Obergefell

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.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Year-beginner for 2017: Sarah Pulliam Bailey, and moi, see more battles over religious liberty

Year-beginner for 2017: Sarah Pulliam Bailey, and moi, see more battles over religious liberty

Ever since the 1980s, I have been telling editors and journalists that conflicts about religious liberty were going cause some of the biggest news stories on the American horizon.

Anyone who has been reading GetReligion since 2004 knows that I've been saying that, over and over. Amen If you listen to this week's "Crossroads" podcast, looking ahead into 2017, you're going to hear more about that. No apologies.

The roots of this concern run back to my graduate-school work in Baylor University's church-state studies program, where -- in 1977-78 -- we could hear the early rumblings of what would become Bob Jones University vs. United States case.

Why is that important? Do you remember this crucial moment in the U.S. Supreme Court Obergefell debates about same-sex marriage?

JUSTICE ALITO: Well, in the Bob Jones case, the Court held that a college was not entitled to tax­ exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating. So would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same­-sex marriage?
GENERAL VERRILLI: You know, I, I don't think I can answer that question without knowing more specifics, but it's certainly going to be an issue. I, I don't deny that. I don't deny that, Justice Alito. It is, it is going to be an issue.

That's why religion-beat patriarch Richard Ostling, in his recent pair of memos looking ahead to 2017, stressed that religious-liberty cases -- linked to LGBTQ issues, again -- would remain on the front burner for major American newsrooms. Click here and then here for those two Ostling posts.

You can see the same themes again, over and over, in the recent "Acts of Faith" year-beginner piece at The Washington Post by religion writer Sarah Pulliam Bailey (yes, a former member of the GetReligion team). The headline: "Here’s what we think will be the major religion stories of 2017." Here is the overture:

The new year could be turbulent for religion in America.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

RNA poll: Trump dominates 2016, but was not (#Really) Religion Newsmaker of the Year

RNA poll: Trump dominates 2016, but was not (#Really) Religion Newsmaker of the Year

So when did Citizen Donald Trump win the White House? 

You could make a case that it was when Hillary Rodham Clinton kept going to see the musical "Hamilton" over and over, rather than taking her husband's advice and making a few campaign trips to visit with angry working-class, labor-union Catholic families in the deeply depressed corners of Rust Belt states like Wisconsin and Michigan.

Or maybe the key moment in the cultural earthquake that topped this year's Religion News Association Top 10 religion-stories poll -- the subject of this week's Crossroads podcast -- actually took place in 2015.

That's what David Bernstein argued in a Washington Post analysis that ran with this headline: "The Supreme Court oral argument that cost Democrats the presidency." He argued that the crucial moment in this campaign took place on April 28, 2015, during debates at the U.S. Supreme Court (.pdf transcript here) that led to the 5-4 decision on the Obergefell same-sex marriage case.

JUSTICE ALITO:  Well, in the Bob Jones case, the Court held that a college was not entitled to tax­ exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating. So would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same­sex marriage?
GENERAL VERRILLI: You know, I, I don't think I can answer that question without knowing more specifics, but it's certainly going to be an issue. I, I don't deny that. I don't deny that, Justice Alito.  It is, it is going to be an issue.

From that moment on, argued Bernstein, it was clear that -- for millions of doctrinally conservative religious believers in various faiths -- the future of the Supreme Court and the First Amendment's free exercise of religion clause was going to be the No. 1 issue in the 2016 presidential race. I totally agree with his take on that. Hold that thought.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

While media focus on dangers to gays, anti-Trump mobs tear up the streets

While media focus on dangers to gays, anti-Trump mobs tear up the streets

Every so often, the New York Times gifts us with an article that breaks new ground in being so one-sided, off-the-rails and lacking in even the most elementary sense of fairness that one runs out of words to describe it.

While the Gray Lady runs pieces about how a country under Trump might turn out badly for the LGBTQ crowd, mobs of anti-Trump supporters recreated their own kind of media-friendly, multicultural riots a few nights ago on the streets of Portland, Ore. More on that in a moment. 

