Christian colleges

(Cue: loud sigh) AP report about private colleges has a familiar doctrine-shaped hole in it

(Cue: loud sigh) AP report about private colleges has a familiar doctrine-shaped hole in it

One of the questions your GetReligionistas hear the most from friends of this blog, as well as critics, is this: Do you ever get tired of having to write about the same journalism issues over and over and over?

Yes, this can be tiring. It's frustrating to watch reporters, especially at major news organizations, leave the same religion-shaped (or First Amendment-shaped) holes in their news stories and longer features about important issues and events.

But we keeping doing what we do. We remain pro-journalism. We remain committed to the basics of old-school reporting and editing, holding out for values such as accuracy, balance and fairness.

So, as you would imagine, this post is about a familiar topic. First, here is a flashback to a recent Julia Duin post that spotted an important hole in several news reports about SB1146, a bill in California that would shake the church-state ground under all of the state's private schools. At the time Julia wrote this post -- "Christian colleges on chopping block: Why are California newspapers ignoring the story?" -- mainstream news organizations were simply missing the story -- period.

But there was a more specific problem in a report from The Sacramento Bee:

... The Bee does not add that students have a choice whether or not to attend these private schools. In most cases they sign documents in which they affirm the school's stands on doctrinal issues, including those linked to sexual behavior. Here at GetReligion, we’ve brought up again and again the fact that religious schools tend to have something called covenants whereby the students who attend them and those who teach and work at them agree to live according to the doctrines affirmed by that institution.

Let me stress that this is true for private schools on the cultural and religious left, as well as the right.

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Christian colleges on chopping block: Why are California newspapers ignoring the story?

Christian colleges on chopping block: Why are California newspapers ignoring the story?

Years ago, I was assigned to write a series about the huge growth of Christian colleges in the United States and I got to select the 10 I wanted to profile. To no one’s surprise, four of them were in California because I wanted to go someplace warm.

 While enjoying the March sunshine, I also learned there are tons of Christian colleges all over the state, ranging from a Nazarene university on the ocean to a Catholic college in the orange groves east of Santa Barbara. Religious higher education is a huge industry in the Golden State and this has been the case for decades.

Sports and civil rights are important too, as everyone knows. That's why journalists everywhere, including California, did that full-court press the other day following the death of boxer Muhammad Ali. However, the media -- even newsrooms in California -- seem to be ignoring a bill going through the California state legislature that would have a huge impact on dozens of religious colleges in the state and, eventually, the nation as a whole.

There’s lots of great hot buttons in this story: religious freedom, gay students, employee rights, to name a few.

As you would expect, the alternative, "conservative" press is covering Senate Bill 1146 to the hilt. But the Los Angeles Times, which doused Ali's passing with more than a dozen stories in the past week, has not touched it. At least I could find nothing on their web site, not that of the San Francisco ChronicleSan Francisco Weekly or San Diego Union-Tribune.

One exception is the Sacramento Bee, which ran a guest editorial and the following brief article:

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A Catholic school vs. a gay cafeteria manager: Why media are siding with him

A Catholic school vs. a gay cafeteria manager: Why media are siding with him

Here we are again with a story line that seems to repeat itself at least once a month these days: Catholic school takes a firm stand on gay employees and decides to 1. Tighten up their code of conduct or 2. Actually ask certain employees to leave or 3. Refuse to hire publicly homosexual employees. The staff or students then decide to 1. Sign petitions or stage demonstrations or 2. Go to the media or maybe the local bishop and 3. File a lawsuit.

Reporters cover the would-be, present or former employees as sacrificial lambs ready to be roasted by the Inquisition. They 1. Mostly quote one side, usually the more telegenic one that says they are being discriminated against and 2. Fail to look up the school’s employee manual and any agreements employees agreed to adhere to when they signed on and 3. Insist that if Pope Francis was around, he would embrace everyone and 4. Run a disapproving editorial on said college or school.

