National Day of Prayer

Friday Five: End Times for GetReligion, WSJ tackles God on front pages, 'modesty ponchos' and more

Friday Five: End Times for GetReligion, WSJ tackles God on front pages, 'modesty ponchos' and more

We've reached the End Times.

OK, let me rephrase that: What I mean is that GetReligion has a cool new Twitter feature called the End Times.

What is the End Times? It's a daily thread put together by social media guru Peter Freeby that highlights both GetReligion posts and top religion stories from Twitter curated by Nuzzel.

Why is it called the End Times? Because it's "The end of the day's religion news." If you follow us on Twitter, be sure to check it out. If you don't follow us on Twitter, by all means, correct that now.

Now, let's dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: The San Antonio Express-News dispatched reporter Silvia Foster-Frau to Washington, D.C. to cover Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting survivors at the National Day of Prayer.

Once again, the front-page coverage Foster-Frau produced is a must-read winner — mixing relevant facts and context with authentic emotion.

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On the National Day of Prayer, there's faith-based news from the White House — and an RNS scoop

On the National Day of Prayer, there's faith-based news from the White House — and an RNS scoop

Hey, look at that: a scoop for Religion News Service.

Over the last week and a half, amid all the discussion about the firing of the RNS editor in chief and the resignations of its managing editor and a national correspondent, the wire service reportedly hired a crisis management PR firm.

But for a news organization, here's the best kind of PR: good journalism that breaks important news.

Enter Adelle Banks, RNS production editor and national correspondent since 1995, with a scoop that will surprise no one who has followed her award-winning career.

(Full disclosure: Banks has edited my RNS freelance pieces from time to time and always impressed me with her meticulous attention to detail.)

Banks broke the news Wednesday night that the White House would announce a new faith-based initiative coinciding with today's National Day of Prayer:

WASHINGTON (RNS) — President Trump plans to unveil a new initiative that aims to give faith groups a stronger voice within the federal government and serve as a watchdog for government overreach on religious liberty issues.

He is scheduled to sign an executive order on Thursday (May 3), the National Day of Prayer, “to ensure that the faith-based and community organizations that form the bedrock of our society have strong advocates in the White House and throughout the Federal Government,” a White House document reads.

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Let us not pray: Religion News Service eyes the National Day of Reason -- but not closely

Let us not pray: Religion News Service eyes the National Day of Reason -- but not closely

With the much-discussed Rise of the Nones has come a rise in demand for celebrations especially for them. Enter the National Day of Reason, championed since 2003 by the American Humanist Association and the Washington Area Secular Humanists.

That's today, according to the NDOR website; but the Religion News Service reports that its backers have been trying to get Congress to move it officially to May 4. Not coincidently, RNS notes, that's the National Day of Prayer, so declared by Congress and all presidents since 1952:

And that, says Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, is the problem.
"This is government recognition of prayer and that is wrong, no matter how you look at it," Speckhardt said. "Having a National Day of Reason on the same day says this is an example of a day the government can endorse that doesn’t exclude people based on their answers to a religious question."

The story cleverly connects some dots suggesting that the NDOR movement may be gaining traction. Those dots include the three sponsors of this year's congressional resolution (though it's been tied up in committee).

Also mentioned are the three states -- Iowa, Nebraska and Delaware -- that proclaimed the day on May 4 last year, and Iowa scheduled another one this year.  And groups "from San Diego to Portland, Maine" have held National Day of Reason events since 2011. RNS even notes that President Obama's National Day of Prayer proclamation last year "acknowledged Americans who 'practice no faith at all.' " Nice enterprise reporting, all of it.

Less enterprising is the article's sharp left turn into International Darwin Day, Feb. 12, and how it has grown in popularity since its founding in the 1990s. Apparently, the reason for adding it here is to say the NDOR folks hope to emulate its success. But the story appears to err in branding Darwin an atheist. Several biographies, including this one, say he called himself an agnostic instead.

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The second storytelling rule: Get the name of the church

The first storytelling rule: Get the name of the dog.

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