The Advocate

Arizona media sizzle over whether calligraphers can decline to create gay wedding invites

Arizona media sizzle over whether calligraphers can decline to create gay wedding invites

Lawsuits involving gay plaintiffs and businesses in the wedding industry are plentiful these days. Usually these cases involve a jilted couple whose bakery, event destination or photographer wants no part of the nuptials for religious reasons.

But this time around, a pair of Phoenix calligraphers sued the city's human rights ordinance, saying they have a right to turn down requests to create gay-themed custom-designed invites. The state Supreme court ruled in their favor on Monday.

How did the mainstream press respond? Did this story get covered as news or did it draw editorial lightning bolts and that’s that?

We'll start with the Arizona Republic's news story with the headline: Phoenix artists don't have to make LGBTQ wedding invitations, Arizona Supreme Court rules.”

A Phoenix ordinance that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination cannot be used to force artists to create custom wedding invitations for same-sex couples, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Monday. The high court's decision overturns multiple lower-court decisions that protected the portion of Phoenix's nondiscrimination ordinance that applies to the LGBTQ community. An attorney for Phoenix insisted that the ruling was narrow and did not strike down the city law. Rather, the court ruled that "one company" could refuse to make "one type of product" for LGBTQ couples, he said.

"Today's decision is not a win, but it is not a loss. It means we will continue to have a debate over equality in this community," Mayor Kate Gallego said. However, LGBTQ community advocates fear that the decision, however narrow, creates a pathway for other lawsuits. "This decision opens the door for other bigoted owners to outright discriminate against LGBTQ people for who we are and who we love," Brianna Westbrook, vice-chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, tweeted after the ruling.

Not only are the plaintiffs not even mentioned until one-third of the way through the piece, there is no reaction from conservative First Amendment groups.

The only POVs provided are from left of center.

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Once again, Pope Francis fails to make headlines (with conservative words on sex)

Once again, Pope Francis fails to make headlines (with conservative words on sex)

As a rule, controversial statements by the Pope of Rome tend to make news.

As a rule, controversial statements by the current occupant of the throne of St. Peter make news.

Do I really need to note that, as a rule, controversial statements by Pope Francis about sexuality almost always inspire headlines in major news sources?

With that in mind, raise your cyber-hand (leave a comment even) if you have read the following information reported in a mainstream news source in the past few days — especially in elite media, either printed on dead-tree pulp or in any electronic form.

Meanwhile, the following is from the Catholic News Service, as printed in the conservative National Catholic Register:

“The issue of homosexuality is a very serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with the candidates, if that is the case. We have to be exacting. In our societies it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable and that mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the Church,” the Pope says in the book The Strength of a Vocation, set to be released Dec. 3 in 10 languages.

In an excerpt from the book, released Friday by Religión Digital, the Pope said he is concerned about the issue of evaluating and forming people with homosexual tendencies in the clergy and consecrated life.

“This is something I am concerned about, because perhaps at one time it did not receive much attention,” he said.

Francis said that with candidates for the priesthood or religious life “we have to take great care during formation in the human and affective maturity. We have to seriously discern, and listen to the voice of experience that the Church also has. When care is not taken in discerning all of this, problems increase. As I said before, it can happen that at the time perhaps they didn't exhibit [that tendency], but later on it comes out.”

“The issue of homosexuality is a very serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with the candidates, if that is the case,” the Pope reiterated.

Wait, there is more to this nuanced, but still newsworthy, statement.

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Time to play 'Name That Newsroom,' as Pope Francis defends old doctrines on gender

Time to play 'Name That Newsroom,' as Pope Francis defends old doctrines on gender

That Pope Francis is certainly a headline maker.

Consider, for example, the current news mini-explosion about his proclamation that the death penalty is "contrary to the Gospel."

That's news and there's no doubt about it. In this case, a few -- but not all -- journalists covering the story quickly grasped that this statement had something to do with a highly troubling religious word, as in "doctrine." After all, there is this passage in the current edition of the Catholic Catechism:

Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

Now, this is not the normal kind of controversy that surrounds Pope Francis, when it comes to news coverage.

Most of the time, as your GetReligionistas have noted many times, what is interesting is to notice the degree to which some of the pope's comments make major news and some do not. You know, like the fact that there are, at the moment, almost a half million Google hits when you search for the phrase "Who am I to judge?"

With that in mind, let's play a little news game linked to the papacy. No, we're not going to play "Name that Pope," comparing quotations from Pope Francis with similar statements from Pope Benedict XVI.

No, this time we are going to play, "Name that Newsroom."

The goal is to figure out which of the following recent headlines and overtures is from a mainstream news magazine and which is from one of the top publications serving the niche-news needs of the LGBTQ community. The hook for these reports is the latest Pope Francis statement defending church teachings on gender.

Ready. Let's start with this headline:

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Red Cross won't let Louisiana cop pray with flood victims? Please, news media, tell us more

Red Cross won't let Louisiana cop pray with flood victims? Please, news media, tell us more

In flood-stricken Louisiana, the American Red Cross has got trouble — with a capital "T."

Rebekah Allen of the Baton Rouge Advocate outlines the issues in an excellent news story.

