Liberty Counsel

Scouts use this school for free, but Bible club must pay: What might be strange about that?

Scouts use this school for free, but Bible club must pay: What might be strange about that?

The Indianapolis Star had an interesting church-state story recently. It concerns a federal lawsuit filed by a Bible-based club charged fees to use a public school for meetings, while other groups don't have to pay.

I thought the Star did a pretty nice job of treating each side fairly, and the story's lede is excellent.

However, one key aspect of the story disappointed me. It's like there was some kind of gap there, yes, linked to religion. More on that in a moment.

First, though, let's start at the top. This chunk of the story is very, very long, but you need to read it all:

What's the rent on a Pike Township classroom? Well, it depends on whom you ask.
The Boy Scouts will tell you it's free. So will the Girl Scouts, Girls Inc. and a character-building group called Boys II Men. 
Ask the Child Evangelism Fellowship, though, and they'll tell you it costs $45 each time you want to use a Pike Township classroom. 
CEF says the fee is too high -- and it's unconstitutional.

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Christian legal organizations get the editorial shaft from The Deseret News

Christian legal organizations get the editorial shaft from The Deseret News

When I saw the headline “Serving God by suing others: Inside the Christian conservative legal movement,” I knew the ensuing news article meant trouble.

Would the Deseret News (which produced the above piece) have referred to the Americans for Civil Liberties Union in such a demeaning fashion? Or the Freedom From Religion Foundation?

Both of those organizations spend much of their time suing other entities over religion.

So why all the love for the conservatives? We begin with this:

SALT LAKE CITY -- Roger Gannam cites the Bible to define his company's mission. That wouldn't be notable if he worked at a church or food kitchen, somewhere known for sharing the gospel with the world. But Gannam works at a law firm, suing others and representing those who have been sued.
His employer, Liberty Counsel, advocates for conservative Christian interests in cases related to the sanctity of life, family values and religious liberty, presenting the court system as a way to live out Jesus' "Great Commission."…
Liberty Counsel is part of the Christian legal movement, a collection of advocacy groups working in the legal, public policy and public relations arenas to advance and protect conservative Christian moral values. Together, these firms have turned the courts into key battlefields in the culture wars.

Actually, the courts have been culture wars battlefields for decades. See Griswold v. Connecticut, Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges.

The power of this movement will be on display this fall, when Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is argued before the Supreme Court.

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Coming soon to the pews near you: Transgender wars and copy-desk perplexities

Coming soon to the pews near you: Transgender wars and copy-desk perplexities

On the sexuality beat, much news involves the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2015 gay marriage mandate. In particular, should government should protect, or penalize, artists and merchants who want to avoid cooperating with same-sex wedding rites due to religious conscience?

Journalists need to understand that this is a mere skirmish compared with far more potent church-state fights that inevitably lie ahead.

Meanwhile, transgender conflicts are fast gaining media momentum. At issue: Should public lavatories and shower rooms be open to transgender individuals whose “gender identity” is the opposite of their birth genetics and anatomy? In other words, biological men using women’s rooms and vice versa. 

The national headlines cover federal and state actions, but the same problem will soon be coming to a public school near you -- if it hasn’t already.

What does this have to do with religion-news work? Well, religious groups and individuals are usually at the forefront of those favoring traditional toilet and shower access.

Frank Bruni, whose New York Times columns neatly define the Left’s cultural expectations, sees the wedding merchant and lavatory debates as one and the same. In both cases, he asserts, a ”divisive, “cynical” and “opportunistic” “freakout” by conservatives has “egregiously” violated LGBT equality. Thus the “T” for transgender and “B” for bisexual are fully fused with the victorious lesbian and gay causes.

Christian organizations judged to be “anti-LGBT” are on the list of “hate groups” from liberals’ influential Southern Poverty Law Center.

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Both sides now: USA Today does a decent job covering LGBT flap in a Florida town

Both sides now: USA Today does a decent job covering LGBT flap in a Florida town

Gol' durn, Florida is always full of surprises. In reporting a controversial school board meeting over LGBT rules, USA Today -- and its state affiliate Florida Today -- stuck pretty much to basic reporting, as opposed to editorial writing.

Even better, the national report is a nearly word-for-word re-post of the original Florida Today story, rather than some Beltway gloss. LGBT matters can get pretty heated, and so can school board meetings. So when they collide, it ain't always easy just to report. These stories do have a flaw or two, but they generally show a satisfying fairness and respect for all sides. We'll look at the flaws in a bit, but the top alone rates a hat tip:

MELBOURNE, Fla. -- Big crowds came out for a Tuesday evening meeting about a proposed non-discrimination and equal employment policy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Brevard Public Schools.
After more than 90 LGBT policy opponents spoke to the school board, the board voted to kill the proposed policy, and said it would hold a public workshop on LGBT issues down the road.
Nearly 100 people signed up to speak at the meeting, and most of those who spoke were in opposition to the LGBT policy.
Friar Demetri Tsigas of Melbourne, a Greek Orthodox priest, said that the opposition of people of faith like himself was something school board members should heed. "You can see the spirit of the town here," Tsigas said.  "This is not San Francisco, folks. This is Brevard County."

