Catholic schools

Breaking news from Indy Star: Christian schools tout, um, Christian beliefs and behavior

Breaking news from Indy Star: Christian schools tout, um, Christian beliefs and behavior

Journalists have a real hard time reporting on certain subjects in an evenhanded manner.

Some that come to mind: Abortion. Religious liberty. School vouchers.

I first covered the voucher debate in 1999 as an education reporter for The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City's major daily.

I'm thinking about the voucher issue again after reading a recent Indianapolis Star that — especially in the headline and lede — seems to favors the opponents. But please tell me if I'm mistaken.

This is the headline that struck me the wrong way:

How taxpayers pay for religious education

And the overly negative lede:

At Colonial Christian, an Indianapolis school on the northeast side that receives public funds through Indiana’s private school voucher program, students are warned they can be kicked out of school for “promoting a homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity.”
At even more voucher-accepting schools, families are required to sign statements of faith as a condition of enrollment, affirming that they hold the same religious beliefs and values as the school.
Theology classes are required for four years at Bishop Chatard High School, as are hours performing service and outreach. And some schools, including Bethesda Christian in Brownsburg, require a recommendation by a pastor.
Those admissions standards reflect arguably the most controversial aspect of Indiana’s voucher program, also known as school choice scholarships. The GOP-driven program allows religious schools to receive public funds. At the same time, those private schools can reject students who don't affirm certain religious precepts — and impose religious requirements on those who are accepted.

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Oh no, not again: AP fails to ask school 'covenant' question in LGBTQ teacher case

Oh no, not again: AP fails to ask school 'covenant' question in LGBTQ teacher case

I know. I know.

Trust me, I know that your GetReligionistas keep making the same point over and over when digging into mainstream news coverage of LGBTQ teachers (or people in other staff positions) who, after making public declarations of their beliefs on sex and marriage, lose their jobs in doctrinally defined private schools.

We keep making the point over and over because it's a crucial question when covering these stories. When are reporters and editors going to start asking the crucial question?

The question, of course, is this: Had the person who was fired voluntarily signed an employee lifestyle (or doctrinal) covenant in which they promised to support (or at least not openly oppose) the teachings at the heart of the religious school's work?

So here we go again, this time in an Associated Press report -- as printed at Crux -- about another conflict in Charlotte:

A gay teacher sued a Roman Catholic school on Wednesday for firing him after he announced his wedding to a man, the latest in a series of legal fights over anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people.
The lawsuit argues Charlotte Catholic High School violated federal employment law by firing Lonnie Billard from a substitute teaching role in 2014 after a Facebook post about his wedding. While the lawsuit doesn’t invoke state law, it comes amid protracted litigation over a North Carolina law limiting protections for LGBT people.
Billard taught English and drama full time at the school for more than a decade, earning its Teacher of the Year award in 2012. He then transitioned to a role as a regular substitute teacher, typically working more than a dozen weeks per year, according to the lawsuit.

Let me stress, as always, that journalists do not have to agree with a religious school's doctrines -- in this case Catholic -- in order to accurately cover these stories. You just have to realize that many if not most private schools, both liberal and conservative, have these kinds of covenants defending the faith that they claim to represent in their work.

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On California college bill controversy, media drift toward one-sided reporting

On California college bill controversy, media drift toward one-sided reporting

Nice to see that we GetReligionistas aren’t the only ones who notice. When the Religion News Service churned out a story on bigoted, LGBT-hating Christian colleges -- seemingly an emerging mainstream media theme days -- a Faithful Reader alerted us along with a complaint:

RNS can’t be bothered, it seems, to actually interview an opponent of this bill, choosing instead to quote from an article on a conservative website and a statement of a state representative.

But RNS isn't alone: Other responsible media, such as the Catholic-oriented Crux, are doing much the same from the religious side.

First, the RNS article. In writing up a bill crawling through the California legislature that would yank federal aid from schools seen as discriminating against gays, RNS reaches out for a single direct quote -- from a gay activist.  The opposition? A conservative blogger and a Republican state senator -- their remarks lifted from written statements.

