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Friday Five: Abortion, Catholic and Baptist scandals, Emanuel AME, disaster deacon, The Bachelorette

Friday Five: Abortion, Catholic and Baptist scandals, Emanuel AME, disaster deacon, The Bachelorette

Anybody seen any abortion-related headlines lately?

I kid. I kid.

They keep coming fast and furious — some stories better than others.

Here’s three that have come across my screen just today. I haven’t had time to read them yet:

Southern Baptists descend on Alabama, epicenter of abortion debate, by Holly Meyer of The Tennessean

Biden reverses long-held position on abortion funding amid criticism, from CNN

Poll: Majority Want To Keep Abortion Legal, But They Also Want Restrictions, from NPR

At the only abortion clinic left in Missouri, doctors live and work in uncertainty, from the Los Angeles Times

Now, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: It’s been a week of big exposés concerning major religious institutions.

We highlighted the Washington Post’s bombshell investigative report on the lavish spending of West Virginia’s former Catholic bishop.

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As Supreme Court bites into same-sex wedding cake dispute, how to tell good media coverage from bad

As Supreme Court bites into same-sex wedding cake dispute, how to tell good media coverage from bad

What a busy day on the religion front for the U.S. Supreme Court!

Here's how Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post religion writer and former GetReligionista, put it in a public post on her Facebook page:

In case you missed it, the high court sided with a church in an important religious liberty case, it allowed Donald J. Trump's travel ban to take effect, and it will hear a case involving a wedding cake baker.

Oh, is that all?

Seriously, I won't attempt to cover all three of those major stories in one post. I'll save the Trinity Lutheran case and the refugee travel decision for another day. But I will take a quick bite of wedding cake and hit a few high points on media coverage of Colorado baker Jack Phillips.

Actually, on second thought, why don't I just keep it simple and stick to one high point? Because it's one that so many news organizations have such a difficult time grasping. And yes, it's one that will be extremely familiar to regular readers of GetReligion.

I'm talking about the specific way that journalists choose to frame the Masterpiece Cakeshop case (and similar religious liberty disputes, such as the one involving Barronelle Stutzman, the sole owner of Arlene's Flowers in Richland, Wash.).

See if you notice a difference — however subtle — between the following two ledes today.

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Why are media missing a key scoop on human brain-munching religion 'scholar' Reza Aslan?

Why are media missing a key scoop on human brain-munching religion 'scholar' Reza Aslan?

In a world where very little seems to shock people anymore, devouring what is described as part of a human brain, albeit charred to a crisp, is enough to shock many folks, even if the alleged brain-eating is described as part of a religious exercise. Perhaps, especially so.

Such is the lot of Reza Aslan, who has parlayed making outrageous utterances about religion into a career of "explaining" faith to the rest of us. Aslan -- not to be confused with The Chronicles of Narnia hero -- is (surprise, surprise) fronting a new series on CNN, "Believer." In this series, viewers must understand that Aslan "immerses himself in the world's most fascinating faith-based groups to experience life as a true believer."

Eric Hoffer this ain't. Which is where the alleged brain-munching comes in: Aslan devours what he described as barbecued gray matter on the first episode. He says he did this on a visit to the Aghori, a Hindu sect in India regarded as, well, rather iconoclastic. Aghoris reject the caste system, among other things, it's reported.

This caused no little excitement for more mainstream Hindus around the globe, which brought it to the attention of a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post:

Religion scholar Reza Aslan ate cooked human brain tissue with a group of cannibals in India during Sunday’s premiere of the new CNN show “Believer,” a documentary series about spirituality around the globe.
The outcry was immediate. Aslan, a Muslim who teaches creative writing at the University of California at Riverside, was accused of “Hinduphobia” and of mischaracterizing Hindus.
“With multiple reports of hate-fueled attacks against people of Indian origin from across the U.S., the show characterizes Hinduism as cannibalistic, which is a bizarre way of looking at the third largest religion in the world,” lobbyist group U.S. India Political Action Committees said in a statement, according to the Times of India.

A story on The Atlantic magazine's website brings in other dissenting voices:

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Ripple effect: Reuters finds Catholics aiding generic Iraqi refugees in Lourdes

Ripple effect: Reuters finds Catholics aiding generic Iraqi refugees in Lourdes

Drop a rock in a lake, and you'll see a splash, then ripples. Everybody knows that. But it takes seasoned news people to spot ways that a story on one continent shows up on another. That's what Reuters did, with a smart, sensitive newsfeature on Christians fleeing from Iraq to Lourdes, France.

Reuters, BBC and others have (appropriately) thrown tons of time and resources into the human river of hundreds of thousands who have walked, floated, and sometimes died on the way from the Middle East to Europe. The Lourdes story takes a quieter, more personal look at the phenomenon -- and how believers in one town have responded.

In telling about the 60 Iraqis in Lourdes (so far), the article also adeptly works the story into the site's history:

For Iraqi Christians fleeing Islamic State militants in their native land reaching Lourdes, the French town long synonymous with miraculous religious visions, feels little short of a modern-day miracle.
Arriving in the town where peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous is said to have had visions of the Virgin Mary in 1858, the refugees have also experienced real Christian charity through the efforts of some dedicated, Lourdes-based compatriots, an ex-soldier and the local parish priest.
"We are split between sadness and joy. But Lourdes is like a flower offering us her perfume. It is the town of the Virgin Mary, giving us our faith," said one of the refugees, Youssif, 48, a former teacher of the Aramaic and Syriac languages.

Reuters fills in background on the Middle East war, noting that the Christian community in Iraq has fallen from about a million in 2003 to 400,000 by July 2014. It notes that the Islamic State has killed not only many Christians but also "members of other religious minorities," including some fellow Sunni Muslims. (Should have mentioned the Yazidi, though; they’ve gotten more than their share of violence.)

We read shot bios of what the Iraqi Christians fled and how they found hosts in Lourdes. Turns out some residents, like Nahren and Amer, left the country years ago:

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Transgender teen's suicide: New tragedy, old advocacy script for media

Transgender teen's suicide: New tragedy, old advocacy script for media

"My death needs to mean something," the teen who self-identified as Leelah Alcorn wrote in a suicide note before stepping in front of a tractor-trailer in Ohio. Whatever else the death of the troubled transgender youth means, one is clear: how easily mainstream media fall into groupthink.

Most outlets reporting this story use "Leelah," his preferred name, and call him a her. Some even seem reluctant to say "Joshua," the name on his birth certificate. Most quote friends but don’t try to reach his parents or clergy. Then they quote a transgender advocate or two who predictably call for some sort of change.

It's a familiar script from years of gay and lesbian advocacy, thinly disguised as reporting.

The Boston Globe's story is a prime example:

Early Sunday, 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn died after being hit by a tractor-trailer while walking along a stretch of Interstate 71 near her Ohio hometown.
The death was eventually ruled a suicide after a pair of social media posts, which the Kings Mill woman posted on the blogging site Tumblr, garnered notice and served as a flashpoint for transgender progress in 2014.

Only about a third of the way down does the story acknowledge that Alcorn’s mother, Carla, "posted a short note to Facebook identifying Alcorn as 'Joshua' (her name at birth) and with male pronouns." That's the only place the Globe uses his actual teen name, or a male pronoun.

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