Justice Antonin Scalia

Gorsuch and the big scare-quote religion stuff? So far, little light shed on Supreme Court pick

Gorsuch and the big scare-quote religion stuff? So far, little light shed on Supreme Court pick

What reporters have missed about Judge Neil Gorsuch, the President’s nominee for the Supreme Court, is that the Episcopal parish he attends in downtown Boulder is headed by a female priest.

Think about that for a moment. If this man is the frightening conservative that some on the Left are already alleging him to be, there’s no way he’d be Episcopalian, much less at a woman-priested church. It will be interesting to see if the Episcopal hierarchy issues any kind of formal reaction to this nomination. Watch this space: The Episcopal News Service.

The Episcopal Church, for anyone who’s not been following religion trends in recent decades, has been careening to the theological and cultural left for years and its membership statistics show it. Thousands have left TEC and joined alternative Anglican churches.

Not so this judge. A church in bluest of blue Boulder is not going to be a conservative hideout and this article notes that Gorsuch’s parish is pretty liberal. The place is St. John's, Boulder and for you trivia experts out there, it's the same church that JonBenét Ramsey's family attended. A Google search shows there’s an Anglican church in Boulder that the Gorsuch family could be attending if they so desired.

So, the fact that the judge and his family has remained at St. John’s says something.

So far, the mainstream press has missed all that and concentrated on his court rulings on hot-button topics, the kinds of subjects often framed in scare quotes. For example, while his precise views on abortion remain a mystery, he has written extensively on euthanasia -- producing a book on the topic ("The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia").

What the New York Times ran with is typical:

While he has not written extensively on several issues of importance to many conservatives, including gun control and gay rights, Judge Gorsuch has taken strong stands in favor of religious freedom, earning him admiration from the right.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

New Year’s observations on matters religion writers will want to be watching (Part I)

New Year’s observations on matters religion writers will want to be watching (Part I)

The Religion Guy’s thoughts about religion-what beat specialists may want to anticipate for 2017 once the New Year has been properly toasted are as follows: Much of the action will circle around LGBTQ-related controversies. I am sure that is not a surprise.

As throughout 2016, all things Donald Trump will dominate the news. Due to the ongoing conflict between gay rights and religious-liberty assertions there’s keen interest in the unpredictable new president’s Supreme Court choice to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Samuel Alito recently lamented the repression of free speech, particularly on college campuses, but warned that “freedom of religion is in even greater danger.”

Again, this is not a big surprise.

Alito and Scalia uttered that same warning as dissenters when the court majority dodged religious rights in its 2015 ruling legalizing gay marriage. A new justice in Scalia’s mold won’t shift the Court’s balance of power. The bigger ruckus comes later, with a replacement for swing voter Anthony Kennedy (age 80), or liberals Ruth Bader Ginsberg (83) or Stephen Breyer (78). 
Also vital, though often neglected by the media, will be Trump’s nominees for lower federal courts that will decide most of these First Amendment disputes.

Though this is often portrayed in the press as a mere concern of Catholics and white evangelicals, 27 African-American Protestant leaders rallied by the Seymour Institute sent a notable letter to candidate Hillary Clinton. Alongside conventional black concerns on matters like education and justice, the clergy charged that gay activists want to “criminalize our biblical texts as hate speech,” and accused Democrats of “open contempt for religious freedom.”

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Covering the funeral of Antonin Scalia, while ignoring what the Mass was really about

Covering the funeral of Antonin Scalia, while ignoring what the Mass was really about

In the end, here was the question that loomed over the funeral Mass of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: Was this a political event? The answer is easy to find, simply by glancing at the coverage offered by several elite newsrooms.

That answer: Of course this was a political event. What would the alternative be? Actually covering the words and symbols of the event itself, which in this case would have led to news reports containing the doctrines at the heart of the Christian faith?

That would never do. That wouldn't be "real," since Scalia was clearly a powerful player in the world of law and politics -- the "real" world.

You know that this inside-the-Beltway prejudice against religious faith being "real" was on the mind of Father Paul Scalia, the preacher and celebrant. As one of the justice's sons, you know that he was more than aware of his father's convictions about the content of funeral rites and the sermons preached in them (and thus mentioned this subject in his funeral sermon). Click here for Antonin Scalia's thoughts on that.

