Friday Five: Dallas clergy abuse, God and abortion, Colorado hero, 'Whiskeypalians,' Tenn. execution

Here’s your periodic reminder that — from “Save Chick-fil-A” legislation to the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandals — the Dallas Morning News sure could use a religion writer.

When police this week raided Diocese of Dallas offices related to allegations of sexual abuse by priests, the Texas newspaper — to which I subscribe — put a team of reporters on it and produced two front-page stories (here and here).

The team included a projects/enterprise writer, two police/crime reporters and a city hall writer/columnist. A Godbeat pro on the team? Sadly, the Dallas Morning News doesn’t have one, despite the importance of religion in that Bible Belt city. (There’s another Page 1 report today, again by a public safety reporter.)

Ironically, the paper’s initial coverage included an opinion piece (“Why it's good Dallas police ran out of patience with the Catholic Diocese on sex abuse”) by metro columnist Sharon Grigsby. Those of a certain age will recall that in the 1990s, Grigsby founded the Dallas Morning News’ award-winning religion section (now defunct) and oversaw a team of six religion writers and editors.

Those were the days!

Turning from the Big D, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: Alabama’s passage of a law banning abortion in almost all cases tops the week’s headlines.

Since my post pointing out the holy ghosts in much of the news coverage, the religion angle has received major treatment from the New York Times (here and here) and showed up in The Associated Press’ headline on the state’s governor signing the anti-abortion bill into law.

Also, Terry Mattingly explores the latest wild quote from Pat Robertson (yes, it’s tied to the Alabama law) and offers an interesting fact that journalists might want to consider. In this week’s podcast post, look for additional discussion by tmatt of “That crucial role Pat Robertson plays for way too many American political journalists.” [That podcast is now up and running.]

For more insight, see longtime Birmingham News Godbeat pro Greg Garrison’s report on the religious reaction to the abortion ban.

Finally, The Atlantic’s religion and politics writer, Emma Green, weighs in.

2. Most popular GetReligion post: Julia Duin’s post on a Catholic student gunned down in Colorado and how few reporters were asking crucial questions about the shooters struck a nerve.

The post went viral and is one of our most-clicked pieces of the year so far.

Read it here.

Also, check out this story from Catholic News Agency on how “'We all need to be a little more like Kendrick,” who gave his life to protect his friends from school shooters.

3. Guilt folder fodder (and more): Religion News Service’s Adelle Banks has a great story on Heather Cook, the former Episcopal bishop who became a “poster child” for alcoholism after causing an accident that killed a bicyclist.

The meaty profile contains highly relevant details such as these:

Her fellow Episcopalians have mixed feelings about Cook. There is anger over her crimes and a feeling that she was an embarrassment. She’s also forced the denomination to rethink its often cozy relationship with alcohol that caused some members to call themselves “Whiskeypalians.”

A commission set up after Cook’s arrest found that the Episcopal Church often failed to intervene with clergy who struggled with alcoholism.

Read it all.

4. Shameless plug: Usually, we plug articles or accolades by current and former GetReligionistas in this space.

But I needed a spot to call attention to coverage by two of our favorite Tennessee religion writers of an execution with Godbeat ties: The Tennessean’s Holly Meyer wrote last week about why a Seventh-day Adventist church in Nashville made death-row inmate Donnie Johnson an elder, and the Commercial Appeal’s Katherine Burgess reported that Johnson sang a Christian hymn Thursday night as the lethal drugs took effect.

5. Final thought: If you need some context for that bit of humor, find it here.

Happy Friday, everybody! Enjoy the weekend!

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