Philadelphia Inquirer

Rider University dumps Chick-fil-A, a professor resigns and the coverage is so-so

Rider University dumps Chick-fil-A, a professor resigns and the coverage is so-so

Now this is different: The dean of a university in New Jersey quits her job because she’s fed up with her employer’s anti-Christian bias disguised as a dislike for the Christian-owned Chick-fil-A restaurant franchise.

We’re reported before about how Chick-fil-A is a favorite whipping boy for a lot of media.

We noted that the chain stayed open on Sunday to accommodate desperate travelers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in late 2017. The year before that, in a highly symbolic act, Chick-fil-A people went to work on Sunday to provide food for people donating blood after the massacre at the Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. And Chick-Fil-A pays its workers well over minimum wage.

But that doesn’t get brought up often. Instead, the chain is portrayed as anti-gay, as you’ll see from this short CNN story.

Finally, one woman said “enough.” And as you see from Twitter, everyone from Franklin Graham to Relevant magazine is commenting on it.

(CNN) A dean at Rider University in New Jersey is stepping down from her post after the school decided to drop Chick-fil-A from a list of possible campus additions. The school's reasoning, says Dean Cynthia Newman, is an affront to her Christian beliefs.

Rider announced in November that it would no longer consider the fast food chain as a new campus restaurant option "based on the company's record widely perceived to be in opposition to the LGBTQ+ community."

The restaurant chain had previously been one of the choices included in a survey sent to students about potential restaurant vendors.

Newman obviously read the small print and felt that what Rider was saying about Chick-fil-A could be applied to a lot of Christians.

Newman, the dean of college of business administration, said in a resignation announcement shared with the university's student newspaper that the school had made a "judgmental statement about Chick-fil-A's values -- values that reflect the essence of the Christian as well as other faiths."

Newman wrote that she asked administrators to apologize for offending Christians, but ultimately decided to step down after the university stuck to its original stance.

The crime committed by the founders of Chick-fil-A’s s to oppose gay marriage, a stance that reflects what most major religions say about homosexual relationships. Note that the key actions supporting traditional marriage were taken by the foundation operated by the family that built this chain — not the chain itself.

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Who will protect sheep from shepherds? Inquirer and Globe team spotlights sins of many bishops

Who will protect sheep from shepherds? Inquirer and Globe team spotlights sins of many bishops

I’m not sure that we’re talking about a true sequel to the massive 2002 Boston Globe “Spotlight” series about sexual abuse of children and teens by Catholic priests.

Still, there’s no question that journalists at The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Globe have — working together — produced a disturbing report documenting the efforts of many U.S. Catholic bishops to hide abusive priests or, at the very least, to avoid investigations of their own sins and crimes during these scandals.

The dramatic double-decker headline at the Inquirer says a lot, pointing readers to the key fact — that U.S. bishops keep stressing that only Rome’s powers that be can discipline bishops, archbishops and cardinals::

Failure at the top

America’s Catholic bishops vowed to remove abusive priests in 2002. In the years that followed, they failed to police themselves.

For the most part, this report avoids pinning simplistic political and doctrinal labels on Catholic shepherds who are, to varying degrees, involved in this story.

If you know any of the players mentioned in this report, you will recognize that it offers more evidence — as if it was needed — that this scandal is too big to be described in terms of “left” and “right.”.

I am sure that critics more qualified than me will find some holes and stereotypes. Experts will be able to connect the dots and see the networks that protected abusers or even produced them. Informed readers can do this, because the Globe-Inquirer team consistently names names. We will come back to one interesting exception to that rule.

Another point: It really would have helped if editors had acknowledged that there are valid theological, as well as legal, issues in this fight. Yes, there are bishops who have used centuries of theology about the role the episcopate plays in the church as a defense mechanism to hide their actions. However, this doesn’t mean that the theological issues are not real. Maybe call a theologian or historian — or several?

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Clergy sex abuse in Pennsylvania: Media scramble to unearth bombshell report

Clergy sex abuse in Pennsylvania: Media scramble to unearth bombshell report

In newspapers across Pennsylvania, many Sunday editorial pages were filled with angry protests against the Catholic Church and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The reason?

Everyone had been waiting for a huge grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse in six dioceses (Greensburg, Pittsburgh, Erie, Harrisburg, Allentown and Scranton) across the state.

In this case, it's crucial to note that even the leaders of the various Catholic dioceses -- not to mention the victims -- wanted this 800-page report released. But then last Wednesday, the state supreme court ordered it sealed.

I’ll start with an excerpt from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, for which I freelanced briefly for in the early 1990s. They weren’t into religion reporting back then, but sexual abuse stories aren’t just about religion. They’re about the courts, about the police, about sex, money and power.

Victims of clergy sexual abuse and their attorneys were stunned last week at news that the report would not be made public. The grand jury investigation examined decades of allegations of abuse and cover-ups in six Catholic dioceses across the state, including Pittsburgh and Greensburg.

“They're hurt, and a lot of them will say to me, ‘Mark, this is what they have done to me from day one. When I finally was able to talk about it, they hired an investigator to silence me,' ” (State Rep. Mark) Rozzi said of other victims.