What the Times does is museum-quality Kellerism, a term created by tmatt several years ago to portray an attitude among the MSM. In this case, societal persecution of gays and lesbians is the prevailing narrative and other points of view, primarily linked to the First Amendment, don’t deserve space or explanation. It is a term that means that a media outlet that has made up its mind on a certain hot button issue to the point where there is no legitimate other side to the story. See if you can spot the Kellerism factor below:

The election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency sent panic through much of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, which for the first time in eight years will face an administration hostile to its civil rights goals and a president-elect who has expressed a desire to reverse many of its political gains.
Jay Brown, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights organization, said its office had received calls throughout the day on Wednesday from frightened people who wanted to know what the election results might mean for them.
Some callers wondered if they should speed up wedding plans so they could be married before the inauguration, in case a President Trump tries to overturn gay marriage, he said. Others worried that the military would reinstate “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the ban on openly gay and lesbian service members that ended in 2011.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Amid a barrage of slanted reporting, a smart, helpful take on religious freedom legislation

Amid a barrage of slanted reporting, a smart, helpful take on religious freedom legislation

Missouri. Georgia. North Carolina. Mississippi. Tennessee. Louisiana. 

Those are just a half-dozen of the states where recent legislation pitting gay rights vs. religious freedom has produced high-profile debates.

As any casual reader of GetReligion knows, much of the major media coverage has been incomplete and slanted (read: left leaning), with a few notable exceptions.

Most of our critiques focus on easy-to-spot crimes: The failure to give both sides a voice. The bias that using scare quotes shows. The editorialization that occurs via framing. 

Journalism 101 stuff, in other words.

So many news organizations struggle to cover this subject matter at even a basic level (much less provide context that includes, say, the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act). Given that low bar, we are even more surprised when we come across a story that truly advances the topic in an insightful way.

Enter religion writer Kelsey Dallas of the Deseret News National:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Nagging legal question: Will polygamy become the next same-sex marriage?

Nagging legal question: Will polygamy become the next same-sex marriage?

Future-gazingjournalists take note: The question above is the lede of an article in the April edition of First Things magazine.

Author John Witte Jr. devoutly hopes the answer is no.

Witte, the noted director of Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion, presents that viewpoint at length in “The Western Case for Monogamy over Polygamy” (Cambridge University Press). The issue arises due to the gradual legal toleration of adultery and non-marital partnering that culminated in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell opinion last June that extended such  liberty to same-sex marriage.

The high court’s wording leaves open whether polygamy laws still make sense. This is “becoming the newest front in the culture wars,” Witte writes, and legalization may seem “inevitable” after Obergefell. We've had federal district court rulings supporting religious polygamists that Utah is appealing at the 10th Circuit. The case involves a family from the “Sister Wives” cable TV show that has helped make polygamous families seem less offensive and more mainstream-ish.

Witte writes that aversion to homosexual partners has been based historically on religious teaching, but rejection of polygamy is quite different. Polygamy occurred in the Old Testament (and usually demonstrated resulting ills and family strife). But it was opposed by the non-biblical culture of classical Greece, and in modern times by Enlightenment liberals on wholly secular grounds. (For more on biblical and Mormon history, see this piece by the Religion Guy.)

Witte observes that multiple mates are the pattern among “more than 95 percent of all higher primates,” and yet human beings “have learned by natural inclination and hard experience that monogamy best accords with human needs.”

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Flashback 2015: Jewish news, an all-pope Top 10 list and trends on evangelical left

Flashback 2015: Jewish news, an all-pope Top 10 list and trends on evangelical left

OK, here is one final set of some Top 10 religion stories lists for the now distant 2015. If you have missed the previous installments, click here and then here to back up a post or two and catch up. There was also an end of the year "Crossroads" podcast.

One of the reasons that journalists dig into these kinds of lists, especially those prepared by leaders in specific religious flocks, is to learn about stories that may not have made headlines at mainstream news sites -- yet.

So here are three lists of this kind. Once again, please put any 2015 Top 10 lists that I missed in our comments pages.

