Homeschooling

Reporters delve into the religion of Mark Conditt, the dead man identified as Austin's serial bomber

Reporters delve into the religion of Mark Conditt, the dead man identified as Austin's serial bomber

For residents of Austin, Texas, weeks of terror ended Wednesday when Mark Conditt — identified as the serial bomber responsible for killing two people and badly wounding four others — blew himself up.

As reporters began delving into the 23-year-old Conditt's background, religious details — some more concrete than others — quickly emerged.

My thanks to GetReligion reader Deann Alford, a Texas-based journalist and author, who alerted us to crucial facts in an Austin American-Statesman story. The key: The religious questions linked to this story are valid hooks to investigate — right now. But authorities say they see no clues, so far, to motives in these acts.

The Austin newspaper interviewed Jeremiah Jensen, 24, who was homeschooled in the same community as Conditt:

The two were close in 2012 and 2013, said Jensen, who would often go to the Conditts’ home for lunch after Sunday church service and attended Bible study and other activities with him. Jensen said Conditt came from a good family, was athletic, enjoyed rock climbing and parkour and was a “deep thinker.”
“When I met Mark, he was really rough around the edges,” Jensen said. “He was a very assertive person and would … end up being kind of dominant and intimidating in conversation. A lot of people didn’t understand him and where he was coming from. He really just wanted to tell the truth. What I remember about him he would push back on you if you said something without thinking about it. He loved to think and argue and turn things over and figure out what was really going on.”
Jensen said Conditt attended regular church services at the Austin Stone Community Church on St. John’s Avenue.
“I know faith was a serious thing for him,” he said. “I don’t know if he held onto his faith or not. … The kind of anger that he expressed and the kind of hate that he succumbed to — that’s not what he believed in in high school. I don’t know what happened along the way. This wasn’t him.”

A little later in the story, there's this:

The Austin Stone said in a statement it had no records of Conditt or his family’s active involvement in the church or interactions with staff members.
“We love and grieve with our city and we continue to pray for the victims and their families who were affected by these recent tragedies. We are cooperating with law enforcement with any pertinent information we can find that may be of help as they continue their investigation,” the church said in a statement.

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Whoa, prepare to be surprised by this media treatment of home schooling and religion — with a twist

Whoa, prepare to be surprised by this media treatment of home schooling and religion — with a twist

Here at GetReligion, we love tips and feedback from readers.

So when Kevin McClain tweeted us a link, we checked it out.

Now, that sound you heard when I read the headline — "Homeschooling Without God" — was fear, trembling and gnashing of teeth. Before I clicked the link, I called my friend Linus of "Peanuts" fame and asked to borrow his blue security blanket.

Seriously, I braced myself for the kind of snarky putdowns of faith-driven home-schoolers that I've seen in some past narratives. In case you missed them, see my January 2014 post "Wait, not all home schooling is stupid and harmful!?" and my August 2013 post "WPost: Virginia law highlights stupidity of home schooling."

But against my better judgment, I went ahead and opened The Atlantic story. Then I saw the byline. That next sound you heard was me whooping and pumping my fist. Suddenly, I was in a much better mood. 

When I saw the name of the writer — Jaweed Kaleem — I knew I was in for an insightful, respectful treatment of the subject matter. 

In case you're not familiar with Kaleem, he is the vice president of the Religion Newswriters Association and spent the last several years as an award-winning national religion writer for the Huffington Post. In 2014, I did a 5Q+1 interview with him on reporting inside Pakistan.

Kaleem recently announced that he's joining the Los Angeles Times as its national race and justice correspondent — but he plans to keep tackling religion issues, too:

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'Thank u Lord for the game of baseball' -- A religion ghost in LaRoche exit? You think?

'Thank u Lord for the game of baseball' -- A religion ghost in LaRoche exit? You think?

Here is a heart-strings tugger for you as we move closer to Opening Day in major-league baseball (an event that should receive Upper-Case status as a cultural holy day, as I am sure our own Bobby Ross Jr. would agree).

So Adam LaRoche walked away from his Chicago White Sox contract worth $13 million rather than yield to demands by management -- as in team president Ken Williams -- to drastically cut the amount of time his 14-year-old son Drake spent with him and the team during workouts and in the clubhouse.

Sports fans, you have to be blind as a bat not to see the religion ghost in this one.

I suspect that many sports-news scribes see the religion element, but they are hesitating to suggest that it may have been a factor in this buzz-worthy clash between this dad and the leaders of his team. Here is a chunk of the relevant report from the frequently faith-lite ESPN team:

LaRoche, 36, announced his retirement Tuesday, hinting at the reason behind his decision with the hashtag #familyfirst in a tweet posted that day.
When news of the reason became public Wednesday, Williams addressed the issue with reporters and said that kids are still permitted in the White Sox clubhouse, but they shouldn't be there every day, saying no job would allow that.
"Sometimes you have to make decisions in this world that are unpopular," he said.
The White Sox have always encouraged players to bring their kids into the clubhouse and onto the field, according to Williams. But he said he thought Drake LaRoche was there too much.

That #familyfirst tag is a clue, don't you think? And this tweet referenced in the ESPN report?

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Horny dads at a prom: Too juicy to get the whole story

Let’s talk about Clare, the homeschooled teenager in Richmond, Va., who was thrown out of a prom because of her dress. The facts are … Well, actually, we don’t know many of the facts, whatever you may have read in “news” accounts. Nearly all of them are based purely on her blogging rant about the flap.

In one of the most shameful abuses of social media ever, story after story takes as gospel truth how the girl conformed to the dance dress code, yet was thrown out by horny dads and intolerant chaperones. Even The Telegraph in London had to get in on the act, from across the Atlantic.

The Telegraph’s may be the cheapest, most garish version:

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Wait, not all home-schooling is stupid and harmful!?

Last summer, I did a GetReligion post titled “WPost: Virginia law highlights stupidity of home-schooling.” In that post, I characterized as “lousy journalism” the Post’s 2,500-word report on a Virginia religious exemption that allows families to opt entirely out of public education: The Post takes the absolute worst-case scenario — a family that goes the home-schooling route and apparently flubs it — and uses it as the overarching lens through which to view the issue. That’s unfortunate. And biased. And bad journalism.

I had no problem at all with the newspaper reporting on the negative side of home-schooling. That’s journalism. The issue was that the Post neglected entirely to tell the other side of the story, such as home-schoolers who make perfect scores on their college entrance exams.

Fast-forward to this week when I came across a Christianity Today blog post with this intriguing headline:

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Pod people: A little GetEducation for GetReligion

In the 1990s, before I became a religion writer, I covered education for The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City’s daily newspaper. I wrote numerous stories on the school choice movement, from vouchers to magnet schools to charter schools.

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