Freedom from Religion Foundation

Mississippi students protest time change for religious group's meeting, sparking a GetReligion question

Mississippi students protest time change for religious group's meeting, sparking a GetReligion question

Now ... is it only important for reporters to keep in mind that ‘The Freedom From Religion Foundation has an agenda,’ or can religious believers have an agenda, too?”

That’s the question that a regular GetReligion reader asked in an email in which he provided links to recent coverage of a religion-related public school protest in Mississippi.

The question follows a post that I wrote last week reminding journalists — not for the first time — that regurgitating the anti-religion group’s talking points as if they’re the gospel truth is not great journalism.

My quick response to the reader is this: Of course it’s important for reporters to keep that in mind in both cases.

But also, I’d add this: Be sure to contact me the next time a major newspaper does stenography for the Alliance Defending Freedom or a similar religious freedom group on the right. I’ll believe it when I see it.

As for the specific examples that the reader provided — presumably to point out that media coverage can be troubled on the other side of the theological aisle, too — OK, I’ll bite.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

#RNA2017: Religion journalists gather in Music City — and GetReligion is on the scene

#RNA2017: Religion journalists gather in Music City — and GetReligion is on the scene

If you're not following it already, here's a Twitter hashtag for you: #RNA2017.

The Religion News Association's 68th annual conference is underway is Music City — Nashville, Tenn. — and two GetReligionistas (Julia Duin and I) will be on the scene.

At the conference this morning, a new survey on U.S. religion was released by Baylor University. Both Religion News Service's Adelle M. Banks and The Tennessean's Holly Meyer had quick stories on the embargoed findings.

Here is the RNS lede:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) — Americans who voted for President Trump are often very religious, believe in an authoritative God and hold traditional views about gender.
A new Baylor Religion Survey also found that Trump supporters are more likely than other voters to see Muslims as threats to America and to view the nation as a Christian one.
Almost three-quarters of Trump voters said Islam is a threat, compared with 18 percent of those who voted for Hillary Clinton. An even higher percentage — 81 percent — of Trump voters strongly agreed that Middle East refugees are a terror threat, compared with 12 percent of Clinton voters.
“Today, divisions in the American public are stark,” said Paul Froese, a Baylor University sociology professor and director of Baylor Religion Surveys. “We can trace many of our deep differences to how people understand traditional morality, theology and the purpose of our nation.”

And from The Tennessean:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Almost heaven, West Virginia: How to cover dispute over Bible classes in public schools the right way

Almost heaven, West Virginia: How to cover dispute over Bible classes in public schools the right way

Almost heaven, West Virginia ...

I won't say the Washington Post's front-page story today on a lawsuit over a Bible elective in a West Virginia public school district is "almost heaven," but it's pretty good.

Excellent, actually.

Three months ago, I highlighted an Associated Press story on the same federal lawsuit at the heart of the Post's report.

In my earlier post, I said:

I don't have a real problem with The Associated Press' coverage of a religion-related federal lawsuit filed against a West Virginia school district.
I mean, it's a threadbare account — roughly 400 words — but that's typical of AP news these days. At least this one makes an attempt to present both sides.
However, the story does — IMHO — raise more questions than it answers.

After supplying a bit more commentary and explanation, I concluded:

To understand what's really happening in the West Virginia school district — and the constitutionality of it or not — AP or another news organization would need to do much more reporting: Interview students, parents and teachers. Review the curriculum. Talk to church-and-state experts. Study past U.S. Supreme Court decisions on religion in public schools.
Of course, reporting all of the above would require more than 400 words.

Which leads us back to today's Post story, which, by the way, tops 2,000 words.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Are millennials leading the way in rejecting Gideon Bibles? Los Angeles Times says yes

Are millennials leading the way in rejecting Gideon Bibles? Los Angeles Times says yes

A few weeks ago, a spokesman for Gideon Bibles spoke at my church and the need was great, he said, for younger people to join up with a group that’s usually connected –- in the public eye –- with older men in business suits. (Membership is limited to evangelical Protestant men 21 years or older).

I went up to him afterwards and he said their chief need is for funds to continue the work. Seems that the organization hasn’t been in the public eye like better-known charities and that the popular culture has changed since the first Bibles were placed in a Montana hotel room in 1908.

 A century later, when more people than ever are objecting to any sign of religion in the public square, a well-known hotel chain has decided that allowing Bibles even hidden away in a drawer is too religious. As the Los Angeles Times tells it:

When the ultra-hip Moxy Hotel opens in San Diego next year, the rooms will be stocked with the usual amenities — an alarm clock, hair dryer, writing desk and flat-screen TV.
But you won’t find a Bible in the bedside nightstand.
Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel company, supplies a Bible and the Book of Mormon in the rooms of every other hotel in the franchise. But the company has recently decided that no religious materials should be offered at two of its newest millennial-oriented hotel brands, Moxy and Edition hotels.
“It’s because the religious books don’t fit the personality of the brands,” said Marriott spokeswoman Felicia Farrar McLemore, explaining that the Moxy and Edition hotels are geared toward fun-loving millennials.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

The Atlantic on Texas cheerleaders: In this case, old-time religion comes across as reasonable

The Atlantic on Texas cheerleaders: In this case, old-time religion comes across as reasonable

Four years after a group of East Texas cheerleaders took on their school district to fight for the right to have religious-themed banners at their school football games, Atlantic Monthly takes a trip into flyover country to talk to the girls.

Some of these young women have already graduated from high school and have been able to get a wider perspective on their battle. I thought the magazine’s take on it all had very little snark and some actual respect for these teenagers. Kountze, by the way, is just north of Houston.

So here's how this lengthy piece started:

The cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas, have been painting Bible verses on the banners they hold up at football games for nearly four years. Players line up on Friday nights behind a big stretch of unrolled butcher paper, busting through it as they run onto the field. Instead of a negative slogan, along the lines of “Kill the Tatum Eagles,” the girls wanted to write messages that were more positive, ones “that were really encouraging and honorable to God,” as one of them put it. They proposed this at their cheer camp in the summer of 2012. After the moms who sponsored the club got sign off from the school principal, the girls made their first signs, sporting messages like “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” from Philippians, or “A lion, which is strongest among beasts and turns not away from any,” a Proverbs verse. (Kountze High is home to the Lions.)
Ever since, they have been embroiled in the high-profile legal battle those banners sparked. Early in the 2012 season, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the Kountze Independent School District’s superintendent alleging that the district was violating the Constitution by allowing a student group to hold up religious messages at a school-sponsored event. After consulting counsel, the superintendent told the town’s high-school principal to shut down the Bible-verse banners. Some of the girls and their parents decided to sue the district and won a temporary injunction. Since then, the case has been bouncing around the Texas state-court system, mostly on a series of procedural claims. The Texas Supreme Court heard the case and sent it back to the Court of Appeals in January; that court is set to consider the case again any day now.

What’s different about this piece is that the cheerleaders and their more activist parents are portrayed as unlikely newsmakers who stumbled into this national drama and are doing their best to stand up for student self-expression.

Please respect our Commenting Policy