Now, if you're a regular GetReligion reader, you may wonder: Is The New Yorker even news? After all, our journalism-focused website avoids critiquing advocacy reporting and opinion pieces. The answer is that sometimes The New Yorker is news, and other times it isn't.

In this case, it is.

And it's good news. I'm not talking about the subject matter, mind you. I'm referring to the fairness and quality of the journalism.

In a Twitter post, LGBT Map described The New Yorker story as a "helpful overview of the high stakes in this case" (meaning, the Masterpiece Cakeshop case). And the president of Come Reason Ministries characterized it as "a fairly well balanced summary of the legal questions surrounding cake bakers & gay weddings." I agree with both of those tweets.

I'll highlight three things that struck me about this story, which contemplates whether the U.S. Supreme Court might take up the case of either Phillips or Stutzman:

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On that florist who refused flowers for gay wedding, Indy Star misses chance to provide real insight

On that florist who refused flowers for gay wedding, Indy Star misses chance to provide real insight

Hey Indianapolis Star, the florist has a name — and that's an important point you missed.

In an in-depth story this week, the Star attempted to explain "What the 'religious liberty' law really means for Indiana." 

Scare quotes aside, the story actually wasn't bad, particularly for a newspaper that showed its Poker hand Tuesday with a front-page editorial voicing its displeasure with the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In the "what it means" story, the Star looks to the Pacific Northwest for an example of a religious freedom case:

Consider this case from Washington state.
A florist, citing her relationship with Jesus Christ, refused to sell flowers for a gay couple's wedding. A court recently ruled, even when weighing her religious convictions, that she violated local nondiscrimination laws. News reports say she turned down a settlement offer and continues to appeal her case.
The florist declined to arrange the flowers, and so in some sense this confirms the fears of religious freedom law opponents that a door has been opened to discrimination. But she lost in court, and so this backs the supporters who say RFRA doesn't usurp local nondiscrimination laws.

The problem with that quick rundown of the Washington state case? It fails to provide any true context or insight.

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Surprise, a pretty bouquet! Los Angeles Times covers both sides of same-sex wedding flowers lawsuit

Surprise, a pretty bouquet! Los Angeles Times covers both sides of same-sex wedding flowers lawsuit

We've had our cake at GetReligion — or at least critiqued plenty of coverage of it. Here, here, here and here, for example.

Perhaps it's time we enjoyed some culture-war flowers, too.

The Los Angeles Times reported this week on a judge's ruling in yet another case pitting gay rights vs. religious freedom.

The top of the Times' story:

A Washington state florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, citing religious reasons, violated consumer protection laws, a judge ruled Wednesday.
The lawsuit, filed in 2013 by Washington Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson, centered on Arlene’s Flowers, a shop in eastern Washington that refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, with the owner telling a longtime customer that it was “because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.”
The attorney general argued that the business had violated state consumer protection laws, which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Washington since 2012.
In a 60-page opinion, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander C. Ekstrom said Barronelle Stutzman’s actions became illegal the day voters passed a referendum legalizing gay marriage.
Stutzman had argued that the tenets of her "Southern Baptist tradition" precluded her from arranging flowers for same-sex weddings, or to allow any of her employees to do so.

 

Two weeks ago, I dinged the Los Angeles newspaper for the way it framed a story that asked — prepare for a loaded question — "Should religion give businesses an excuse to not serve gay couples?"

But I liked this latest story.

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