Oregon

Embattled evangelical judge in Oregon gets mixed coverage -- with little religious content

Embattled evangelical judge in Oregon gets mixed coverage -- with little religious content

Not many readers may have heard about Marion County (Ore.) Judge Vance Day and his chapter on America's current religious liberty wars -- but you may soon.

Reading a piece about him in Williamette Week, a venerable alternate newspaper based in Portland, the first thing I noticed was a piece of art showing the judge hiding behind a statue of Jesus.

I thought: A religion story for sure.

Instead, the piece complained about how the judge was using all sorts of out-of-state funds for his legal war chest. For instance:

Day has achieved a lot of firsts. He's the first judge that Oregon's judicial fitness commission has recommended for removal from the bench in more than 35 years. He is the first judge ever to use Oregon's decade-old law allowing embattled public officials to establish legal trust funds. And Day has raised far more with his fund -- at least a half-million dollars -- than other elected officials who have established such funds.
Although Day's ethical and legal troubles have been well-documented over the past two years, the details of how he's used his defense fund to harness a political movement have not previously been reported.
Day has turned his proposed expulsion from the bench into a cash cow -- using his fund to hire big-name lawyers, rake in money from an enigmatic conservative foundation, and cozy up to permanently outraged right-wing culture warriors.

Hmmm. Reading further, I learned that it’s legal to have such a trust fund. Meanwhile, one thing Day has refused to do is same-sex marriages. In blue-state Oregon, that’s blasphemy.

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Religious folks opposed Oregon's ultra-liberal new abortion law, but who were they?

Religious folks opposed Oregon's ultra-liberal new abortion law, but who were they?

I just returned from five days in Oregon, which can be a leafy, verdant paradise with gems such as Crater Lake, the Wallowa Mountains, Multnomah Falls, Mount Hood and a stunner of a Pacific Ocean coastline.

When in Oregon, of course, one reads the local news.

Right in the midst of several weeks of sunny weather (after a winter and spring of record-breaking rainfall), legislators were arguing in Salem (the state capital) over how abortions should be funded.

Let's look at the basic Associated Press report on this subject. I wonder: How far will we need to read into this story to find information on a rather obvious religion angle in this story?

SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- Insurance companies in Oregon would be required to cover abortions and other reproductive services at no cost to the patient regardless of income, citizenship status or gender identity under a measure approved Wednesday by lawmakers.
Oregon already has some of the most liberal abortion laws in the U.S., leaving out otherwise common requirements for waiting periods or spending limits on taxpayer funds.
The measure, which does offer some religious-based exemptions, comes as the federal government and other states are seeking restrictions on abortion services.

That second paragraph is an understatement, to say the least, as Oregon is the only state that has no restrictions on abortion. After explaining that the measure was in reaction to President Donald Trump’s attempts to repeal Obamacare,

In some states such as New York, abortions are cost-free if they’re deemed medically necessary. The Oregon bill is unique, however, in that patients would have access to the procedure for virtually any reason, at any time, including sex-selective and late-term abortions.

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Oregon's homeless: The Eugene Register-Guard doesn't explore why many people help out

Oregon's homeless: The Eugene Register-Guard doesn't explore why many people help out

Oregon’s second-largest city, Eugene, is located in a bucolic part of the state along Interstate-5. Set against low mountains, it is only an hour from the state’s legendary beaches and rocky coast. Its temperate climate has also attracted a problem that’s plaguing the entire West Coast: Rampant homelessness. The local police chief says the scene in Eugene is the worst he’s ever seen

Its largest newspaper, the Eugene Register-Guard, just got lauded by the Poynter Institute for its ongoing editorial project on homelessness. The reason this caught my eye is that the Register-Guard is one of the most religion-free newspapers I’ve ever seen. And that's saying a lot in the Pacific Northwest where the religion coverage everywhere is pretty sparse. 

But with homelessness, I thought, they can’t avoid the faith element, can they? How about the 60-year-old Eugene Mission, which has a long track record of helping the homeless? Or how of all the helping-the-homeless groups in Eugene, two have connections to the Catholic Church?

But avoid it they have. On Feb. 12, the newspaper said in an editorial: 

Our goal in this project is to highlight efforts locally and elsewhere that are proving successful, examine what it will take to improve and expand those efforts, and to identify how local organizations can work more efficiently and collaboratively to close gaps in the system. The editorial page coverage will be supplemented by periodic Register-Guard news articles on the issue. And because this project will be a journey for all of us, we’ll adjust plans along the way.

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'Are you a Christian?': Grading media coverage of faithful after Oregon mass shooting

'Are you a Christian?': Grading media coverage of faithful after Oregon mass shooting

Major media went to church Sunday in Roseburg, Ore., to report on the faithful coming together after Thursday's mass shooting at Umpqua Community College.

It's time for a "big news report card" on that coverage.

For this report card, I use three main criteria to grade the coverage, including:

• Actual religion content (does the story reflect real prayers, Scriptures, sermons, etc., or just reference generic assemblies?).

• Below-the-surface reporting (does the story rely on clichés or actually delve into the faith angle and spiritual matters?).

• Compelling overall story (beyond the religion questions, is this a solid piece of journalism?).

