Daily Caller

What we've got here is failure to communicate -- debates about Cardinal Marx and gay blessings

What we've got here is failure to communicate -- debates about Cardinal Marx and gay blessings

Our review of the US press coverage of claims that Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, the president of the Deutsche Bischofskonferenz (DBK), had given his permission to clergy to bless same-sex unions has sparked rigorous debate on social media.

Criticism of the article “Let your Ja's be Yes” has taken two general lines -- discussion of the underlying issues and discussion of our criticism of the Daily Caller -- the U.S. publication singled out in the review.

Please note that the question of whether Cardinal Marx should, nor should not, endorse same-sex blessings is outside the parameters of this site -- we focus on journalism. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who will guard the guards themselves?) the Roman poet Juvenal asked in his Satires (VI, lines 347–348). This website seeks to answer this question as it pertains to the coverage of religion in the secular press.

The criticism of our reporting can be summarized in a tweet from reader Samuel Johnson, who challenged our translation of the German-language interview. He stated that our review was “a very problematic criticism, because the writer of the Crux published CNA authored piece, Anian Christoph Wimmer, is a native German speaker who also writes for CNA's German website. This is not a case of an English-speaking reporter misunderstanding.”

I responded by noting the critique was of the Daily Caller, not CNA. To which, Mr. Johnson responded:

The problem is that you write in criticizing the Daily Caller, "If we listen to the Marx interview then through German ears, rather than through the filter of English print, the story is turned on its head." But evidently, listening through German ears doesn't necessarily turn the story on its head, since after all Wimmer listened with German ears and heard a, "Yes."

While I am not a native German speaker, I do have some small fluency in languages, and am persuaded I had the better translation. The discussion essentially ended there, as it had become a question of competing truths -- mine versus the translation used in the Daily Caller story.

A new day, however, brought new developments to the story.

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Concerning Trump and anti-Semitism: Scribes offer blitz of views on whether he is or is not

Concerning Trump and anti-Semitism: Scribes offer blitz of views on whether he is or is not

The daily maelstrom that is the Donald Trump administration has left journalists across the religious and political spectrum gasping for air. There is so much real news -- don't get me started on the "fake news" dystopia -- that even a 24-7 news cycle is unable to keep pace.

So being only human, I've had to prioritize which issues I pay close attention to in an effort to keep my head from exploding. Not surprisingly, my priority issues are the ones I think impact me most directly.

These would include the future of the environment and climate change policy, White House attacks on the integrity of the press, health care, religious liberty for all, the economy and class divisions and the increase of anti-Semitic acts -- including a continuing rash of bomb threats -- and the president's reaction to them.

Meanwhile, the headlines just keep on coming. 

Sure enough, just prior to this post going live, the president commented on the bomb threats and other anti-Semitism incidents that have manifested of late. Click here for the latest.

The debates will continue. To say the least, the elite media, the American Jewish press and Israeli media have been all over the anti-Semitism issue.

I've read and viewed numerous reports that I thought handled it quite adequately and fairly. As you might expect, it's an explosive topic for any Jew who publicly identifies as such, as I do, and has family history connected directly to anti-Semitism at its very worst -- the Holocaust and Muslim terrorism against Israeli and non-Israeli Jews.

As a former wire service reporter (United Press International in New York and San Francisco during the 1960s), I retain a fondness for a well-crafted round-up on a complicated subject -- such as the charges from some Jews (and others) that President Trump harbors anti-Semitic inclinations. Of course, others say he at least looks the other way when such inclinations appear to surface in his associates and supporters.

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Damned by association: BuzzFeed 'news' story goes after the 'Fixer Upper' couple

Damned by association: BuzzFeed 'news' story goes after the 'Fixer Upper' couple

Yesterday, the quasi news-entertainment-gossip-vent site Buzzfeed posted a piece about a couple who has put together a very popular HGTV show about home remodeling. Their crime: They attend a megachurch where, the subhead said, "Their pastor considers homosexuality to be a 'sin' caused by abuse -- whether the Fixer Upper couple agrees is unclear." 

Buzzfeed was angling to rally a digital mob after this couple, but that's not quite what happened.

Yes, this click-bait piece did get a lot of traction on social media within a few hours, much of which was furious reaction from liberals and conservatives alike who felt the article was nothing but a hit piece. Responses on Twitter ran quite the gamut from calling Buzzfeed “the new Inquisition” to one poster who wondered, “I thought it was the alt-right folks who were bringing back McCarthyism.”