Rozzi was raped at the age of 13 by a priest.

(Altoona lawyer Richard) Serbin, who identified 106 suspected predator priests for the Attorney General's investigators, set the stage for many of the state's early laws involving child sexual abuse when he filed suit against the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese 31 years ago. The suit established Serbin as a victims' advocate. He said he went on to represent nearly 300 victims of clergy sexual abuse over the next 30 years.

If anyone doesn’t believe people are angry about this, try looking at all the comments (34 at present, which is a lot for this blog) underneath my Cardinal Theodore McCarrick post from last Thursday. The anger out there is as strong as it ever was.

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Religion ghost in Philadelphia Eagles quarterback room: Was faith part of Super Bowl facts?

Religion ghost in Philadelphia Eagles quarterback room: Was faith part of Super Bowl facts?

Sports journalists had to work hard to avoid the religion ghosts in Super Bowl LII.

Nevertheless, most of them seem to have succeeded in doing so. That's strange, since it's easy to make a case that religious faith was a key factor in the chemistry behind the amazing Eagles victory. We are not talking about evangelism here, we're talking about football facts.

Let it be noted that here was a substantial wave of Godtalk coverage just before this high holy day on the American cultural calendar. Click here for a GetReligion summary of that -- including the Bob Smietana Acts of Faith piece in The Washington Post, which had lots of details on the Bible study and baptism culture in the Philadelphia Eagles locker room.

There was even a solid religion-angle in the annual battle of the Super Bowl ads, as in that bizarre spot featuring some very religious and very famous words from the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here's the top of the solid USA Today piece on that:

When Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a sermon imploring hearers to imitate the servanthood of Jesus, he probably didn't envision them buying Ram trucks to do so. And yet there was King's voice Sunday night, booming through millions of TV speakers during Ram's latest Super Bowl ad:

"If you want to be important -- wonderful. If you want to be recognized -- wonderful. If you want to be great -- wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness."

What was the precise meaning of "servant" in this context?

Anyway, back to strong role that Christian faith and community service played in holding this Eagles squad together in a year in which many key players were lost with injuries, including its young superstar quarterback.

Now, I would assume that sports-beat pros covering this kind of event pay careful attention to the hometown papers for both participating teams. That would mean that lots of folks saw the pregame piece by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Marcus Hayes talking about the faith-bond between the Eagles QBs -- all of them. The overture is long, but the detail matters on several levels.

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Shooting 'devils': What beliefs drove the Baton Rouge police killer?

Shooting 'devils': What beliefs drove the Baton Rouge police killer?

While the Trumpification of the GOP held the attention of many mainstream media, some were probing the warped mind of Gavin Long, who shot three police officers in Baton Rouge before being shot dead himself. Their chilling discoveries are reported in well-crafted articles, especially in the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Here are some of the spiritual currents they found coursing through the killer's mind:

* He returned from a visit to Africa saying that fasting and abstaining from sex, activated his pineal gland and "opened a third eye of wisdom."

* He began calling himself Ausar Setepenra, a reference to two Egyptian gods.

* He claimed membership in a group of African Americans who say they're a "sovereign Native American tribe."

* The world is "run by devils," in his view.

Of the articles, the Post's -- with six reporters writing 1,400 words -- is the most ambitious. It tries to track his movements over his last few weeks:

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Reporter does it all: gushes over Francis, receives blessing, covers papal trip for CNN

Reporter does it all: gushes over Francis, receives blessing, covers papal trip for CNN

In journalism, some rules are pretty clear.

White House correspondents don't wave campaign signs for the president.

Sports journalists don't ask athletes for autographs.

And reporters aboard the papal plane don't gush over the pope, receive blessings from him and offer him gifts.

Oh, wait ...

Rosa Flores is a CNN correspondent covering Pope Francis' visit to Cuba and the United States. And she's downright giddy about meeting the pope — and receiving a blessing from him.

Think I'm exaggerating? Check out this on-air exchange between Flores and CNN anchor Poppy Harlow: 

From a transcript of that conversation:

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Our Rosa Flores is live in Havana. She has the extraordinary job of flying with the pope from Rome to Havana. She will be with him on this entire trip. 

Rosa, I have to begin as you tell me about this remarkable experience with showing everyone the photograph of the pope blessing you. What was it like?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it was just such an incredible moment, Poppy. I really have no words to describe it other than he has just so much grace with people. We spent about 45 seconds together. We joked a little bit about actually a friend of his, a priest that I talked to before I got on the plane. And the priest told me, you know, "Give him a hug for me, Rosa. I didn't dare to hug a Holy Father. Let me just put it that way." But then the Holy Father goes on to tell me, Poppy, hear this. He says -- "This father, how dare he come to me two days before the conclave and ask me how I'm doing." He's like, who in their right mind would ask me that. Oh, with just such emotion, Poppy. Everybody around us. I can't wait to show you this video, because everybody just starts laughing. And then I had a tiny token, a small gift for the Holy Father. As you probably know, Mexican Catholics are very devout to Our Lady of Guadalupe, so I brought a little prayer for him, because, of course, I'm Mexican, Mexican-American. So you should see his face. As soon as he sees it, he grabs my prayer card from my hand, he starts kissing it. Oh, I almost went speechless, because I wanted to chat with him and I'm looking at the pope and he is just lighting up, looking at Our Lady of Guadalupe. Then, of course, I asked him for his blessing, and that's the picture that you were able to see. 

