Florida Today

Both sides now: USA Today does a decent job covering LGBT flap in a Florida town

Both sides now: USA Today does a decent job covering LGBT flap in a Florida town

Gol' durn, Florida is always full of surprises. In reporting a controversial school board meeting over LGBT rules, USA Today -- and its state affiliate Florida Today -- stuck pretty much to basic reporting, as opposed to editorial writing.

Even better, the national report is a nearly word-for-word re-post of the original Florida Today story, rather than some Beltway gloss. LGBT matters can get pretty heated, and so can school board meetings. So when they collide, it ain't always easy just to report. These stories do have a flaw or two, but they generally show a satisfying fairness and respect for all sides. We'll look at the flaws in a bit, but the top alone rates a hat tip:

MELBOURNE, Fla. -- Big crowds came out for a Tuesday evening meeting about a proposed non-discrimination and equal employment policy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Brevard Public Schools.
After more than 90 LGBT policy opponents spoke to the school board, the board voted to kill the proposed policy, and said it would hold a public workshop on LGBT issues down the road.
Nearly 100 people signed up to speak at the meeting, and most of those who spoke were in opposition to the LGBT policy.
Friar Demetri Tsigas of Melbourne, a Greek Orthodox priest, said that the opposition of people of faith like himself was something school board members should heed. "You can see the spirit of the town here," Tsigas said.  "This is not San Francisco, folks. This is Brevard County."

Friar? That's off the mark. However, that statement is something of a surprise, starting the quotes with a Greek Orthodox priest, rather than the typical "fundamentalist" who is then held up to scorn.

It is crucial to note the ratio of people attempting to speak in opposition to the policy, as opposed to those who defended it. This was a very tense, charged meeting.

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Bacon at a mosque: media don’t get to the meat of a Florida vandalism case

Bacon at a mosque: media don’t get to the meat of a Florida vandalism case

Which is worse -- a machete or slabs of bacon? No, that's not one of those riddles you'd hear in, say, philosophy class or late at night in a bar. It's a question posed in stories about vandalism of a Florida mosque.

Someone took a machete to the Masjid al-Mumin building in Titusville, near the Kennedy Space Center. The vandal used the weapon to hack at lights, windows and security cameras, then scattered raw bacon around the front door. Some cameras still worked, though: Police arrested one Michael Wolfe from surveillance images.

It's just one of a rash of vandalism against mosques around the U.S. since recent jihadi attacks like the massacres in Paris and San Bernardino. The interesting thing about the Florida incident is what the stories chose to lead with -- and whether they grasped the effect of the crime.

Among the more sensationalistic was the Religion News Service, which ran a USA Today story and headlined it "Man accused of swinging machete through Florida mosque." The original headline was a milder "Man accused of vandalizing mosque, leaving bacon." But both versions don't neglect the blade, saying Wolfe "is accused of slashing his way through the mosque, shattering lights, windows and cameras with a machete."

An official from the Council on American-Islamic Relations ties the two offenses together:

"People are afraid to take their children back to the mosque ... a machete was used," said Rasha Mubarak, the advocacy group's Orlando regional coordinator.  "They know we don't consume pork. This is something that those who are Islamaphobic tend to bring up or use."

A gold star to the story for adding this background: "Eating pork — including bacon and ham — is prohibited in the Quran. The Bible's Old Testament books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy also forbid it." Pretty impressive for a secular newspaper.

The article borrows heavily, of course, from coverage in Florida Today, its affiliate in east-Central Florida. That newspaper quotes Muhammad Musri, who oversees 10 mosques in the area and, it says, has often done interfaith work:

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United (for now) Methodists and the same-sex debate

Amid talk of a possible schism over homosexuality, the United Methodist Church is back in the news. On the heels of an exceedingly positive profile of Methodist gay-rights advocate Frank Schaefer, the Washington Post reported this weekend:

Hundreds of American pastors from the United Methodist Church have signed a proposal released Friday that aims to keep the global denomination of 12.5 million members from splitting over the issue of homosexuality.

It offers churches and regional bodies the option to make up their own minds on issues like affirming gay clergy and same-sex marriage.

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Florida Today on missing Bibles at the Missing Man Table

McCarthyism is alive and doing quite well in America, a scan of this week’s newspapers reveals. The mob mentality that promotes intolerance in the name of diversity has claimed the scalp of Mozilla CEO Brendon Eich and dominated the front pages of newspapers and the chat shows, but it has been the little things — the small local events and actions that condemn free speech, free thought and freedom of religion — I find so frightening. An item in one of my local newspapers, Florida Today (part of the Gannett chain), illustrates the collapse of discourse in our culture — and the truly rotten state of affairs within the top ranks of our military.

The newspaper reported that the Missing Man Table in one of the dining facilities at Patrick Air Force Base had been removed after someone complained about the presence of a Bible.

The author enters into the story through the reaction of a dismayed veteran, angered over the disappearance of the table:

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