RNS says the state bill would apply Title IX -- a federal regulation forbidding sexual discrimination in schools -- to religious as well as secular schools. If it becomes law, the California stricture may well have national impact, the article explains:

While the law is seen by some as an attempt to get California religious schools to comply with the state laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, it could have national implications. Human Rights Watch, which calls the Title IX religious exemption "a license to discriminate," reports there are 56 schools nationwide that have requested such exemptions, including Wheaton College, Liberty University and George Fox University.
Forty-two California colleges qualify for Title IX religious exemptions, according to the National Center for Law & Policy, a California-based Christian legal defense group. At least seven have applied, including Biola University, Simpson University and William Jessup University.

Well, gee, who could object to that? Only religious groups that have believed for centuries that homosexuality is sinful, as well as the schools they’ve founded. Our regular readers likely see parallels with the recent bad p.r. against Gordon College, an evangelical school near Boston.

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Shocker! Archbishop Cordileone attempts to defend Catholic Catechism in his schools

Shocker! Archbishop Cordileone attempts to defend Catholic Catechism in his schools

It’s a sign of the times that the idea of the Catholic archbishop of the nation’s most gay-friendly city standing his ground on sexual practice is front-page news. There’s been quite the media war going on this past month ever since Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone lowered the boom, making it clear how he expects teachers in Catholic high schools to behave.

First, some back story: The San Francisco Chronicle laid out his new requirements in a straightforward piece on Feb. 3:

The conservative Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco has developed a new document for Catholic high school faculty and staff clarifying that sex outside of marriage, homosexual relations, the viewing of pornography and masturbation are “gravely evil.”
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s document applies to faculty and staff at four Catholic high schools: Riordan and Sacred Heart in San Francisco, Marin Catholic in Kentfield and Serra High School in San Mateo. It states that administrators, faculty and staff “affirm and believe” the controversial statements, which will be part of the faculty handbook.
The document goes on to say that marriage is between “one man and one woman,” despite California law allowing same-sex marriages. It also notes that sperm donation, the use of a surrogate and other forms of “artificial reproductive technology” are also gravely evil.
The document notes that while not all staff at the schools are Catholic, they are “required to stand as effective and visible professional participants and proponents of truly Catholic education.” Those who are not Catholic “must refrain” from participating in organizations that “advocate issues or causes contrary to the teachings of the church.”

Apparently this is news to some of the 317 teachers affected by this rule although you must wonder what planet they’ve been on to not know where the Catholic Church stands on these issues.

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Context, please: About the 'controversial statements' by San Francisco's 'conservative' archbishop

Context, please: About the 'controversial statements' by San Francisco's 'conservative' archbishop

Hold on for a wild ride because there's breaking news in San Francisco.

Believe it or not, the Roman Catholic archbishop of the City by the Bay is, apparently, Catholic. 

You read it here first. No, I'm kidding. The San Francisco Chronicle actually broke the news:

The conservative Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco has developed a new document for Catholic high school faculty and staff clarifying that sex outside of marriage, homosexual relations, the viewing of pornography and masturbation are “gravely evil.”
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s document applies to faculty and staff at four Catholic high schools: Riordan and Sacred Heart in San Francisco, Marin Catholic in Kentfield and Serra High School in San Mateo. It states that administrators, faculty and staff “affirm and believe” the controversial statements, which will be part of the faculty handbook.

So right away, the Chronicle makes clear that Cordileone is both "conservative" and making "controversial statements." 

What makes the archbishop "conservative?" His "controversial" beliefs, apparently.

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Damage already done? Charlotte Observer replaces slanted report on gay substitute teacher let go by Catholic high school

Damage already done? Charlotte Observer replaces slanted report on gay substitute teacher let go by Catholic high school

The Charlotte Observer posted a "news story" on its local news page this week concerning Lonnie Billiard, a substitute teacher at a Catholic high school, who lost his job after revealing on Facebook that he plans to marry his same-sex partner later this year.

The Pew Research Center highlighted the story on its daily email roundup of U.S. religion headlines Tuesday.

This was the link:

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2015/01/12/5443494/charlotte-catholic-fires-gay-teacher.html#.VLWWRWTF8YK

Over at "The Deacon's Bench," blogger Greg Kandra — a Roman Catholic deacon who spent three decades as a writer and producer for CBS News — criticized the piece:

Editorial note: the rest of the Observer piece is a weepy, hand-wringing, breast-beating portrait of a wronged employee who expresses anxiety for all the gay students who fear expulsion simply because they’re gay. It’s a sustained exercise in victim journalism, with fully half of it devoted to quotes by the teacher talking about how this hurt his feelings and that he “never expected to be treated so badly by the diocese.” (Did it ever occur to him that he had violated the terms of his employment? That question never comes up.) It’s a biased, unbalanced journalistic shambles, beginning with the lead sentence: “The local Roman Catholic diocese is in hot water again for anti-LGBT discrimination…”

For readers who looked closely, the story identified the writer not as an Observer staff member but as someone with QNotes. The Observer link did not explain what it QNotes is — perhaps Charlotte readers are expected to know — but a Google search reveals that it's "the Charlotte-based LGBT community newspaper of North Carolina." 

