Colorado baker

As always, it would be helpful if news orgs were precise in gay rights vs. religious freedom stories

As always, it would be helpful if news orgs were precise in gay rights vs. religious freedom stories

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. And if you read GetReligion with any frequency, you no doubt have.

I’m talking about news organizations’ tendency to make broad, sweeping statements when reporting on cases involving gay rights vs. religious freedom.

It’s almost as if there’s only one side of the issue that journalists believe needs to be reflected. Given the century in which we live, you probably can guess which side that is.

My comments in this post are prompted by a Reuters story on major companies calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of LGBT workers.

The wire service’s summary up high:

(Reuters) - More than 200 U.S. companies, including Amazon (AMZN.O), Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O), and Bank of America (BAC.N), on Tuesday urged the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that federal civil rights law prohibits discrimination against gay and transgender workers.

The companies filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that bias against LGBT people is a form of unlawful sex discrimination, and said a ruling otherwise would harm businesses and workers.

The Supreme Court in April agreed to take up two discrimination cases by gay men and one by a transgender woman who was fired from her job as a funeral director when she told her boss she planned to transition from male to female.

The justices will hear oral arguments in October and likely issue a ruling by the end of next June.

Somehow, the story moves from discriminating against gay workers to the case of a Colorado baker who declined to make a cake for a same-sex wedding:

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Is SCOTUS case as simple as baker's refusal to make same-sex wedding cake? Here's why it's complicated

Is SCOTUS case as simple as baker's refusal to make same-sex wedding cake? Here's why it's complicated

Is there a difference between (1) making a generic cake and selling it to anybody willing to pay for it and (2) using one's artistic talents to create a special cake celebrating an occasion such as a wedding?

That's a key question in a religious liberty case headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But that question gets short shrift in a Washington Post overview of the case.

The Post's high court reporter — not a Godbeat pro — wrote the piece headlined "The spurned couple, the baker and the long wait for the Supreme Court."

To begin, the newspaper presents the basic facts of the case involving a baker who declined to make a cake for a same-sex wedding celebration. The details will be familiar to GetReligion readers who have followed this case for years:

The incident took only moments.
The journey through the Colorado legal process lasted years.
And then the Supreme Court took its own sweet time. Almost a year passed from the date the court was first asked to review a dispute between a gay couple and a baker who refused to make them a wedding cake and the justices’ announcement that they would do just that.
When the Supreme Court hears the case this fall, it has the potential to be a major decision worth the wait.
Scattered across the country, florists, bakers, photographers and others have claimed that being forced to offer their wedding services to same-sex couples violates their rights of religious liberty and free expression.
Courts have routinely turned down the business owners — as the Colorado Court of Appeals did to cake shop owner Jack C. Phillips in this case — saying that state anti-discrimination laws require businesses that are open to the public to treat all potential customers equally.

Keep reading, and the Post quotes both sides (which we applaud!).

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Icing on the cake: This time, Associated Press more properly frames same-sex wedding dispute

Icing on the cake: This time, Associated Press more properly frames same-sex wedding dispute

Way back in January, I criticized an Associated Press report on Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who declined to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.

I argued that the AP improperly framed that story by reporting that Phillips "refused to serve" a lesbian couple.

AP's latest story — on a court decision in Phillips' case last week — does a better job of framing the issue in the lede:

DENVER (AP) — A suburban Denver baker who would not make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple cannot cite his Christian beliefs in refusing them service because it would lead to discrimination, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.
The three-judge panel said in a 66-page ruling that Colorado's anti-discrimination law does not prevent baker Jack Phillips from believing what he wants but that if he wants his business open to the public, he is prohibited "from picking and choosing customers based on their sexual orientation."

Yes, this lede, like the last one, refers to the baker "refusing them service," but it provides more needed context.

Moreover, the story does a nice job of presenting Phillips' point of view — including his contention that it's making a same-sex wedding cake, not serving a gay couple, that concerns him:

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Journalistic story baking? Via World magazine, Colorado man denies requesting 'God hates gays' cake

Journalistic story baking? Via World magazine, Colorado man denies requesting 'God hates gays' cake

"This Colorado baker refused to put an anti-gay message on cakes. Now she is facing a civil rights complaint," proclaimed a Washington Post headline.

"Complaint: Baker refused to write anti-gay words on cake," reported USA Today.

"Denver baker sued for refusing to write anti-gay slogans on cake," said The Christian Science Monitor.

In a post last week, I characterized The Associated Press' coverage of the latest skirmish in Colorado's cake/culture wars as "less than perfect."

Now comes Marvin Olasky, editor in chief of the evangelical Christian news magazine World, with questions mainstream media coverage of the dispute.

The top of Olaksy's report:

Bill Jack goes on the offensive today in the Colorado cake-baking story that’s received enormous media attention over the past week.
Jack is a founder of and frequent speaker at Worldview Academy summer camps that train students to think and live Christianly. The Washington Post, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, and many other media powers have lambasted him for purportedly asking the owner of Azucar Bakery in Denver to decorate a cake with “anti-gay slogans,” particularly “God hates gays.”

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Culture war of cakes: Associated Press story on gay rights, religious freedom less than perfect

Culture war of cakes: Associated Press story on gay rights, religious freedom less than perfect

There's a new twist on the ongoing story of Colorado bakers caught in the middle of the culture war.

The Associated Press boils down the latest development this way:

DENVER (AP) — A dispute over a cake in Colorado raises a new question about gay rights and religious freedom: If bakers can be fined for refusing to serve married gay couples, can they also be punished for declining to make a cake with anti-gay statements?
A baker in suburban Denver who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding is fighting a legal order requiring him to serve gay couples even though he argued that would violate his religious beliefs.
But now a separate case puts a twist in the debate over discrimination in public businesses, and it underscores the tensions that can arise when religious freedom intersects with a growing acceptance of gay couples.
Marjorie Silva, owner of Denver's Azucar Bakery, is facing a complaint from a customer alleging she discriminated against his religious beliefs.
According to Silva, the man who visited last year wanted a Bible-shaped cake, which she agreed to make. Just as they were getting ready to complete the order, Silva said the man showed her a piece of paper with hateful words about gays that he wanted written on the cake. He also wanted the cake to have two men holding hands and an X on top of them, Silva said.
She said she would make the cake, but declined to write his suggested messages on the cake, telling him she would give him icing and a pastry bag so he could write the words himself. Silva said the customer didn't want that.

Overall, the AP story is pretty straightforward and makes an effort to present a range of viewpoints on the cake — er, culture — war.

But the opening sentence bothers me. 

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Religious freedom vs. gay rights: Have your cake and read both sides of the story, too

Religious freedom vs. gay rights: Have your cake and read both sides of the story, too

Jack Phillips — the Colorado baker who declined to make a cake for a same-sex wedding (see past GetReligion critiques of media coverage here, here and here) — is back in the news.

The story by Godbeat pro Michael Paulson prompted an email to GetReligion from an evangelical advocate sensitive to the Colorado baker's refusal to violate his religious beliefs.

"This is how it's done," the advocate said.

I don't think he was talking about Phillips' cakes — but rather the balanced nature of the journalism by a publication ("Kellerism," anyone?) criticized by this website for too often leaning to the left its coverage of social issues.

From the start, Paulson's story fairly and accurately portrays Phillips.

Not just back in the news, but he landed on the front page of the New York Times this week.

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