Seattle

Muslim reporter helps the Seattle Times grasp the complexity of Ramadan in schools

Muslim reporter helps the Seattle Times grasp the complexity of Ramadan in schools

While zipping through the Seattle Times website for stories about religion, which are usually scarce, what should appear but a piece about how local schools are adapting to students who observe Ramadan while playing sports and attending graduation ceremonies.

The article showed an insider knowledge of local Muslims, a group most reporters would not have access to. It's pretty obvious when you are dealing with a reporter who is getting the details and facts right.

Investigating further, I saw one of the writers, Dahlia Bazzazz, is not only Muslim herself, but her family was from Iraq. She was born in Oregon, grew up close to my alma mater (Lewis & Clark College in Portland) and was editor-in-chief of the Daily Emerald, the student newspaper for the University of Oregon.

More recently, she’s been covering the education beat for the Seattle Times, which is how she came to write this:

As Renton High School seniors walked across the graduation stage on Wednesday, fellow graduate Sawda Mohamed stayed home with her family.

The 18-year-old had purchased her cap and gown, but earlier in the school year decided to skip the ceremony. Despite her mother’s protest, Mohamed described her choice as a fitting end to years of frustration she experienced in a school system she felt had little respect for her Muslim faith.

“Honestly, because everything I’ve dealt with in the past, just let it be,” Mohamed said earlier this week. “I bought the cap and gown for memories of the hard work and everything I accomplished, but it’s just not worth it at this point.”

This year, the most stressful time of the school year coincided with the holiest time for Mohamed: Ramadan, when Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset for a month in order to focus on spiritual growth, family and charity.

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Another faith angle with a Detroit Tigers pitcher: Free Press nails how Matthew Boyd raised his game

Another faith angle with a Detroit Tigers pitcher: Free Press nails how Matthew Boyd raised his game

Apparently, I'm not the only journalist interested in the faith of Detroit Tigers pitchers.

To refresh those who haven't committed all my baseball stories to memory: A few years ago, I interviewed Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris about his baptism in his uniform as a high school player.

Just a few weeks ago, I interviewed a different Tigers pitcher — Michael Fulmer — about the role of faith in his approach to baseball and life, including his offseason job as a part-time plumber.

And now — thanks to my friend Ron Hadfield, one of the world's most devoted Detroit fans — I have come across a feature about the faith of yet another Tigers pitcher: Matthew Boyd.

The recent Detroit Free Press story notes that Boyd has "raised his game."

How'd he do it?

Let's check out the subhead:

Family, faith, fatherhood have helped take Matthew Boyd to a new level over his eight starts for the Detroit Tigers this season

Alrighty. That sounds like a religion story.

Often, we at GetReligion complain about holy ghosts in sports stories. But in this case, give the Free Press credit for its willingness to focus on that angle.

The paper even quotes Boyd's pastor up high:

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For Amazon HQ: 'No gay, no way' cuts out those troublesome Bible Belt cities

For Amazon HQ: 'No gay, no way' cuts out those troublesome Bible Belt cities

Living east of Seattle as I do, I don’t ordinarily hang out near the Amazon headquarters 17 miles away. Then I was recently deputized to do a freelance story on Amazon’s new cashless grocery store.

The story, which ran 11 days ago in the Washington Post, brought me face-to-face with lines of Amazon employees, the new downtown botanical garden space in huge glass orbs known as the “Amazon spheres” (see my photo with this article) and the company’s search for another city in which to expand.

Many Seattleites are kind of glad that Amazon may have a footprint elsewhere, as its well-paid employees have helped send housing prices soaring 53 percent here in the past four years. At first we all thought Amazon was just looking at cities with lots of available real estate, lots of skilled workers, good tax deals, etc.

But then USA Today came out with a list of supposedly homophobic cities that Amazon should avoid.

Who knew that Amazon’s second headquarters had to be in a blue state?  USA Today tells us why:

SAN FRANCISCO — Gay-rights advocates plan a "No Gay? No Way!" campaign Thursday to pressure Amazon to avoid building its second headquarters in a state that does not protect its residents from discrimination for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Of the 20 cities on Amazon’s list of finalists, nine are in states with no anti-gay-discrimination laws, according to the campaign. They are Austin; Dallas; Nashville; Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis; Miami; Raleigh, N.C.; and the Washington suburbs of Northern Virginia.

Let’s see now, what do Austin, Dallas, Nashville, Atlanta and Raleigh have in common?

These are Bible Belt cities.

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Unitarian parking slots vs. the homeless makes for quirky story in The Seattle Times

Unitarian parking slots vs. the homeless makes for quirky story in The Seattle Times

Just over a week ago, I was complaining about how the massive Seattle Times project on homelessness was not spotlighting the religious element.

I spoke too soon. On Wednesday, a delicious story appeared with a cast of unusual players.

