Great Britain

Teen sex and pregnancy in UK: The Daily Mail and The Times abstain from discussing religion

Teen sex and pregnancy in UK: The Daily Mail and The Times abstain from discussing religion

“If you want more of something, subsidize it; if you want less of something, tax it,” argued Ronald Reagan.

A study released last month in Britain reports this maxim is true not only of economics, but sex. 

The Daily Mail, The Times and other outlets report that claims that cutting government spending on sexual education would lead to a rise in teen pregnancy have been shown to be untrue.

Researchers actually discovered the obverse: cutting sex-ed spending leads to a decline in the rate of teen pregnancies. The question GetReligion readers will want answered, of course, is this: Might there be a religious or moral angle to this news story?

The lede in the May 30, 2017, story in The Times entitled “Teenage pregnancies decline as funding for sex education is cut” states: 

Teenage pregnancy rates have been reduced because of government cuts to spending on sex education and birth control for young women, according to a study that challenges conventional wisdom. The state’s efforts to teach adolescents about sex and make access to contraceptives easier may have encouraged risky behavior rather than curbed it, the research suggests.

The Times story is behind their paywall, but the Daily Mail’s version, entitled “Sex education classes DON'T help to curb teenage pregnancy rates and may encourage youngsters to have unprotected intercourse” lays out the same story.

 

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How Britain's Telegraph twisted itself into pretzel over yoga-rejecting Christian parish

How Britain's Telegraph twisted itself into pretzel over yoga-rejecting Christian parish

Sometimes, I feel as if I'm visiting here from an alternative journalistic universe.

It seems the notion of a Christian church acting like, well, a traditional Christian church is something as foreign to some of us journalist types as this planet would seem if one had just arrived from Mars.

Consider this article from The Daily Telegraph, one of Britain's more conservative newspapers (it once had the nickname of "The Daily Torygraph"). Apparently, some folks in Wales are upset because while part of a local Anglican church will be used as a community center, classes in yoga won't be permitted.

So Pilates, si, yoga, no. Seriously. Residents are not happy with the church council's -- wait for it -- position on this twisted issue. From the Telegraph 's account:

Parishioners have threatened to boycott a church that banned yoga from its premises because it is "non-Christian".

Church bosses said the discipline that originated in ancient India "might be seen to be in conflict with Christian values and belief".

Part of St David's Church, in Ceredigion, Wales, is being converted into a community centre after complaints that the village of Blaenporth lacked facilities. However, some locals were shocked after the Parochial Church Council (PCC) ruled that, while pilates would be allowed in the planned centre, yoga would not be -- along with other "non-Christian activities".

Those who say that yoga is non-Christian often claim to hold the viewpoint because it "teaches participants to focus on oneself, instead of on the one true God".

The first journalistic problem, as careful readers might recognize off the bat, is the use of the word "parishioners" in the first sentence. By the fourth paragraph, we're informed that it is, instead "some locals" who are upset over the yoga ban. Are we talking about active church members or people who simply live inside the borders of some "parish" region?

This is a distinction with a difference.

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Religion plus travel: Are only secular pilgrims walking UK's pilgrimage trails?

Religion plus travel: Are only secular pilgrims walking UK's pilgrimage trails?

Religion and travel are two topics that are rarely combined, yet the Guardian did so –- in a fashion –- with a piece on Britain’s ancient pilgrim routes and how they’ve soared in popularity. The point of the feature was that one need not be religious at all to tread ancient paths that honor everyone from St. Cuthbert, St. Cadfan, St. Werburgh and St. Chad to Saints Wulfad and Swithun.

What results are nature walks with likeminded people with not a nod to the religious history that has traditionally surrounding this activity. Imagine traveling to Mecca for the … architecture? Might religious convictions have something to do with the motives of some of the travelers?

Here’s an account of how secularized Brits are strolling from church to church just to get some peace and quiet.