Among the general concerns are claims, which the Red Cross denies, that the organization has kept donated supplies from evacuees and even allowed victims to go hungry. You really need to read the full story to understand what's happening.

But the nugget that drew our attention surfaces about two-thirds into the in-depth report.

Beyond the questions over meals and supplies, yes, a religious freedom question arises.

Check out these three paragraphs:

Capt. Clay Higgins, a reserve Lafayette city marshal who is running for Congress, posted a video of himself on Facebook saying he had tried to visit with evacuees and pray with them at the Heymann Center in Lafayette and was asked to leave by the Red Cross.
"Red Cross people here are great, but they have Red Cross rules they have to follow," he said in the video. "A man can't walk around the shelter and offer love and prayer for people who have been displaced." 
(Nancy Malone, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross) acknowledged that the organization does have a policy intended to be respectful of all faiths, but she said if Higgins had approached managers they would have accommodated him. 

A hat tip to Rod "Friend of this Blog" Dreher, who first posted about this story on his blog at the American Conservative:

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Young, gay Mormons and suicide: The Salt Lake Tribune tries to do the real numbers

Young, gay Mormons and suicide: The Salt Lake Tribune tries to do the real numbers

It was one of the odder headlines I’ve seen lately: "Suicide fears, if not actual suicides, rise in wake of Mormon same-sex policy."

Underneath is a narrative of how last fall’s announcement of a revised policy on membership requirements for gay Mormons may have vastly increased Utah suicides.

After seven paragraphs came the whopper: The premise behind the story has no basis in fact. But it sounded true. It may still be true. Lots of observers think it's true.

We've heard this before: Truthiness strikes again. We can debate the facts later.

It’s not the way I would have written such a piece, but it does draw you in. You almost have to read the entire overture up to the clincher paragraph to see how it is done. Here’s how it starts:

The fears were there right from the start -- that the LDS Church's new policy on same-sex couples would make gay Mormons feel more judged, more marginalized, more misunderstood and that more of them would take their own lives.
Since early November -- when the edict labeling gay LDS couples as "apostates" and denying their children baptism until age 18 took hold -- social media sites have been buzzing with tales of loss, depression and death. Therapists have seen an uptick in clients who reported suicidal thoughts. Activists have been bombarded with grief-stricken family members seeking comfort and counsel.
Wendy Williams Montgomery, an Arizona-based Mormon mom with a gay son, says she began receiving email or Facebook messages from bereaved families nearly daily, mourning a loved one's suicide.

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A Catholic school vs. a gay cafeteria manager: Why media are siding with him

A Catholic school vs. a gay cafeteria manager: Why media are siding with him

Here we are again with a story line that seems to repeat itself at least once a month these days: Catholic school takes a firm stand on gay employees and decides to 1. Tighten up their code of conduct or 2. Actually ask certain employees to leave or 3. Refuse to hire publicly homosexual employees. The staff or students then decide to 1. Sign petitions or stage demonstrations or 2. Go to the media or maybe the local bishop and 3. File a lawsuit.

Reporters cover the would-be, present or former employees as sacrificial lambs ready to be roasted by the Inquisition. They 1. Mostly quote one side, usually the more telegenic one that says they are being discriminated against and 2. Fail to look up the school’s employee manual and any agreements employees agreed to adhere to when they signed on and 3. Insist that if Pope Francis was around, he would embrace everyone and 4. Run a disapproving editorial on said college or school.

But the school that I’ll be covering in this piece is a bit different. As the Associated Press described it:

BOSTON -- An all-girls Catholic prep school in Massachusetts violated state anti-discrimination law by rescinding a job offer to a man in a same-sex marriage, a judge ruled.

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Inside Higher Education takes lazy road on covering sex and theology at Biola University

Inside Higher Education takes lazy road on covering sex and theology at Biola University

 

A short article in Inside Higher Education drew our attention this week, as it talks about Biola University going against the grain in contemporary American culture by strengthening its public opposition to sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

Once again, the key here is the school's statement of Christian doctrine -- as opposed to a set of legal "rules" -- that define it as a voluntary association of believers.

Biola is a private liberal arts Christian college in La Mirada, a suburb of Los Angeles that was described thusly by Inside Higher Education:

A few Christian colleges have moved in 2015 to change their rules to permit the hiring in some circumstances of gay and lesbian faculty members. Those colleges are in the distinct minority among evangelical colleges, most of which require faculty members, employees and students to abide by conduct codes that bar any sex except in heterosexual marriage.
At least one Christian institution in California, Biola University, has responded to shifts in public attitudes about sexuality and gender identity by twice in recent years making its rules more strict. While the university characterizes the changes as clarifications, some gay and lesbian employees have complained that the additions make it more difficult for them to sign a required statement that indicates their adherence to the college's rules.

 

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Francis the homophile

With but a few exceptions, the “Francis is nicer than Benedict” meme continues to entrance the Anglophone press. It appears that many who were once hostile to the Catholic Church have been encouraged to see in the new pontiff a reflection of their own social and political desires. Some of these assertions about what the pope believes and what he will do as head of the Catholic Church have bordered on the fantastic.

In choosing the pope as its “person of the year”, Time magazine’s editor Nancy Gibb wrote Francis had:

done something remarkable: he has not changed the words, but he’s changed the music.

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