The Indianapolis Star

Is there a holy ghost in Andrew Luck's shocking decision to retire? His comments made us wonder

Is there a holy ghost in Andrew Luck's shocking decision to retire? His comments made us wonder

I don’t follow the National Football League closely.

I’m an extremely casual Dallas Cowboys fan. That means I pay attention at playoff time — a sporadic period that, for Jerry Jones’ Cowboys, hasn’t lasted long the past two-plus decades.

However, even a wayward NFL follower couldn’t help but catch the shocking news of Andrew Luck’s retirement.

As always, the holy ghost antennas of GetReligion’s resident sports observers (that would be Terry Mattingly and me) went up when we read some of the reports about the Indianapolis Colts quarterback’s decision.

Religion has, of course, played a role in past surprising exits of professional athletes. You remember Adam LaRoche, right? In 2016, he walked away from a Chicago White Sox contract worth $13 million rather than yield to demands by management that he cut the amount of time his 14-year-old son Drake spent with him and his team.

“Sports fans, you have to be blind as a bat not to see the religion ghost in this one,” tmatt wrote when LaRoche retired.

So what about Luck? Any ghost haunting this bombshell sports moment?

I wondered that as I read Gregg Doyel’s front-page Indianapolis Star column on the QB who gave up million (how many millions?

Doyel wrote:

Luck, the most private of public superstars, was opening up in a way he never has, telling us just how hard these last four years have been.

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Religious freedom question in Indiana: Can teacher refuse to call transgender student by preferred name?

Religious freedom question in Indiana: Can teacher refuse to call transgender student by preferred name?

All week, we've been talking about the U.S. Supreme Court's 7-2 decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

We've highlighted the narrow scope of the ruling in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.

We've asked the "Now what?" question.

We've even noted that while everybody has an opinion about the case, not everybody has all the facts.

I won't rehash all the crucial context and background here, so please click at least one or two of the above links if you need a refresher.

But for those who are up to speed, here's a different case that raises some similar and some totally different questions: a public school teacher in Indiana who cites his religious beliefs in refusing to call a transgender student by the child's preferred name.

The Indianapolis Star reports:

A Brownsburg teacher is fighting for his job after he says the district forced him to resign over its transgender student policy.

John Kluge, the former orchestra teacher at Brownsburg High School, said the school district's requirement that teachers call transgender students by their preferred names, rather than those given at birth, goes against his religious beliefs. The requirement, Kluge said, violates his First Amendment rights. 

"I’m being compelled to encourage students in what I believe is something that's a dangerous lifestyle," he said. "I’m fine to teach students with other beliefs, but the fact that teachers are being compelled to speak a certain way is the scary thing."

Advocates for the LGBTQ community say that using a person's preferred name is an issue of respect, not religion or politics. 

"This is not a request for advocacy," said Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, a national nonprofit focused on suicide prevention in LGBTQ youth. "This is a request for respect."

Phillips, of course, declined to use his creative talents to design a special wedding cake for a gay couple. He cited his Christian belief in marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman. He owns a private business.

Kluge, on the other hand, works for a public school district. I'd be interested in whether church-state scholars believe he has a legitimate constitutional argument. 

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Wow! In infuriating case of sex abuser Larry Nassar, a victim touts a message of grace and forgiveness

Wow! In infuriating case of sex abuser Larry Nassar, a victim touts a message of grace and forgiveness

Yes, journalism matters.

The Larry Nassar case is Exhibit A, as the Indianapolis Star rightly points out.

Meanwhile, these words — from Judge Rosemarie Aquilina — went viral Wednesday as she sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison: "I've just signed your death warrant."

For the purposes of this post, I want to praise the Washington Post's Acts of Faith section for catching — and reporting on — a key victim talking about her Christian faith. More on that in a moment.

First, though, the gory basics of Nassar's case, via The Associated Press:

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The former sports doctor who admitted molesting some of the nation’s top gymnasts for years under the guise of medical treatment was sentenced Wednesday to 40 to 175 years in prison by a judge who proudly told him, “I just signed your death warrant.”
The sentence capped a remarkable seven-day hearing in which more than 150 women and girls offered statements about being abused by Larry Nassar, a physician who was renowned for treating athletes at the sport’s highest levels. Many confronted him face to face in the Michigan courtroom.
“It is my honor and privilege to sentence you. You do not deserve to walk outside a prison ever again. You have done nothing to control those urges and anywhere you walk, destruction will occur to those most vulnerable,” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said.
Nassar’s actions were “precise, calculated, manipulative, devious, despicable,” she said.

Back to the Post: We're entering what GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly calls #PositiveBobby territory. Praise is good for relationships, of course. But for media criticism websites? It's not always a recipe for reader clicks.

But I'm going to go ahead and say that I appreciated the Post's report and the story's willingness to quote victim Rachael Denhollander — in her own words — on grace and forgiveness.

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Scouts use this school for free, but Bible club must pay: What might be strange about that?

Scouts use this school for free, but Bible club must pay: What might be strange about that?

The Indianapolis Star had an interesting church-state story recently. It concerns a federal lawsuit filed by a Bible-based club charged fees to use a public school for meetings, while other groups don't have to pay.

I thought the Star did a pretty nice job of treating each side fairly, and the story's lede is excellent.

However, one key aspect of the story disappointed me. It's like there was some kind of gap there, yes, linked to religion. More on that in a moment.

First, though, let's start at the top. This chunk of the story is very, very long, but you need to read it all:

What's the rent on a Pike Township classroom? Well, it depends on whom you ask.
The Boy Scouts will tell you it's free. So will the Girl Scouts, Girls Inc. and a character-building group called Boys II Men. 
Ask the Child Evangelism Fellowship, though, and they'll tell you it costs $45 each time you want to use a Pike Township classroom. 
CEF says the fee is too high -- and it's unconstitutional.

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Yo, journalists: There are real church-state issues linked to the Church of Cannabis

Yo, journalists: There are real church-state issues linked to the Church of Cannabis

Journalists who took the time to dig into the history of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act -- all the way back into ancient times, as in the Clinton White House -- will have run into references to a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court case called Employment Division v. Smith.

That case focused on this question: Did Native Americans -- in this case workers at a private drug rehabilitation group -- have the right to take peyote as part of a religious ritual linked to similar rites in their heritage dating back centuries? The conservative side of the court said "no," while liberals dissented and said the decision denied Native Americans the free exercise of their religious beliefs.

Justice Antonin Scalia famously said that this kind of religious liberty appeal would "open the prospect of constitutionally required exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind."

A nearly unanimous U.S. Congress begged to differ and passed RFRA, backed by a stunningly broad church-state coalition -- basically everyone from Pat Robertson to the American Civil Liberties Union. It was a law inspired by some strange and messy legal cases, but as my graduate-school mentor at Baylor University's Church-State Studies program used to say: Your religious liberty has been purchased for you by people with whom you might not want to have dinner.

In other words, the First Amendment's "free exercise" clause is very powerful and, unless you are dealing with fraud, profit or a clear threat to life and health, courts are not supposed to mess with religious doctrines and practice, even when dealing with messy cases.

If you are following the news right now, you know where I am headed: Bill Levin and his First Church of Cannabis in Indiana.

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