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Philadelphia Inquirer runs a charming profile on a papal visit organizer

Philadelphia Inquirer runs a charming profile on a papal visit organizer

"Stuff." It's so easy to get wrapped up in the "stuff." Issues, arguments, religious "ghosts." Easy to forget that when you talk religion, you're talking about people.

Well, the Philadelphia Inquirer remembered, with a delightful feature on Donna Crilley Farrell, who is pulling together preparations for Pope Francis' visit in September.

The Inquirer presents Farrell as executive director of the World Meeting of Families, responsible for 15,000 who will attend the meeting -- and 10 times that many who will see the pope at an outdoor Mass. It presents her also as a personable 51-year-old who takes time for her twin children and, among other footwear, owns a pair of pink sneakers.

Although this is a profile, the article doesn't forget to show the size of Farrell's job:

Farrell leads a 15-committee organization with staff members and a corps of consultants who are overseeing every logistical component of the World Meeting of Families, set for Sept. 22-25, and Pope Francis' visit. The pontiff is scheduled to attend a family festival Saturday, Sept. 26, on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and lead Sunday Mass the next day outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The archdiocesan team is dealing with issues including transportation (5,000 buses may travel to the city), lodging (the team needs host families, one of Farrell's biggest concerns at the moment), communication (conference delegates from 150 nations are expected), the media (5,000 to 7,000 journalists are coming), and security (the Secret Service, in charge of security, meets daily with local, state, and federal government agencies).

Who is this live wire? Impressive professionally, as the story says: former TV reporter, former production assistant at NBC, with experience in corporate p.r. But it also teases out more personal details, like a "quick prayer and exercise in the morning," or continuing to speak smoothly after dropping a water bottle on camera.

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Interfaith leaders drone about airstrikes, and media let them

Interfaith leaders drone about airstrikes, and media let them

Military drones got bombarded by a squadron of religious leaders, and the controversy got dutiful coverage.  But it's only a controversy, you know, if people disagree.

On that count, I give a B+ to coverage of the recent Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare at Princeton University. The media quote the conferees but acknowledge that not everyone sides with them. Who and why, though, isn't always spelled out.

A gold star to the Religion News Service for crisp, wire-style reporting, packing facts and balance in less than 500 words. Here are the first two paragraphs:

For the Obama administration and the Bush administration before it, drone strikes kill terrorists before terrorists can kill innocents, and the strikes keep American soldiers out of harm’s way.
But for a group of faith leaders, drones are a crude tool of death that make killing as easy as shooting a video game villain, and they put innocents in harm’s way.

The story has a wealth of details, including the "150 ministers, priests, imams, rabbis and other faith leaders" at the conference. It notes that many of them also met at Princeton in 2006 to denounce American torture against suspects. And it has some stark quotes like one from the Rev. Richard Killmer, project director: "Drones have become a weapon of first resort and not last resort. It has made it a lot easier to go to war."

RNS also uses the time-honored method of bulleted paragraphs to highlight what the conferees want:

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On Hobby Lobby, explain that 'deeply held religious belief'

On Hobby Lobby, explain that 'deeply held religious belief'

You got so close,Philadelphia Inquirer.

You got so close to a fair, enlightening news story on a Democratic senator who says he opposes abortion but rejects the religious concerns raised by Hobby Lobby in its recent U.S. Supreme Court win.

But here's where you fell way short: in providing crucial details concerning the actual religious objections involved. Your story seems to get politics. Religion? Not so much.

The Inquirer report, of course, was published before a Democratic bill to reverse the high court's Hobby Lobby ruling failed in the Senate Wednesday.

Let's start at the top:

WASHINGTON — Sen. Bob Casey, an antiabortion Democrat, plans to vote Wednesday for a bill that would overturn the Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby decision and force most businesses to offer employees the full range of contraceptive coverage, even if the owners raise religious objections.

The Pennsylvanian is siding with fellow Democrats - who argue that they are protecting women's right to decide their own health care - and against many religious groups and Republicans, who say the court ruling protected religious liberties.

Casey, who is Catholic, said Tuesday in an Inquirer interview that he draws a distinction between abortion - which he still opposes - and contraception, which he has long supported and which he believes can reduce the number of abortions.

"The health-care service that's at issue here is contraception, which means prior to conception," Casey said.

But abortion has been a central part of the Hobby Lobby firestorm, which has also touched on health care, religious freedom, individual rights, and election-year politics.

OK, fair enough. Casey believes that the contraception involved here "means prior to conception." But what do Hobby Lobby's owners believe? Don't expect an answer anytime soon in this story.

More from Casey:

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