Friar? That's off the mark. However, that statement is something of a surprise, starting the quotes with a Greek Orthodox priest, rather than the typical "fundamentalist" who is then held up to scorn.

It is crucial to note the ratio of people attempting to speak in opposition to the policy, as opposed to those who defended it. This was a very tense, charged meeting.

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Los Angeles Times crowns Justice Roy Moore as American ayatollah

Los Angeles Times crowns Justice Roy Moore as American ayatollah

I wasn’t planning on writing about Alabama Supreme Court’s chief justice so soon after my Jan. 7 post, but the Los Angeles Times posted a news piece that was so awful, it deserves an Oscar nomination for "Most Biased Piece of U.S. Journalism in 2016 Thus Far." I am referring to Thursday’s article that came with the headline: “Gay marriage order puts spotlight again on the ‘Ayatollah of Alabama.' ” And yes, the article that followed was as bad as the headline.

Please keep in mind as you read this that Get Religion has a name -- “Kellerism” -- for this type of piece. That’s the practice, described here by tmatt and pioneered by the New York Times, of assuming that one side of the debate is dead wrong and, thus, doesn’t deserve fair representation.

Here we go:

When Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore issued his latest controversial order on gay marriage, urging probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, many considered it a brazen, last-ditch act of defiance against the U.S. Supreme Court.
The long-contentious chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court didn’t see it that way at all. Merely a humdrum matter of procedure, he explained. “At this point, I am not defying the United States Supreme Court,” the staunch 68-year-old Baptist and Republican said.
When it comes to Moore -- dubbed the “Ayatollah of Alabama” by a civil rights group and chided by the daughter of the late George Wallace as being more dangerous than the combative former governor -- little is ever just humdrum procedure.

An anonymous “ayatollah” label, huh?

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Surprise? Non-alcohol-serving Muslim flight attendant gets respectful media treatment

Surprise? Non-alcohol-serving Muslim flight attendant gets respectful media treatment

With all the coverage of the embattled Rowan County, Ky.  clerk recently released from jail after she refused to process same-sex marriages, it was inevitable that we would be hearing about protests from similar protagonists.

There are all sorts of people of faith caught in sticky employment situations where what they’re being asked to do is not precisely what they signed up for when they accepted the job.

As GetReligion has reported quite recently, reporters have had problems getting the facts right plus the degree of snark and outright hostility towards people such as Kim Davis has, at times, been so over the top. Our own Terry Mattingly passed along M.Z. "GetReligionista emeritus" Hemingway's bold use of term “slut-shaming” to describe it.

And so, what happens when someone from a different faith entirely makes a similar argument? Does that change the journalistic equation? Here’s what the Huffington Post said about a Muslim flight attendant suspended for not serving alcoholic beverages:

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Washington Post looks at Kentucky same-sex marriage wars, sees only two armies

Washington Post looks at Kentucky same-sex marriage wars, sees only two armies

If you are following the mainstream media coverage of the case of Kim Davis, the elected clerk of Rowan County in Kentucky, then you have basically been reading about a dispute with two sides.

On one side are the gay citizens who want to get married in this county. On the other side is an outspoken Christian who, as an act of Christian conscience, has stopped handing out marriage licenses to anyone, rather than be forced to hand them out to those planning same-sex unions.

The mainstream coverage has been very vivid and full of human details. However, there is an interesting void in the stories that I am seeing in elite media (and let's not even talk about television). To spot this gap, ask yourself this question as you read the news coverage on this story in the next few days: Is Ms. Davis trying to stop gay citizens from getting married? Yes or no. In fact, is her primary goal to stop them from getting married in he county?

Now, let's look at some of the Washington Post coverage, starting with an update filed late in yesterday's news cycle. The following passage gives readers both a status report in the standoff and a look at the drama on the scene:

U.S. District Judge David Bunning has set a hearing for 11 a.m. Thursday to determine whether to hold Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in contempt, a charge that could carry with it a fine or jail time.
Davis’s decision came on a day of heated protests here. Dozens of supporters -- and critics -- of the county’s elected clerk gathered outside the courthouse, and at times inside the lobby, as gay couples tried, unsuccessfully, to get marriage licenses. After one couple was rebuffed, Davis emerged from a back office to explain that she would not be issuing any licenses.

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