The villains are local Unitarians who are more obsessed with how the local trees are faring than the poor at their door. Everyone involved is all eco-conscious blue-state folks, but in the end, the bottom dollar is the bottom dollar.

Headlined “When do churches stop caring about people more than SUVs?” the story dishes out irony in buckets.

When University Unitarian Church leaders asked their congregation for thoughts on its $17 million renovation of their almost 60-year-old church in Ravenna, the response was mostly typical of a liberal Seattle church.
Will it have all-gender bathrooms? Could it be solar-powered, with electric-car charging stations? Is the new sanctuary ceiling too high, contributing to a corporate, rather than spiritual, feeling during worship?
Only one of the UUs -- a casual term for Unitarian Universalists, whose roots began in Christianity but count many agnostic and atheist churchgoers among their numbers -- asked about a cluster of three cottages on the property, which house 10 formerly homeless people. What would happen to them?
Preserving the houses and bringing them up to code would cost an additional million. Instead, the church will tear them down -- and replace them with 17 parking spots.

The reporter then interviews Brendi London, a resident who suffers from depression and PTSD, who will be displaced by the remodel, then a mental health specialist who tries to find housing for the poor in the city’s skyrocketing housing market. 

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Seattle Times and Associated Press focus on West Coast homeless, but with little faith factor

Seattle Times and Associated Press focus on West Coast homeless, but with little faith factor

Twice in recent months I’ve had neighbors over to dinner in my small rented condo in a Seattle suburb. And the topic that we all talked about non-stop? The impossible cost of housing in this area (a typical home costs $735K; condos average $378K) and the armies of growing homeless people around the Pacific Northwest.

I was in Oregon about two weeks ago and noticed the large amounts of people camping out on the streets overnight, as Portland’s homeless problem is as invasive as Seattle’s. Cities up and down the entire West Coast are in agony over this, as the sheer numbers of people on the street are outstripping local governments' ability to deal with them. The spending in King County (which embraces Seattle) alone is $195 million in dealing with a problem that’s not getting any better and which is documented in this city site.

In a series of Seattle Times stories that are part of the paper's Project Homeless, a two-year concentration on the problem that kicked off earlier this month, I’m finding an odd split personality. You see, the photos show religious content (that is, church groups helping the homeless), but the reporting in the main news stories does not. What's up with that?

Photos by Alan Berner show a man praying at the Catholic-run St. Martin de Porres shelter in south Seattle: a memorial to homeless in St. Martin’s chapel and bunkmates at the Union Gospel Mission’s shelter near Pioneer Square. But I couldn't find mention of what these places do other than be available.

The Associated Press has jumped onto the issue, stating that the entire West Coast is overwhelmed.

That struggle is not Seattle’s alone. A homeless crisis of unprecedented proportions is rocking the West Coast, and its victims are being left behind by the very things that mark the region’s success: soaring housing costs, rock-bottom vacancy rates and a roaring economy that waits for no one. All along the coast, elected officials are scrambling for solutions.
“I’ve got economically zero unemployment in my city, and I’ve got thousands of homeless people that actually are working and just can’t afford housing,” said Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien. “There’s nowhere for these folks to move to. Every time we open up a new place, it fills up.”

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Seattle Weekly offers the story of a heroic gay mayor and the 'prison' that is Catholicism

Seattle Weekly offers the story of a heroic gay mayor and the 'prison' that is Catholicism

The mayor of Seattle is a gay Catholic whose 2013 wedding to his male partner was at the local Episcopal cathedral. Ed Murray’s insistence on staying Catholic fascinated one editor at the Seattle Weekly to the point where he asked the mayor if Murray would expound on his faith.

The result was this nearly 4,000-word piece that ran about a month ago. The reporter stated up front that he didn’t wish to raise the issue of whether Murray was a “true” Catholic in terms of abiding by the doctrines of his faith, but instead learn why the mayor has stuck with a church that on many levels doesn’t want him. We will not read, in this long piece, what the church teaches about marriage and how the mayor flouts it.

Still, as far as I know, this is the only article anyone has done on the mayor’s faith journey. This is something the Seattle Times should have done years ago.

Thus, I am glad the Weekly stepped up to the plate, even though the premise is those who defy the teachings of the Catholic church are heroic while those who honor their vows to the church are, at best, robots.

After some intro paragraphs, the article picks up with:

Murray’s Catholic faith can seem a study in contradiction. Not only is he a practicing Catholic in a secular city, he is a gay man who has remained in a church that has been outright hostile toward homosexuality; he is a public official who seeks to follow the path of (Catholic Worker Movement foundress Dorothy) Day, who refused financial assistance from the government and declined to pay her taxes for years at a time; he is an impossibly busy man who says he feels closest to his Catholic faith when he is practicing quiet Benedictine meditation, which requires he wake at 5:30 a.m. if he has any hope of doing it at all.

