Paul Ryan

The holy ghost in House Speaker Paul Ryan's decision not to seek re-election

The holy ghost in House Speaker Paul Ryan's decision not to seek re-election

House Speaker Paul Ryan's surprising decision not to seek re-election?

It's all political.

It's all about the Trump factor.

At least that's the general tone of the mainstream news coverage that I've seen since the Wisconsin Republican announced his plans Wednesday.

But — and this isn't the first time GetReligion has asked this question concerning Ryan — is there a chance there's a holy ghost in this story? Could Ryan's faith just possibly be a factor — perhaps a major one — in his choice? Hang on a moment, and we'll explore those questions.

First, though, the crucial background. 

Here is an important part of what Ryan, 48, said concerning why he won't seek re-election:

This is my 20th year in Congress. My kids weren’t even born when I was first elected. Our oldest was 13 years old when I became speaker. Now all three of our kids are teenagers, and one thing I’ve learned about teenagers is their idea of an ideal weekend is not necessarily to spend all of their time with their parents.
What I realize is if I am here for one more term, my kids will only have ever known me as a weekend dad. I just can’t let that happen. So I will be setting new priorities in my life.

How did Ryan's desire to be more than a "weekend dad" play on major front pages today?

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Will the waning Barack Obama administration rewrite religious hiring rules?

Will the waning Barack Obama administration rewrite religious hiring rules?

Church-and-state disputes are a hot beat and it's getting hotter all the time.

We have religious objections over the government’s transgender bid to control school toilets and locker rooms nationwide, the Supreme Court’s bounce back of the Little Sisters’ “Obamacare” contraception case, states’ debates over whether merchants can decline gay wedding services on religious grounds, and much else.

Media coverage to date shows little interest in how church-state policy might be affected by a President Clinton, or a President Trump, or the jurists on Donald Trump’s recent Supreme Court list, or a Justice Merrick Garland. Will this be raised at a big June 9-11 “religious right” confab in D.C.? Speakers will include Trump and former challengers Cruz, Fiorina, Huckabee, Kasich, Paul, and Rubio, plus House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Meanwhile, interest groups are ardently lobbying the Obama Administration to change religious hiring policies during its waning days. At issue is application of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) under the 2007 “World Vision memorandum” (click for .pdf) from the Bush Administration’s Department of Justice.

World Vision, a major evangelical organization, had landed a $1.5 million grant to provide mentoring for at-risk youths. The memo ruled that it’s legal for such religious agencies fulfilling service programs through  federal grants to consider religious faith in their hiring. The Obama White House has thus far resisted pressure to abolish that policy, most recently in a Feb. 22 letter from ranking Democrats in the U.S. House.

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Spotting two Catholic 'ghosts' in the lives of Paul Ryan and David Daleiden

Spotting two Catholic 'ghosts' in the lives of Paul Ryan and David Daleiden

This week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in) is about "religion ghosts" in mainstream news, which is about as basic a GetReligion topic as you can get, seeing as how that was the subject of the very first post on this weblog back on Feb. 1, 2004.

In this case, host Todd Wilken and I were talking about posts in which I focused on Catholic ghosts in the lives of two public figures caught up in very big stories in the mainstream press.

First there was this one: "Spot a religion ghost? Paul Ryan is a busy father who wants to help raise his kids." And the second post was about the young man at the heart of the hidden-camera Planned Parenthood videos: "Washington Post meets David Daleiden, whose Catholic faith is less important than his socks."

In both cases, we were dealing with features stories that were supported to help readers understand what makes these men tick, when dealing with major moral and ethical issues. In both cases, their Catholic faith was all but ignored.

Which brings us back to that "ghost" concept, as explained on GetReligion Day 1. Let us attend:

Day after day, millions of Americans who frequent pews see ghosts when they pick up their newspapers or turn on television news.
They read stories that are important to their lives, yet they seem to catch fleeting glimpses of other characters or other plots between the lines. There seem to be other ideas or influences hiding there.
One minute they are there. The next they are gone. There are ghosts in there, hiding in the ink and the pixels.

