Lilly Fowler

Clueless in Seattle: Gay lawyer's lawsuit prompts no serious questions for reporters

Clueless in Seattle: Gay lawyer's lawsuit prompts no serious questions for reporters

Union Gospel Mission is probably Seattle’s most venerable charity. Starting with the Great Depression, it has an 85-year history with the Emerald City especially in terms of its help with the homeless and the addicted.

Also known as UGM, the mission has done the dirty week of patrolling the streets, helping clear homeless encampments and serving a city where homelessness grew by 7.3 percent last year. Seattle is third in the nation (behind New York and Los Angeles) in numbers of homeless even though it’s the 20th largest city in the country.

But no one seemed to figure out until recently that the “Gospel” in Union Gospel Mission meant the organization may have religious and moral standards for its employees. That is, until a gay lawyer tried to get a job there.

I’ll start with the Seattle Times account of what happened next, partly because it’s fairly long and it’s written by Christine Willmsen, who was one of the young reporters I oversaw as city editor of the Daily Times in Farmington, N.M. more than 20 years ago.

A bisexual Christian man is suing Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission after it refused to hire him because of his sexual orientation.
Union Gospel Mission, which has provided addiction recovery, one-on-one counseling, emergency shelter and legal support services for homeless people in King County since 1932, says employees must live by a “Biblical moral code.”
When a staff attorney position opened in October 2016 for the nonprofit, religion-based organization, mission volunteer Matthew Woods was encouraged to apply, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in King County Superior Court.
But as he started the application process, he disclosed he was in a same-sex relationship. David Mace, Union Gospel Mission’s managing attorney, told Woods, “sorry you won’t be able to apply,” because the Employee Code of Conduct prohibits homosexuality, the lawsuit says.

But Woods didn’t give up, deciding that a state law prohibiting job discrimination because of sexual orientation was more than enough ground to base a lawsuit on. Seattlepi.com explained how Union Gospel’s requirements for the job automatically excluded him.

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Livin' on a prayer: The good, the bad and the ugly in the world of religion writers, circa 2015

Livin' on a prayer: The good, the bad and the ugly in the world of religion writers, circa 2015

I won't bury the lede. The ugly is me.

I ate too many sausage biscuits and cheeseburgers this year as I feverishly cranked out four GetReligion posts a week. (Note to self: Must exercise more and eat less in 2016.)

But oh, I do love this part-time gig and count it a blessing to work with the likes of Terry Mattingly, Jim Davis, Julia Duin, Richard Ostling and Ira Rifkin.

While we at GetReligion mostly critique media coverage of religion news, we like to keep readers updated on happenings on the Godbeat itself.

Here are seven developments — some good, others bad — from 2015:

1. Jennifer Berry Hawes rocked — totally rocked — coverage of the mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.

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Are two more major American newspapers dropping the Godbeat? Say it ain't so

Are two more major American newspapers dropping the Godbeat? Say it ain't so

Tuesday marked religion writer Lilly Fowler's last day on the job at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

After less than two years with the Post-Dispatch, Fowler announced plans last week to join the PBS newsmagazine "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly."

So, does that mean there's a Godbeat opening at the Post-Dispatch, where Fowler — like her predecessor Tim Townsend — produced award-winning religion journalism?

Apparently not.

"I know there are no immediate plans," Fowler said of the St. Louis newspaper hiring a new religion writer. "Part of the reason I left is that they took me off my beat after the newsroom was recently offered buyouts."

That's unfortunate. 

I enjoyed interviewing Fowler last year on covering faith and the front lines in Ferguson, Mo., and wish her all the best in her new gig.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel religion writer Annysa Johnson revealed on Twitter that she won't be covering faith for the next year.

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You won't believe what just won a Wilbur Award for religion communication in secular media ...

You won't believe what just won a Wilbur Award for religion communication in secular media ...

Actually, you might believe it.

But who doesn't enjoy a little clickbait, right?

A year ago, in the intro to a 5Q+1 interview here at GetReligion, I wrote:

Jaweed Kaleem, the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Supple Religion Feature Writer of the Year, produces exceptional journalism on a regular basis. Don't be surprised if his latest story — in which he goes inside Pakistan to report on religious minorities — turns out to be one of the best religion news stories all year.
It's a must read.

Am I a prophet or what?

Kaleem's Pakistan story just won a Wilbur Award from the Religion Communicators Association.

Here's how the Religion Communicators Council — at whose convention I was honored to offer a keynote presentation in 2006 — describes the awards announced this week:

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5Q+1 interview: Godbeat pro Lilly Fowler on covering faith and the front lines in #Ferguson

5Q+1 interview: Godbeat pro Lilly Fowler on covering faith and the front lines in #Ferguson

"Everyone has an agenda."

That's one lesson Lilly Fowler said she has learned covering faith and the front lines in Ferguson, Missouri, the St. Louis suburb engulfed in racial unrest and sometimes violent protests 

Less than a year ago, Fowler joined the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as its full-time religion writer.