After describing Murray’s childhood, it relates how he found certain Catholic institutions more gay-friendly than he had anticipated.

After graduating from high school, Murray attended St. Thomas Seminary in Kenmore, exploring the priesthood. After a year there, he decided against it, and finished his college studies at the University of Portland, a Catholic institution. There he got to know Trappist monks who introduced him to monastic worship, and counseled him on, among other things, his homosexuality, which he began to acknowledge in college. Far from the pious recriminations one might expect, Murray says that in college he was encouraged by priests to embrace that part of himself, rather that feel shame about it. It was further evidence, for Murray, that the Catholic Church, especially in its social-justice form, was a home for him, rather than the prison many people considered it.

“Many people?” Who does the reporter have in mind?

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Bigoted in Seattle? Anschutz-owned festival group blasted by Seattle Weekly

Bigoted in Seattle? Anschutz-owned festival group blasted by Seattle Weekly

Seattle’s Bumbershoot Festival is an annual end-of-the-summer party that takes over the area around Seattle Center every Labor Day weekend. It’s mainly art and music and an event my family used to attend before the crowds and traffic pushed us away. But lots of people still go.

It's a gathering free of politics -- or it was until the Seattle Weekly attacked the festival organizer in a recent piece headlined “Bigotry in the Spotlight.” The piece is about how the entertainment group that produces the festival is owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz. And because Anschutz funds conservative causes, he is, of course, anti-LGBT and a bigot.

We’ve written about Anschutz here and here and here. Anschutz is a devout Presbyterian and he’s also funded a lot of faith-friendly projects, such as Walden Media, which produced C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which came out as a movie 10 years ago. So here's how he's playing in one Seattle publication:

When Chick-fil-A announced plans for a Seattle store in 2013, mayoral candidates rushed to denounce the chain. Current mayor Ed Murray said he would “push” to keep the company out of town, and then-mayor Mike McGinn called its leader a bigot, due to CEO Dan Cathy’s financial support of groups opposed to same-sex marriage and his statements opposing it.
But a far bigger bankroller of conservative causes—including anti-LGBT groups—already does brisk business in Seattle. His name is Philip Anschutz, and he is the owner of Anschutz Entertainment Group, or AEG. AEG took over local festival Bumbershoot in 2015, which it produces in a multimillion-dollar partnership with the city. The city also handed over large portions of KeyArena’s management to AEG in 2008, splitting the venue’s revenues. That contract was renewed in 2015.

After adding that King County (which surrounds Seattle and its suburbs) is also in business with AEG, and that an AEG subsidiary company in California got reamed by lefty outlets such as Vice and the Huffington Post for not falling in line with LGBT demands, the article continues:

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Churches and the homeless: Oregon media do the best job crediting who's really helping out

Churches and the homeless: Oregon media do the best job crediting who's really helping out

Homelessness is a huge problem on the West Coast, which seems to be the nation’s new mecca for tent cities, shelters and encampments under the freeways. California alone has 25 percent of the nation’s homeless population and when the weather gets warm, a lot of them migrate north to Oregon and Washington.

Several mayors of large cities in three states met in December to figure out how to solve a problem that’s increasingly taking up public money and sidewalk space.

The Oregonian did a series on the problem a year ago, as Portland’s lenient policies on sidewalk residents –- along with a lack of low-cost housing –- have attracted a large population. Willamette Week recently compared Portland’s generous policies with other West Coast cities. And the homeless problem here in Seattle has become so epic, photographers are doing year-long projects about it.

As I’ve scanned bunches of articles on this phenomenon, I’ve noticed a dearth of mentions on the churches that are out there helping the homeless. There are some exceptions, such as this 2004 Los Angeles Times piece on Azusa Pacific University’s homeless outreach.

Note: I had to go back 12 years to find that one.

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Ghostbusters: Solving faith mystery of CEO who cut his $1 million salary to pay employees more

Ghostbusters: Solving faith mystery of CEO who cut his $1 million salary to pay employees more

Back in April, we spotted a holy ghost in the coverage of a Seattle CEO.

As you may recall, Gravity Payments founder Dan Price cut his own $1 million salary to pay all his employees at least $70,000 a year.

That post asked:

Could Price's weirdness have something to do with his Christian faith, if, as I am assuming, he is a Christian? A blurb on Seattle Pacific's website says one of the books that influenced him was"Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger."
My quick Googling didn't turn up any news reports that mention Price's religion. Nonetheless, I can't help but think a holy ghost might be haunting this story.

Three-plus months later, a GetReligion reader points us to an update from the New York Times.

Thank you for the tip, Christopher!

I must agree: This in-depth piece does a nice job of solving the faith mystery.

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