GLAAD

Sam Brownback has lots of friends and enemies: Reporters need to talk to both, right now

Sam Brownback has lots of friends and enemies: Reporters need to talk to both, right now

Sam Brownback has had a log and quite complicated political career and now it has taken another turn. On Capitol Hill, he has served in the House and the Senate, then he returned to Kansas as governor, where his stay was stormy, to say the least. He briefly ran for president in 2008.

On the religious side of things, he made headlines by converting from evangelical Protestantism to Roman Catholicism. He would make any observer's list of the top 20 or so cultural conservatives in American politics.

That's the kind of career that earns someone a long list of enemies, as well as friends.

All of that came into play when Brownback was nominated by the Donald Trump administration to be the U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom. That brings us to the top of this Associated Press report (as circulated by Religion News Service):

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Republican-led Senate on Wednesday narrowly approved Sam Brownback’s bid to be U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom, setting the stage for him to resign the governorship in Kansas after seven contentious years in office.
With two Republican senators absent, Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Capitol Hill to cast the tie-breaking vote to confirm Brownback, a favorite of Christian conservatives for his views on same-sex marriage and abortion. The vote was along party lines, 50-49, underscoring the narrow margin Republicans hold. Pence’s vote also was needed earlier in the day to get Brownback’s nomination over a procedural hurdle.

Now, it's obvious -- with that cliffhanger vote -- that Brownback's enemies came loaded for bear. You can also see, in the AP wording, that the battle over this nomination was fought along culture-wars lines. Note this: He is a "favorite of Christian conservatives for his views on same-sex marriage and abortion."

Noted. Thus, it is going to be crucial, in this story, to cover the reasons that the cultural and religious left opposed him so strongly. That's part of the story.

However, it would also be crucial to note why Brownback was nominated for this particular post in the first place. What actions did he take, what causes did he support, during his long career that caused his supporters to support this nomination? I would add: Were all of his supporters on the right?

Anyone want to guess which side of this equation AP all but ignored?

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Reporters and the Supreme Court cake bake-off: Was religious freedom the guiding issue?

Reporters and the Supreme Court cake bake-off: Was religious freedom the guiding issue?

Although the opening arguments for Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (transcript .pdf here) included a plea for religious freedom, that point got lost in articles about Tuesday’s historic hearing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s true that the plaintiff’s attorney, Kristen Waggoner, barely got out one paragraph of her intro before justices began interrupting her with questions about cakes and compelled speech.

It’s also true that covering a Supreme Court hearing (I’ve done it two or three times) is like covering a knife fight between 10 participants (nine justices and the hapless attorney before them). It takes discipline for media scribes to remember the main thing is the main thing; in this case, whether a believer can be forced by the state to give a message that contradicts his or her religious convictions.

GLAAD, the gay-rights organization that monitors coverage of homosexuals by the media, saw that “main thing” as such a threat, it sent a note to major media outlets, urging them to dump terms like “religious freedom” and “religious liberty” for “religious exemptions.” Read about their directive on Poynter.org and see one New York Times opinion piece that obeyed this instruction to the letter.  

(Tell me: What if a conservative group had sent out a similar missive to mainstream journalists? The Poynter piece, by the way, didn’t include any quotes from media experts who find it problematic that an activist group feels it can tell journalists what to write.)

Fortunately, reporters generally ignored GLAAD's directive. We will start with the Denver Post, the hometown newspaper for both parties in this suit which had a headline that reflected how Kennedy asked “sharp questions” from both sides. It began with a very static lede: 

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday heard arguments in a Colorado case about a same sex-wedding cake that ultimately could determine where the legal system draws the line between discrimination and religious freedom.

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Hysteria? CNN's one-sided obsession with Robert Jeffress goes way over the top

Hysteria? CNN's one-sided obsession with Robert Jeffress goes way over the top

Before any inauguration, media all over town are snooping about, hoping to get unusual stories that no one else is getting. I spent 16 years working in Washington, D.C., so I know the drill.

When CNN learned who was preaching the early morning pre-inauguration sermon to the Trump family, its piece on the lead preacher sounded more like Adolf Hitler himself was showing up. I am no fan of this particular Baptist preacher, but I also don't like journalistic attempts to nuke someone using every weapon in the advocacy journalism arsenal.

Just try to count the scare quotes in this one. Note that every possible alarming fact (yes, lots of them are valid) was thrown in as one more reminder that Donald Trump likes to surround himself with people not fit for polite company. Try to find any sign that the CNN team even considered seeking voices on the other side.

(CNN) A pastor with a long history of inflammatory remarks about Muslims, Mormons, Catholics and gays is scheduled to preach at a private service for President-elect Trump and his family on Friday, shortly before Trump takes the oath of office.
The pastor, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, is a Southern Baptist who vigorously campaigned for Trump during the final months of the presidential election and is a member of his evangelical advisory board. "I love this guy!" Trump has said of Jeffress. ...
Usually the Inauguration Day service draws little notice, much less controversy. But offering Jeffress such a prominent pulpit is likely to irk religious minorities, particularly Muslims, many of whom were already angered by the President-elect's stoking of suspicions about Islam during the campaign.