But the school that I’ll be covering in this piece is a bit different. As the Associated Press described it:

BOSTON -- An all-girls Catholic prep school in Massachusetts violated state anti-discrimination law by rescinding a job offer to a man in a same-sex marriage, a judge ruled.

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Weekend think piece: Probing post-Obergefell fault lines in Christian higher education

Weekend think piece: Probing post-Obergefell fault lines in Christian higher education

The vast majority of the time, GetReligion features critiques -- positive and negative -- of mainstream press coverage of religion news. However, in recent years we have started adding some other features by veteran religion-beat specialists Richard Ostling and Ira Rifkin that address Godbeat work in short features that we think will be of interest to people who care about domestic and international trends in religion -- period -- or who are professionals on the beat.

In the "Religion Guy Memo," for example, I have asked Ostling to serve as kind of Metro desk sage, a veteran editor talking about issues related to the beat the way an editor might chat with a religion-beat scribe over a cup of coffee. As any reporter knows, a good editor helps you discern what stories "have legs" and what stories may be just over the horizon.

That is what Rifkin is doing in "Global Wire," as well, focusing on questions raised by recent events around the world or, on occasion, trying to spot slow developing stories that may be on the rise, or those that are about to pop into the open.

On weekends, I also like to share what I call "think pieces" -- links to pieces about developments on the beat or essays by religion insiders who are clearly trying to discern what will happen in the news in the near or distant future. All reporters have writers and thinkers that they follow online, seeking clues about future stories. Think Pew Forum folks. Think John C. Green of the University of Akron. For decades, Martin Marty of the University of Chicago was THE go-to brain for religion-beat pros. I mean, the man answered his own telephone!

You don't have to agree with this kind of insider in order to draw information from them. The key is that they have some unique insight into developments within specific religious communities. They can read the spiritual weather forecasts, in other words. It also helps if they speak common English, instead of inside-baseball jargon.

So with that in mind, please consider this new essay about a topic that -- for obvious reasons -- is of great interest to me as a writer and as a teacher. That would be trends in Christian higher education in the wake of the recent 5-4 Obergefell decision on gay marriage at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Forget Genesis: Adam and Eve make NYTimes front page

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

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Seeking the sympathetic critics of Bob Jones University

As any journalist knows, institutions — secular or religious — do not like to talk about their failures, let alone their sins. Often this is caused by their lawyers who are anxious to head off lawsuits or to protect their client’s rights when conflicts take place. When this approach is applied to media relations, the result is either total silence or a bullet-proof form of public relations that seeks to protect the mother ship — period.

We talk about this all the time in classes at the Washington Journalism Center, where my students come from a variety of different kinds of Christian college and university campuses, most of them linked to evangelical Protestantism. Sometimes it’s hard to separate legitimate legal concerns from a faith-lingo-soaked “do not hurt your Christian brother” brand of public relations that rejects all attempts to do journalistic work in times of pain, crisis or scandal.

Trust me. This is not a conservative vs. liberal situation. As a reporter, I have faced toxic denial among liberal faith leaders as well as conservative. As I have said many times here at GetReligion, the hellish sins in the clergy sexual abuse crisis touched liberal Catholic heroes as well as conservatives. There were devils on both sides, as well as heroes.

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Hey, LA Times, there's more to HHS fight than Hobby Lobby

First things first: I have to admit that I almost choked on my diet cherry cola when I read the double-decker headline on this Los Angeles Times news feature about the next round of cultural warfare at the U.S. Supreme Court. Ready? You have been warned:

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The 'exceptional importance' of the Hobby Lobby case

It’s no surprise that the “Hobby Lobby” case is in the news. The valid headlines this week are that this religious-liberty case is on the doorstep of the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Covering Cal Baptist, MTV, the law and gender identity

Here we go again, once more into the legal thicket that surrounds private colleges and universities, on the cultural left or right.

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