Readers had a chance to know what the family was thinking because of the opening lines of Father Scalia's sermon, which directly challenged the Beltway mindset. If anyone saw these words reported in a mainstream news story, please let me know. I know that this is long. That's the point:

We are gathered here because of one man. A man known personally to many of us, known only by reputation to even more, a man loved by many, scorned by others, a man known for great controversy, and for great compassion. That man, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth. It is He whom we proclaim. Jesus Christ, son of the Father, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, buried, risen, seated at the right hand of the Father. It is because of Him, because of His life, death and resurrection that we do not mourn as those who have no hope, but in confidence we commend Antonin Scalia to the mercy of God.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

OMg! OMg! Journalists continue to ignore the Associated Press Stylebook!

OMg! OMg! Journalists continue to ignore the Associated Press Stylebook!

Yes, here we go again.

I was interested in this Syracuse, N.Y., dateline story already, because of its obvious religious overtones -- both in terms of the scientist in the lede and the metaphysical, to say the least, nature of the issues involved in this breakthrough.

Then, later on, we had -- OMG! -- that whole revisionist Associated Press Stylebook thing going on again. But let's be patient and look at the actual story for just a second:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Peter Saulson sat in a synagogue for the Jewish new year Sept. 14, cut off from the rest of the world. He had turned off his cell phone and computer to observe the holiday.
Saulson was oblivious that his email inbox had started exploding around 7 a.m. with 75 messages that carried the same subject line: "Very interesting event."
Saulson wouldn't get word until that night, when he finally turned his computer back on, that he was on the verge of culminating his life's work, and the work of a thousand other scientists across the world.
That was the day two massive telescopes, one in Louisiana and the other in the state of Washington, detected for the first time gravitational waves from the collision of two black holes from 1.3 billion years ago.

I like the fact that this story opens in a synagogue, where one must assume that folks would upper-case the "G" in "God," as well as the "E" in Einstein, as in Albert, if for different reasons under Associated Press style.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Looking ahead to Justice Scalia's funeral, with a flashback to wisdom from his son, the priest

Looking ahead to Justice Scalia's funeral, with a flashback to wisdom from his son, the priest

So what mattered the most in the end, the contents of Justice Antonin Scalia's heart or his head?

Where did the work of the Catholic believer (some journalists called him a "fundamentalist") end and the fierce advocate of Constitutional "originalism" begin?

At mid-week, when host Todd Wilken and I recorded or next "Crossroads" podcast -- click here to tune that in -- I was still wrestling with the following quote from Notre Dame University law professor Richard Garnett, which was featured in a Time magazine think piece about Scalia's impact on American law and culture.

“A big part of his legacy will be how navigated the relationship between one’s deeply held faith commitments and one’s role as a judge,” Garnett, of Notre Dame, says. “For him, the way to navigate that relationship, it was not to compromise one’s religious faith or water it down, it was to distinguish between the legal questions the judge has the power to answer and the religious commitments that a judge has the right to hold, just like all of us do.”

In other words, something like this? "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." That is never an easy task.

While the news media remains focused on the political fallout after Scalia's death, I think it will be interesting to note the fine details of what is sure to be a grand funeral service in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. We know that President Barack Obama will be missing, but how many bishops, archbishops and cardinals will find their way into the "choir"? To what degree will the service -- as the justice desired -- focus on basic Christian beliefs about eternity, as opposed to hints about legal wars in the here and now?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

It's impossible to praise or attack Justice Scalia without covering his Catholic faith

It's impossible to praise or attack Justice Scalia without covering his Catholic faith

This is an ironic day in American political life, a day in which lots of labels are being tossed around by journalists -- in some cases, once again, with little thought given to whether those labels are still relevant or accurate.

That thunderclap you just heard was, of course, the news that Justice Antonin Scalia had died. The timing is stunning, to say the least, with a White House race unfolding and a U.S. Supreme court schedule packed with major cases linked to the First Amendment and church-state issues.

There is too much coverage, already, to try to take a look at it all. But let me make a few suggestions for some guidelines for readers as they dig into the coverage.

Look for coverage that quotes Scalia's friends as well as his enemies. You will know that you're in good company, in terms of journalism, when you hit features that note that some of his fiercest opponents, when it came time to argue law, were also among his closest friends. 

Scalia was a conservative in several senses of that word, especially when it came to law and to faith. Yet, like the word "liberal," that is a word that is often of little use when discussing matters of law and now politics. Right now, an old-school First Amendment liberal, or literalist, increasingly looks like a cultural conservative.

So look for stories that refuse to pin simplistic labels on Scalia.

Then, alas, there is this early NPR piece, as a negative example. Yes, it involves use of the f-word that journalists love to use in ways that directly contradict the Associated Press Stylebook.

Also note that the written work of this justice -- famous and infamous for his use of wit and sarcasm -- is reduced to one of those shallow verbs that journalists use when, basically, they want to call someone simplistic or even dumb:

Please respect our Commenting Policy