Earth to CNN: You do know that Trump could care less about whether he irks anyone?

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Latest Amy Grant controversy: This tale has a new chapter that some have missed

Latest Amy Grant controversy: This tale has a new chapter that some have missed

Baby, baby, how long have I been writing about controversies involving Amy Grant and fights about what is and what is not Christian music?

Well, so long that I cannot link to the "On Religion" column I wrote about the topic a quarter of a century ago. You see, the World Wide Web didn't really exist at the time for normal people -- so that column isn't stored anywhere online, at least not where I can get to it.

But back in 1991, people started worrying about whether Grant's "Heart in Motion" album (containing "Baby, Baby," which led to that controversial music video) was "too secular" and part of the "crossover" trend that would undercut Grant's public witness, etc., etc.

Well, now Grant is back in the news and, alas, it appears that some people have not noticed that lots of water has gone under the bridge and there are new issues in play. This brings us to the top of the story in the singer's local paper, The Tennessean:

LifeWay Christian Resources will not be selling Amy Grant's new Christmas album this year, and the manager for the Nashville-based singer says it's because it's not Christian enough for the Southern Baptist retailer.
Manager Jennifer Cooke said in an opinion piece for the Washington Post that LifeWay's decision not to carry "Tennessee Christmas" reignites a debate about how Christian a product needs to be in order for Christian retailers to sell it.
"'Is it Christian enough for Christian retail to support?' LifeWay Christian Resources, the large Southern Baptist retailer, decided it was not. It’s their choice, and it’s okay," said Cooke, in the column posted Tuesday.
LifeWay, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, confirmed its retail stores are not carrying the album, but would not comment on the reasons for the decision.

Of course, the Southern Baptist Vatican, as the locals call it, is in Nashville, so this is a local story on every possible level.

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GLAAD enlists mainstream press in campaign promoting gay-friendly pope stories

GLAAD enlists mainstream press in campaign promoting gay-friendly pope stories

We’re halfway through Pope Francis’ visit to three East Coast cities and there’s been a flood of news about the pontiff’s meeting with President Obamahis appearance on the White House’s South Lawn, his canonization Mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and his Thursday morning speech to Congress on that brought up illegal immigration, redistribution of income, the death penalty and climate change.  There were less-publicized actions, such as his visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor. There were the gestures that were intended to make a point in favor of the disposessed; the visit to Catholic Charities, the blessing of the girl in the wheelchair at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and even a blessing for Sandra Lee, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s longtime partner who has been fighting breast cancer.

Who knows what Francis may have up his sleeve for the World Meeting of Families this weekend in Philadelphia, but one thing he’s steered clear of so far is anything explicitly dealing with gay marriage, or just gay issues.

However, that’s not from the lack of trying by GLAAD, the homosexual advocacy group that that “rewrites the script for LGBT acceptance,” according to its site. Most informative is GLAAD's new resource guide: “The Papal Visit: A Journalist’s Guide to Reporting on Pope Francis and the LGBT Community.” Here are some of the “best practices” they advise journalists to take up:   

Give voice to the unheard: Perhaps the impact of the Pope’s words on LGBT issues is most directly felt by those who are Catholic and LGBT. Often, news coverage focuses on pundits or hierarchy, without including the voices of those who are most affected. Hearing from everyday LGBT-identified people is critically important. Offering these perspectives presents a more accurate representation of the attitudes that exist within Catholic congregations…

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Washington Post essay: Yo! You fundamentalist wackjobs! No quotes for you!

Washington Post essay: Yo! You fundamentalist wackjobs! No quotes for you!

As faithful readers of GetReligion know, the Associated Press has a very sane and logical stance on the use of the explosive word "fundamentalist."

We have quoted this Associated Press Stylebook policy so many times here that I really feel like there is no reason to print this again. Right?

But, just to be careful, let's look at that once again. Journalists, let us attend:

“fundamentalist: The word gained usage in an early 20th century fundamentalist-modernist controversy within Protestantism. In recent years, however, fundamentalist has to a large extent taken on pejorative connotations except when applied to groups that stress strict, literal interpretations of Scripture and separation from other Christians.
“In general, do not use fundamentalist unless a group applies the word to itself.”

Before we get to an amazingly candid recent use of this term in The Washington Post, let's pause once again to reflect on the following wisdom from one of America's top scholars on religion and philosophy, drawn from one of my "On Religion" columns ("Define fundamentalist, please").

Trust me, this material will be relevant a few paragraphs from now. Why do journalists misuse this term so often?

The problem is that religious authorities -- the voices journalists quote -- keep pinning this label on others. Thus, one expert's "evangelical" is another's "fundamentalist." ...
Anyone who expects scholars to stand strong and defend a basic, historic definition will be disappointed. As philosopher Alvin Plantinga of the University of Notre Dame once quipped, among academics "fundamentalist" has become a "term of abuse or disapprobation" that most often resembles the casual semi-curse, "sumbitch."

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