In one of the smallest churches in England, a couple of dozen people are taking the weight off their walking boots for a moment of quiet reflection in the cool gloom. Outside, an unlikely April sun pours over the South Downs.
It seemed, says Will Parsons, a good moment to learn the lyrics of John Bunyan’s To Be a Pilgrim -- perhaps, he adds, adopting neutral terms “to be more inclusive”.
The group was soon belting out the 17th-century hymn, drawing curious passersby to peer into the tiny hillside Church of the Good Shepherd, in Lullington. Come wind, come weather, regardless of lions, giants, hobgoblins or foul fiends, “there’s no discouragement / Shall make them once relent / Their first avowed intent/ To be a pilgrim”, they sang.
This merry band are part of a new boom in pilgrimage which has seen the re-establishment of ancient routes and the growing participation of people on a spectrum of belief from religiously devout to committed atheists.

The story goes on to say the hikers were walking Lewes Priory to the Holy Well in Eastbourne over two and a half days.

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Elephant in the cathedral: Why are so many Anglican holy places empty and, thus, low on funds?

Elephant in the cathedral: Why are so many Anglican holy places empty and, thus, low on funds?

Anyone who has followed religion news from England knows that church attendance has been a huge story for some time now and the sobering headlines are only going to increase as the side effects -- demographics is destiny, and all of that -- become more obvious.

Yes, the statistical rise of Islam is part of this story, but only one part of complex drama. As in America, the rise of "Nones" -- the religiously unaffiliated -- is a trend that is changing how the English view their nation. That's part of the urban vs. rural divide at the heart of Brexit. It's kind of like America's red vs. blue zip-code battle.

Then there is another obvious question: Is the Church of England still the church of England? Note this headline from last year, care of The Guardian: "Church of England weekly attendance falls below 1m for first time." Here are some of the details:

The number of people attending Church of England services each week has for the first time dropped below 1 million -- accounting for less than 2% of the population -- with Sunday attendances falling to 760,000.
The statistics ... reflect the C of E’s steady decline over recent decades in the face of growing secularism and religious diversity, and the ageing profile of its worshippers. Numbers attending church services have fallen by 12% in the past decade, to less than half the levels of the 1960s.

The story included two other numbers that would catch the eye of careful reporters: "The church conducted 130,000 baptisms in the year, down 12% since 2004; 50,000 marriages, down 19%. ..."

I bring this up because of a sad, but interesting, Religion News Service piece about another side effect of these numbers. There is no way that this rather dull headline captures the emotions many Brits will feel about this topic: "Endangered Anglican cathedrals prompt Church of England review."

The bottom line: How does one keep the doors of cathedrals open (even for tourists) when the faithful rarely kneel at the altars or bring children into the pews?

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How a British scribe's study of Islam helped explain Pakistani immigrant gangs' sex crimes

How a British scribe's study of Islam helped explain Pakistani immigrant gangs' sex crimes

I haven't spent substantial time in London in several years, and, frankly, I generally feel little pull to revisit.

But I would have liked being there earlier this week to attend what promised to be an interesting talk by a leading British investigative journalist on how his knowledge of religion -- Islam in particular -- helped in his reporting a crime story that officials were loathe to explore too closely for fear they'd be accused of religious or racial bias.

I'm referring to a talk by Andrew Norfolk of The Times, the Murdoch-owned weekday daily,  organized by Lapido Media, the online arm of the London-based Centre for Religious Literacy in Journalism.

Norfolk was interviewed by Lapido for a piece published in advance of his talk. During the interview, he spoke about how his knowledge of South Asian Islamic culture in Great Britain enabled him to uncover what Lapido called "the grooming of teenage white girls by gangs of Asian men -- and the blind eye turned by the local council and police force."

 (At the Monday night event, Lapido also launched what it called -- incorrectly -- the "first guide in the world to religious literacy for media professionals." I say incorrectly because on this side of the pond journalists have long been able to profit from the similar work of the Religion News Association, to which I belong. Not that Lapido's effort, Religious Literacy: An Introductionisn't a welcome contribution. I mean, our own tmatt wrote the last chapter.)

Norfolk's work on the gangs story led to his being named 2014 Journalist of the Year by the British Journalism Awards, the organization that doles out such accolades in the U.K.

Here's the top of Lapido's advance story.

ANDREW Norfolk remembers the time when mentioning religion at work was so taboo that ‘it was as if you had burped at a party’.
That was in a regional newsroom in the 1990s.