Read on to see my grades and brief comments:

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In some news reports, Oregon gunman's motives were bloody specific, but in others...

In some news reports, Oregon gunman's motives were bloody specific, but in others...

Another day, another gunman, another mass shooting. Once again, when government authorities consistently declined to discuss possible motives, it was hard not to assume that the religion shoe was going to drop, sooner or later.

By this morning, journalists have had quite a bit of time to look for witnesses and to sift through social-media looking for clues and quotes. At this point, it's almost like journalists in key newsrooms were not covering the same tragedy. 

Let's look in New York City, for example. That did The New York Times have to say about the religion angle? The world's most powerful newspaper opened with the basic facts and then, five paragraphs in, added:

Law enforcement officials identified the gunman Thursday night as Chris Harper Mercer, and said he had three weapons, at least one of them a long gun and the other ones handguns. It was not clear whether he fired them all. The officials said the man lived in the Roseburg area.
They said one witness had told them that Mr. Mercer had asked about people’s religions before he began firing. “He appears to be an angry young man who was very filled with hate,” one law enforcement official said. Investigators are poring over what one official described as “hateful” writings by Mr. Mercer.

Did he ask anything specific, when it came to religion? Were members of one faith, or no faith, more at risk than others? And those "hateful" writings -- on social media, perhaps -- were about what?

Writing for a radically different audience than the TimesThe New York Post went straight to the point with the religion angle bannered on its website a few hours after the massacre. The most recent version of that story now states, drawing on material from news and social media:

A gunman singled out Christians, telling them they would see God in “one second,” during a rampage at an Oregon college Thursday that left at least nine innocent people dead and several more wounded, survivors and authorities said.

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Same-sex wedding cake wars draw more headlines — and more RNS snark

Same-sex wedding cake wars draw more headlines — and more RNS snark

If you're a regular GetReligion reader, you're probably familiar with the Sweet Cakes case in Oregon.

We've posted on it more than once.

That case is back in the news this week.

The Oregonian newspaper in Portland has solid, balanced coverage of the latest news.

The lede:

The Oregon couple who made national headlines when they refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding are now refusing to pay state-ordered damages to the lesbian couple they turned away.
In response, state officials have gone to court to establish their right to place a property lien or attach other assets belonging to Aaron and Melissa Klein, proprietors of the Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery.
The Kleins filed an appeal of the state ruling in July but also have defied a Bureau of Labor and Industries order to pay $135,000 to Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, claiming financial hardship despite crowdfunding efforts that have raised more than $500,000 on their behalf.
Most recently, one of their lawyers wrote to the labor bureau to say: "Our clients do not have a bond or irrevocable letter of credit in place and have no further plans to obtain either one."
The Kleins' refusal to pay marks another chapter in the long-running controversy pitting their claims of religious freedom against enforcement of anti-discrimination laws requiring Oregon businesses to serve the public equally.

There does seem to be some dispute concerning the $500,000 figure reported by The Oregonian.

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Icing on the cake: Tasty coverage on bakery fined $135,000 in religious freedom vs. gay rights case

Icing on the cake: Tasty coverage on bakery fined $135,000 in religious freedom vs. gay rights case

Surprise!

Wedding cakes — specifically wedding cakes for same-sex couples — are making headlines again.

In the past, we've discussed the "frame game" as it relates to how news organizations characterize these cases pitting religious freedom vs. gay rights:

Here's the journalistic issue, related to framing: Is "deny service" or "refuse service" really the right way to describe what occurs when a baker declines to make a cake for a same-sex wedding?
Or does such wording favor one side of a debate pitting gay rights vs. religious freedom?

So let's consider how the media covered the latest case making news, starting with The Associated Press:

The AP's lede:

PORTLAND, Ore. — An administrative law judge proposed Friday that the owners of a suburban Portland bakery pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple who were refused service more than two years ago.

Sorry, but that lede doesn't cut it.

 

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Those elusive Devout Catholics™ are back

That legendary creature, best known to reporters in mainstream media, is rarely spotted in real life, but they seem to show up in the news all the time. (See the attached photo.) One appeared in a Los Angeles Times article about a campaign to loosen up laws in Oregon against same-sex marriage. This was a small herd in Portland that wanted to sport big white buttons for “marriage equality” while attending Ash Wednesday.

Brave move or childish stunt? That would be a subjective call. Almost as subjective as, say, this Times article.

More on that later. Right now, here are a couple of offending paragraphs — the first two in the story, in fact:

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Same-sex marriage vs. religious liberty ... another twist

Love is in the air. Or at least more marriage headlines are filling up my computer screen. (And perhaps this would be a good time for me to give a shoutout to my lovely bride and fellow GetReligionista, Tamie. I know she’ll love this video.) Earlier this month, I highlighted — and praised — Reuters’ coverage of what it called a “new twist” in the same-sex marriage debates: proposed religious exemptions for florists, cake makers and others opposed to the practice. In a straightforward account of an Oregon proposal, the wire service presented the facts and quoted both sides.

But in perusing this week’s news, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Oregon anymore. So, let’s try Kansas.

Gay rights advocates are outraged over a bill — passed by Kansas lawmakers earlier this week — that would allow businesses and state government employees to deny services to same-sex couples if “it would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

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