Here's how Buzzfeed started it all:

Chip and Joanna Gaines’ series Fixer Upper is one of the most popular shows on HGTV. The couple has recently graced the cover of People magazine; their book, The Magnolia Story, has been on the New York Times’ best-seller list for five weeks; and they were the subject of a long profile in Texas Monthly that credited them with revitalizing the city of Waco, Texas, where the show is set and where their businesses are located.

So far, so good. Then:

They are also, as they detail in The Magnolia Story, devout Christians — Joanna has spoken of and written about her conversations with God. (God told her both to close her store to spend time with her children, and then to reopen it a few years later.) Their church, Antioch Community Church, is a nondenominational, evangelical, mission-based megachurch. And their pastor, Jimmy Seibert, who described the Gaineses as “dear friends” in a recent video, takes a hard line against same-sex marriage and promotes converting LGBT people into being straight.

The Buzzfeed folks may not realize this yet, but a lot of evangelical pastors oppose same-sex marriage.

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That religious freedom law in Mississippi: Newspapers struggle to clarify basic issues

That religious freedom law in Mississippi: Newspapers struggle to clarify basic issues

Of all the stories I've seen on Mississippi's new religious freedom law, the one in the Jackson Free Press is one of the few that remembers what the debate is really about: the First Amendment. Specifically, the Establishment Claus versus the Free Exercise Clause.

Not that the newspaper delivers totally on its promise to cover all bases. It stumbles and wanders and omits in places.  Here are the first two paragraphs:

JACKSON -- "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." How those words affect the language in House Bill 1523 could lead to a historic Establishment Clause ruling this week when U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves decides whether or not to issue a preliminary injunction to keep HB 1523 from becoming law on July 1.
Pastors, priests, advocates and other Mississippians named as plaintiffs in two lawsuits that challenge the constitutionality of the bill claim that it advances a certain religious view, discriminates by favoring three particular beliefs and favors religion over non-religion, specifically targeting LGBT citizens.

It's a tantalizing start for anyone who still cares about religious rights, and how far the law should protect them.  In a time when people can be fined and shamed for not photographing a wedding or not decorating a cake for one, legal matters can take a painfully personal tinge. And several states, from Florida to Indiana, have passed various versions of the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act to cope.

As the Free Press points out, HB 1523 brings in New York-based attorney Roberta Kaplan, who helped bring down Mississippi's law on same-sex marriage. The two argue that the pending state law "favors three particular religious beliefs over others." Those beliefs are that "marriage should be recognized between one man and one woman, sexual relations are reserved to that marriage and that gender is assigned at birth."

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Islam in public schools: Educators and media alike miss a crucial point

Islam in public schools: Educators and media alike miss a crucial point

Every human heart has a "God-shaped vacuum," Pascal famously said. This month, he might say that a Tennessee curriculum has an Islam-shaped hole -- and so do most mainstream media covering the controversy over it.

Ground Zero is Maury County, where parents of seventh-graders have complained that their children were being forced to learn the basics of Islam in seventh-grade social studies classes.

As part of curricula in history, geography and government, middle school children are required to learn about several religions, including Buddhism and Hinduism. But parents were startled this year when a unit on Christianity was skipped in favor of teachings like the Five Pillars of Islam.

Brandee Porterfield, who has a daughter at Spring Hill Middle School, complained to the Columbia Daily Herald:

The mother said she was concerned about her child being taught the “Shahada,” the Muslim profession of faith which was contained in a foldable teaching material.
One of the translations of the creed reads, “There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”
“I have no problem with the teacher at all. It’s just that yellow foldable seems to be teaching our children religion in schools, and only that religion,” Porterfield said. “From a religion point of view, if the schools are going to be teaching religion in history, they need to teach them all equally.”

Other parents complained that children were told to write and recite the Shahada, which they said amounts to teaching Islam. Parent Brandee Porterfield told the Spring Hill Home Page:

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A ghost in here? IRS targeting Jews too?

Fear not religion news reporters, you too can jump into one of the hottest news stories on the wires. Buried deep within an article reporting on the Internal Revenue Services’ harassment of conservative advocacy groups lurks  a religious liberty news story. That may not sound too exciting but you could rephrase the story pitch this way for your editor: Has the IRS created a religious test in order to define what it means to be a loyal Jew?

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Power to hype or downplay: On Gosnell and the NYTimes

Many in the media are indicating that they really want to move on from the Gosnell trial that they’ve struggled to cover — or ignored — from the get-go. You’re not seeing much coverage. Earlier this week I came across a small example that demonstrates how media frenzies are fed or squashed. It’s instructive.

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