We will start with A. James Rudin, a name familiar to all journalists who cover events and trends among Jews in North America and elsewhere. This Top 10 Jewish news events list was prepared for Religion News Service, but the link is to The Washington Post. You have Bernie Sanders, Nostra Aetate and a rabbi scandal or two. However, his top story is one that has been growing in importance for more than a decade, one sure to grow in importance with the rise of the Islamic State.

1. Anti-Semitic attacks escalate across Europe.
In January an Islamic terrorist killed four Jews inside a Paris kosher market, and in February a terrorist killed a synagogue guard in Copenhagen. The number of French Jews moving to Israel grew during the year.

Then there was this story, which our own Ira Rifkin flagged early on:

3. The BDS campaign gathers force.

In June, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ approved a resolution calling for the denomination to divest and boycott certain companies doing business with Israel.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Top 10 religion stories for 2015: How would Pope Francis have voted?

Top 10 religion stories for 2015: How would Pope Francis have voted?

No doubt about it, journalists really love Pope Francis. In many cases, they love the version of this pope that they have created through misquotes, partial quotes and by ignoring much of what he has to say. Hey, but who am I to judge?

Pope Francis had a lot to say during 2015 and, frankly, I thought that most of it was somewhat predictable, in terms of what we already knew about him. His sermons and addresses during the visit to Acela land in the media-rich American Northeast had lots of substance, but very few surprises.

So here is my question: Would Pope Francis think that he was the world's most important news story in 2015? I think not.

If you were looking for remarks by Francis that received little coverage, consider his steady stream of remarks about the persecution of religious minorities worldwide -- especially Christians in the Middle East. In the following quotes, drawn from a July sermon in a Mass with Eastern Catholics, he even comments on how the powerful have been ignoring this truly historic massacre:

“Dear brothers and sisters, there is no Christianity without persecution. Remember the last of the Beatitudes: when they bring you into the synagogues, and persecute you, revile you, this is the fate of a Christian. Today too, this happens before the whole world, with the complicit silence of many powerful leaders who could stop it. We are facing this Christian fate: go on the same path of Jesus.”
The Holy Father also remembered the broader persecution of Christians in the present day. “We now, in the newspapers, hear the horror of what some terrorist groups do, who slit the throats of people just because [their victims] are Christians. We think of the Egyptian martyrs, recently, on the Libyan coast, who were slaughtered while pronouncing the name of Jesus.”

During this week's "Crossroads" podcast, host Todd Wilken and I -- as is our end-of-the-year norm -- worked out way through the Religion Newswriters Association poll to pick the Top 10 religion-beat stories. Click here to tune that in.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Marco Rubio reaches out to believers, pushing something called the 'free exercise' of religion

Marco Rubio reaches out to believers, pushing something called the 'free exercise' of religion

If you are following the madness that is the GOP pre-primary season, then you know that one of the most interesting showdowns is over in the Cuban-American bracket, where Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio are facing off.

At the heart of that crucial battle is the bond between Cruz and large parts of the Sunbelt evangelical world, which is a huge advantage in crucial states such as Iowa, South Carolina and, of course, Texas. The Rubio people know that and have been making strategic moves to reach out to the world of cultural conservatives.

That effort is complicated, a bit, by two issues -- both of which are addressed in a recent New York Times news feature that ran under the headline, "As Marco Rubio Speaks of Faith, Evangelicals Keep Options Open."

The first issue is quite simple, and the Times team handles it quite well. Rubio's religious background is complex, to say the least. The world is not full of Cuban-Americans who were raised Catholic, converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and then went back to Catholicism, while also attending his wife's Southern Baptist congregation.

Also, The Times dedicates quite a bit of space to Rubio's ties to New York financier Paul Singer, a strong supporter of same-sex marriage causes.

This leads to the crucial passage in this report:

Mr. Rubio’s more open discussion about his religion is cracking a window into a part of his life he does not often discuss. Sometimes he goes on at length, as at the dinner in Des Moines, demonstrating a fluency with Scripture that surprises his audience. ...

Please respect our Commenting Policy