Born in Mexico and raised on the border of Arizona and Mexico, Fowler earned two master's degrees: one in theology from the University of Notre Dame and one in journalism from the University of Southern California. 

And she shared this personal note: "I like punk and psychedelic music!"

Q: What has been your role on the Ferguson story? What kind of hours has this required? 

A: I’m the religion reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, so my primary role has been to find the faith angles in Ferguson. But this has been an all-consuming story, with the entire newsroom working long hours, so I’ve often been deployed to cover stories outside the realm of religion. I recently covered Black Friday protests related to Ferguson, for example.

 

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Once again, #Ferguson defies easy analysis but demands solid journalism and context

Once again, #Ferguson defies easy analysis but demands solid journalism and context

Three months ago, the question was: "What the hell is happening in Ferguson, Mo.?"

Here we go again. 

I'm supposed to write a post this morning critiquing media coverage. But honestly, the situation at this point defies easy analysis and understanding.

Daniel Burke, editor of CNN's "Belief Blog," made an excellent point on Twitter: "Journalism, and context, are so crucial." Can our Godbeat friend get an "Amen!?"

I do know that some excellent religion writers are on the scene, including Lilly A. Fowler of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who has been tracking the faith angle in Ferguson for months and — after a late night — was back bright and early this morning.

CNN's Eric Marrapodi is in Ferguson, too. 

While his duties extend beyond religion, he's certainly attuned to that crucial angle.

If you see solid religion reporting in Ferguson or come across any holy ghosts, please don't hesitate to let us know — either in the comments section or via @getreligion.

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Five for Friday: Zombies and other Godbeat headlines that you may have missed

Five for Friday: Zombies and other Godbeat headlines that you may have missed

I'm on the road today, working on a story and planning to enjoy an authentic Philadelphia Cheesesteak.

Since I'm in a hurry, I thought this would be a good time to provide quick links — with limited commentary — to a handful of stories from my GetReligion guilt folder. 

What better way to start your Friday than with a faith angle on zombies, courtesy of award-winning religion writer Peggy Fletcher Stack of the Salt Lake Tribune?

 

The lede:

These days, you can see those lumbering, blood-drenched corpses with vacant eyes coming straight at you just about anywhere or anytime — not just at Halloween.
Zombie walks, as they are called, have become the most popular form of the grotesque genre. Folks dress up as the "undead" and stream down the street by the thousands. Such gory gangs periodically invade urban centers from Rio to Rome, Tokyo to Toronto and Sydney to Salt Lake City.
Zombies are even featured in their own wildly popular TV series, AMC’s "Walking Dead," which highlights the dilemma of a group of people facing enemies who had been their friends and neighbors.
Fascination with death and reanimation is not new, of course, but coming to life again has, in the past, been seen as a more, well, hopeful possibility.
This dark and fearsome image reflects a reversal of what Christians believe about resurrection, says John Morehead, a Utah-based scholar of religion and pop culture.

Next up: St. Louis Post-Dispatch Godbeat pro Lilly Fowler profiles a white female pastor who stands out in a predominantly black denomination and has been at the center of the Ferguson protests.

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In #Ferguson, a tale of two churches -- one white, one black

In #Ferguson, a tale of two churches -- one white, one black

The news in Ferguson, Mo., goes on and on and on.

I've highlighted coverage of the religion angle here and here, and I'll do so again in this post.

So far, I've found Twitter the best means to keep up with all the faith stories (by the way, follow all the GetReligionistas). 

Godbeat pro Lilly A. Fowler of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch remains on the scene, and Eric Marrapodi of CNN "Belief Blog" fame is there, too.

Former Post-Dispatch religion writer Tim Townsend tweeted a link to a Washington Post story that I found particularly compelling.

The Post story contrasts the stark differences Sunday at a white church sympathetic to the white police officer who shot Michael Brown and a black church mourning the young black man's death.

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Amen to this question: 'What the hell is happening in Ferguson, Mo.?'

Amen to this question: 'What the hell is happening in Ferguson, Mo.?'

In Ferguson, Mo. — dubbed "Baghdad, USA" by The Huffington Post and labeled a "A CITY ON EDGE" in a banner headline by today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch — Wednesday's arrests of two prominent journalists for the apparent crime of doing their jobs caused a Twitterstorm.

The social media outrage produced some, um, religious overtones.

"What the hell is happening in Ferguson, Mo.?" asked The Poynter Institute's Kelly McBride.

Those of us who write for GetReligion are religion journalists. But first of all, we are journalists. As such, I can't help but say "Amen!" to the question by McBride, a leading expert on media ethics.

Seeing photos like the Associated Press image tweeted by the Chicago Sun-Times, it's difficult to imagine that the scene unfolding in suburban St. Louis is actually happening right here in the United States of America.

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