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Is there a religion ghost in Brexit victory for angry old Brits who keep clinging to the past?

Is there a religion ghost in Brexit victory for angry old Brits who keep clinging to the past?

Is there a religion ghost in the shocking, to many, Brexit vote?

Of course there is. Any issue this, well, HUGE is going to have links to religious beliefs and institutions, on both sides of the debate. However, it will take a while for that shoe to drop, methinks, as secular journalists begin their work -- of course -- with waves of news about the political and economic fallout.

That is to be expected. However, we can begin our search for the religion ghost in this story by asking two rather basic questions: In terms of media and cultural elites, who is upset about the Brexit victory? And these grieving people in the mainstream media (looking at you, Christiane Amanpour), who are they blaming for this defeat for rational thought and the world's glowing future?

For example, I have no idea who this young journalist is -- Rebecca Pinnington -- but I would imagine that there were plenty of professionals in major newsrooms thinking this exact same thought in the wee hours of this morning. What does it say that CNN has this quote on its front page, as I write this?

"When Donald Trump congratulates you on a political decision, that’s how you know you’ve made a mistake #EUref"

So who is to blame for this attack on the European Union and its supporters? It would appear, based on my early reading, that the chattering classes see this as a victory for old people who yearn for the values of the past and fear the wide open, evolving future. The word of the day appears to be "xenophobia."

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That key weekend think piece I didn't have time to post: God and the EU referendum?

That key weekend think piece I didn't have time to post: God and the EU referendum?

Are you following the many angles of the debates in Great Britain about the future of the European Union?

To say that this is an emotional and explosive debate would be a great understatement. That would have been true even before the brutal killing of British MP Jo Cox, a rising Labour Party star who was outspoken in her support for staying in the embattled EU.

Her attacker, of course, was said to have shouted, "Put Britain first!"

All kinds of ultimate questions about culture and national identity loom in the background during these debates, including rising tensions about the role of Islam in what is clearly post-Christian European culture.

This leads me to another essay that has been published by Lapido Media, a London-based think tank dedicated to promoting literacy on religion issues in the mainstream press, among political elites and in public life, in general. Lapido is led by a friend of this blog, Dr. Jenny Taylor.

This piece by Peter Carruthers ran under the headline, "Still time to face facts: the EU referendum is a religious issue too." You should read the whole thing, but here is a slice of two of the context, starting with the overture.

POLITICIANS are ignoring research that shows that religious affiliation could determine the EU referendum.

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When will ‘three-parent babies’ come to the U.S.?

When will ‘three-parent babies’ come to the U.S.?

The headline above is borrowed verbatim from a Feb. 6 Scientific American article (coverage here) after the House of Commons voted by 75 percent to make Britain the first nation to legalize “three-parent babies.” The House of Lords gave the final approval Feb. 24.  Newcastle University researchers are already paying women to be genetic donors, and the first such births are expected next year.

The hope here is to avoid babies with devastating “mitochondrial” birth defects and related ailments like muscular dystrophy.  So these experiments have the best of motives, though scientists and theologians alike question the means.  Reporters should note good online coverage of pros and cons by Sarah Knapton in the London Telegraph.

News media take note: The U.S. debate will gain prominence with a March 31 – April 1  “public workshop” in Washington by the  panel that’s advising the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Institute of Medicine on this. Its delightfully bureaucratic name: “Committee on Ethical and Social Policy Considerations of Novel Techniques for Prevention of Maternal Transmission of Mitochondrial DNA Diseases.” 

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Heavens above! Doing a good job of covering a British religion survey

Heavens above! Doing a good job of covering a British religion survey

Reporting on religion surveys can be a perilous business, but journalist Jonathan Wynne-Jones shows how the job can be done well.

His article in The Independent titled “Two per cent of Anglican priests don't believe in God, survey finds” invites the reader into the story with a catchy lede, yet it offers a sober and balanced interpretation of the results.

Some expecting a story bashing the Church of England might cry foul, and claim Wynne-Jones was engaging in a bait and switch -- offering a story that appeared to confirm the pottiness of the local vicar. But he reports the situation has improved -- that the Church of England clergy are becoming more robust in their faith, not less.

The story opens with a strong rhetorical flourish:

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