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Spot a religion ghost? Paul Ryan is a busy father who wants to help raise his kids

Spot a religion ghost? Paul Ryan is a busy father who wants to help raise his kids

Here is an important "political" question for you (I say that in snark mode): When dealing with Catholics in the Republican Party, is their faith only worth mentioning when it is part of (a) references to their strange, culturally speaking, beliefs on issues of moral theology or (b) when they clash with good, progressive Catholics who are on the other side of the political aisle?

I certainly agree that it is fair game to ask GOP Catholics questions about how their faith influences their views on, let's say, the death penalty, immigration and health care. I say that because I think it's important -- for the same doctrinal reasons (see the Pope Francis address to the U.S. Congress) -- to keep asking Catholics in the Democratic Party obvious questions such as abortion, euthanasia and religious liberty. Oh, and the death penalty, as well.

It's a worldview thing, you see. Catholicism is a massive force in the lives of people who actually try to live it out and that would certainly be true when you are talking about the life of a political leader.

This would be true to ask faith questions if one was writing about a relatively young Catholic father who is trying to make a career choice that would almost certainly pull him away from his family more than the political post that he already holds.

Let's say, for example, that this young father is trying to decide whether to become Speaker of the House.

Now, run an online search for the terms "Paul Ryan" and "Catholic" and you will get all kinds of things.

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There's cheese, but where's religious beef in New York Times story on Scott Walker and Paul Ryan?

There's cheese, but where's religious beef in New York Times story on Scott Walker and Paul Ryan?

In the mid-1980s, I played tuba in the band, edited my high school newspaper and donned an ugly maroon McDonald's uniform at night and on weekends.

I never worked so hard as I did sticking buns in the toaster, dropping frozen patties on the grill and arranging condiments on thousands of cheeseburgers, Quarter Pounders and Big Macs.

I definitely earned my minimum wage of $3.35 an hour and was elated when I got a 50-cent raise to $3.85 after just a few months.

In a recent story, The New York Times highlighted two other men in their mid-40s who gained real-world experience under the Golden Arches.

You may have heard of them.

The lede:

DELAVAN, Wis. — Who could have guessed in the mid-1980s, at a pair of otherwise forgettable McDonald’s restaurants some 20 miles apart, that two bushy-haired teenagers working the burger grills would become Wisconsin’s most powerful Republicans?
Scott Walker, 47, now the governor and a likely presidential candidate, was a record-setting track star with a mean mullet when he donned the McDonald’s uniform — black pants, white shirt, long black tie — to make Big Macs here in his hometown.
Paul D. Ryan, 45, now a powerful United States representative who was the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2012, suited up with something greater in mind in nearby Janesville: operating the front register. One dark day, though, Mr. Ryan’s manager told him that he lacked the “interpersonal skills” to deal with customers — and into the kitchen he went.
Mr. Walker tells that story of a young Mr. Ryan to virtually every Republican crowd he meets as he prepares for his campaign for president, sprinkling his biography with some of the gold dust Mr. Ryan has accrued as a favorite of conservatives — and as the better-known name, from his three months as Mitt Romney’s running mate.

Keep reading, and the Times indicates that Walker and Ryan have a bond that goes beyond McDonald's burgers and Wisconsin cheese.

Yes, there's a religion angle:

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Why didn't Catholic bishops call Biden out by name?

I’m on the road right now, in Montana, and haven’t had a chance to catch Saturday Night Live yet but apparently in the comedy show’s skit on the Vice Presidential debate, the Joe Biden character said:

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Yes, you can ask tough questions of pro-choice candidates

Last night was the only Vice Presidential debate we’ll get in this cycle. Almost all of that debate and attendant media coverage is outside the purview of this blog. But right there at the end, the moderator got into religion. Although the answers the candidates gave were interesting, let’s focus simply on the questions from journalist Martha Raddatz:

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