Thus, the story published on the Observer local news page fell squarely into what GetReligion calls "What is this?" As in, is this news? Is it a column? Is it advocacy? 

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5Q+1 interview: From God and guns to Death Row salvation, JoAnne Viviano excels reporting on faith and values

5Q+1 interview: From God and guns to Death Row salvation, JoAnne Viviano excels reporting on faith and values

JoAnne Viviano covers faith and values for the Columbus Dispatch, a central Ohio newspaper with a daily circulation of 120,000 and an average Sunday circulation of about 230,000.

Her Godbeat writing earned her the 2014 Cornell Religion Reporter of the Year Award from the Religion Newswriters Association. That award honors excellence in religion reporting at mid-sized newspapers.

"I grew up in suburban Detroit, where my mom fostered in me an early love for books by taking me to the library regularly and teaching me to read as a kindergartener," Viviano said.

She received a bachelor of arts degree in English and communication from the University of Michigan ("not very popular here in Columbus!") before starting working as a reporter. She recalls "an amazing mentor there named Jon Hall, who helped me find the confidence I needed to turn my writing abilities into a career as a reporter."

Her first writing job came with her Michigan hometown weekly, The Romeo Observer, followed by stints with The Macomb Daily in Mount Clemens, Mich., the New Haven Register in Connecticut and The Vindicator in Youngstown, Ohio. Along the way, she covered beats ranging from general assignments to municipal governments to state courts to education to crime.

Shortly before a strike hit The Vindicator, she left an earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. That led her to The Associated Press, where she worked for several years, starting in the Detroit bureau before moving to Columbus, eventually serving as a breaking-news staffer.

"I came to The Columbus Dispatch in 2012 because I missed beat reporting and being part of a metro newsroom," Viviano said. "It was a scary choice, with the way the industry has been, but I’m glad I made it. The Dispatch has remained strong and is a supportive, positive place to work."

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In Catholic schools: Demographics is destiny, so is doctrine

In Catholic schools: Demographics is destiny, so is doctrine

Not that long ago, I wrote a post about religious faith and mathematics that turned into a "Crossroads" podcast. The post talked about a number of hot stories and trends on the religion-news beat -- think thinning ranks in the Catholic priesthood, for example -- and then boiled things down to this statement: "Demographics is destiny and so is doctrine."

One of the other stories mentioned was this:

... Sometimes you have to see the numbers written on the walls. ...

* Nationwide, the Catholic church has been forced to close many of its parishes, especially in urban areas, along with their schools -- due to falling numbers in pews and desks.

This leads me to a timely story that ran recently in The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., and was also picked up by Religion News Service. The oh-so familiar headline proclaimed: "Catholic schools fight to keep doors open as future dims." The lede was intentionally nostalgic and to the point:

NEWARK, N.J. (RNS) Suzanne Alworth remembers the glory days of Catholic schools: classrooms taught by nuns packed with close to 40 children in blue-and-white plaid uniforms.

But 35 years later, Alworth’s high school, Immaculate in Montclair, where she graduated in 1979, is fighting to stay open. The school is $900,000 in debt, enrollment is less than half of the building’s capacity and the Archdiocese of Newark will close its doors if it can’t come up with a plan to boost enrollment and improve its finances, said Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the archdiocese.

“It was a complete surprise when they decided to close the school,” Alworth said. “I’m going to do everything I can to keep this school open because I believe in its mission.”

Like I said, it's a familiar, but very important story.

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About that 'complex' doctrine Catholic teachers must follow

Imagine this lede atop a national wire service story: CINCINNATI (AP) — Parochial teachers are so ignorant of basic Roman Catholic doctrine the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is giving them a cheat sheet on some of the things that can get them fired.

That is, of course, not the spin that The Associated Press took.

Here’s the actual opening paragraph of an AP story published this week:

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