ThinkProgress

What's up with Chick-fil-A bans at two airports? Reporters need to ask more questions

What's up with Chick-fil-A bans at two airports? Reporters need to ask more questions

The popular fast-food franchise Chick- fil-A has been getting a bad rap lately, ranging from being cut out of food options at a New Jersey university to the latest insult: Being dumped from a list of concessions for Buffalo (N.Y.) and San Antonio (Texas) airports.

That’s right — in Texas, even.

These decisions have garnered react from evangelist Franklin Graham to the governor of Texas. The Buffalo decision was the most recent. According to USA Today:

The Chick-Fil-A fast-food chain has been disinvited from opening a location at the Buffalo airport, its second local snafu in two weeks.

The decision was due to the company's "long history of supporting and funding anti-LGBTQ organizations," according to New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan, who had fought having Chick-Fil-A at the airport…

According to advocacy group Think Progress, the chain gave $1.8 million to what it calls "discriminatory groups" in 2017, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Paul Anderson Youth Home, and the Salvation Army, which it says "spread an anti-LGBTQ message," and teach that homosexuality is a sin.

Yes, the Salvation Army.

Here’s my first problem with that story.

ThinkProgress isn’t just a simple “advocacy group.” It’s a très left advocacy website, so let’s be a bit more forthcoming with the descriptors, folks. And if you’ve ever lived in the South (which I did for two years, recently), you would know that Chick-fil-A has cult-like status in those parts, which is why the San Antonio airport’s decision has raised hackles, to say the least. Unlike Buffalo, the airport isn’t getting away with this decision without a fight.

We’ll start with the Associated Press’ take on it all:

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas’ attorney general opened an investigation Thursday into San Antonio’s decision to exclude Chick-fil-A from opening airport concession facilities due to the fast-food chain owners’ record on LGBT issues.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

One side of Sweetcakes by Melissa case remains unreported. Who will cover this story?

One side of Sweetcakes by Melissa case remains unreported. Who will cover this story?

I know we’ve been running a lot about bakers of wedding cakes, gay customers and court cases, but I wanted to draw your attention to a related case I've written about that’s been dragging through Oregon’s legal system for the past few years.

It’s the “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” case that began when a chance comment from a baker infuriated two lesbians to where they filed a lawsuit alleging all sorts of emotional harm. Oregon’s labor commissioner, who’s never hid his LGBTQ-friendly sentiments, slammed the bakers with a $135,000 fine that the defendants are still fighting to this day.

It’s become a running sore of a case to both sides of the argument. After the Oregonian ran the latest news on an appeals court verdict, there were 4,413 comments attached to it by the time I saw the piece several days later. Obviously there’s lots of strong feelings about this case on both sides.

The Oregon Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a decision by Oregon's labor commissioner that forced two Gresham bakers to pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple for whom the bakers refused to make a wedding cake.
Melissa and Aaron Klein made national headlines in 2013 when they refused to bake a cake for Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, citing their Christian beliefs. The Bowman-Cryers complained to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, saying they had been refused service because of their sexual orientation.
An administrative law judge ruled that the Kleins' bakery, Sweetcakes by Melissa, violated a law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation in places that serve the public. Brad Avakian, the state labor commissioner, affirmed heavy damages against the Kleins for the Bowman-Cryer's emotional and mental distress.

The Oregonian knew all about the latter, as it had run a nearly 4,300-word piece in August 2016 about the two women with the headline: “The hate keeps coming: The pain lingers for lesbian couple denied in Sweet Cakes case.” It went into great detail. 

But why wasn’t there similar treatment accorded the Kleins? 

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Imported Charlottesville clergy: When a simple narrative overtakes the complex facts

Imported Charlottesville clergy: When a simple narrative overtakes the complex facts

Everyone is doing their Charlottesville post-mortems, which is why I was interested in what the New Yorker had to say about how church leaders there prepared for white supremacists.

The local clergy, and visiting clergy, played a crucial role in this story and many reporters made little or no effort to separate this group of counter-protesters from the highly confrontational, and ultimately violent, Antifa crowd that came in from outside.

That brings us to this New Yorker piece. What I didn't expect was a romanticized version of local clergy activism and a de-emphasis on the amount of outside clergy reinforcements brought in to maintain that false impression. The key facts: What clergy took part? Who didn't join the protests? Why? Where are the other voices?

The story begins at a historic black school where a few hundred of the town’s residents gather to assess exactly what happened on their streets to cause three people to die there during the recent riots.

One of the local leaders at the school was instantly recognizable to everybody: a sixty-five-year-old reverend named Alvin Edwards. When Terry McAuliffe, the governor of Virginia, came to town on Sunday, he went directly to a service at the Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church, which is Edwards’s congregation. He’s been there for the past thirty-six years, and during that time he’s also served as the city’s mayor and as a member of its school board. His years in politics have only seemed to strengthen his ties to his parishioners, and he likes to joke, with folksy charm, about his “B.C. days” -- before Christ -- when he lived in Illinois, where he grew up with plans “to make money and to be an industrial engineer.” Edwards marched with the counter-protesters over the weekend, but these days he’s best known for founding a broad coalition of local faith leaders called the Charlottesville Clergy Collective.

The article goes on to describe how the Collective got wind of an upcoming Ku Klux Klan visit and decided to hold a counter rally. Two of the major churches involved were Mt. Zion and St. Paul’s Episcopal.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

In Comey's America, a news boomlet for the political theology of Reinhold Niebuhr

In Comey's America, a news boomlet for the political theology of Reinhold Niebuhr

The Barack Obama and Donald Trump administrations have scumbled long-standing visions of America's role in the world. During times past, the then-regnant “mainline” Protestantism might have addressed matters, but its intellectual impact has eroded. Are any resources from this or other segments of American religion equipped to provide moral guidance on foreign policy for such a confusing time?

 That’s a big fat story theme, which brings us to the current boomlet to reclaim the “Christian realism” of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971). Niebuhr was deemed the nation’s “greatest living political philosopher” by his ally Hans Morgenthau, a noted foreign policy analyst. In more recent times, Niebuhr has been lauded by former Democratic Presidents Obama and Jimmy Carter.

Yet, surprisingly for a theological liberal and longtime Socialist, Niebuhr also has moderate and conservative disciples. Jack Jenkins proposed in a May 18 ThinkProgress piece that President Trump’s “greatest ‘conservative’ opponent may turn out to be” Niebuhr. Others utter hosannas in a Niebuhr documentary premiered in January at New York’s Union Theological Seminary, where he taught for 32 years.   

Another fan, of all people, is the hyper-newsworthy James Comey, late of the FBI, who mentioned this to New York Magazine years ago. In March, Ashley Feinberg of gizmodo.com even unmasked Comey as a Twitter user under Niebuhr’s name. The Comey angle is fleshed out in “The F.B.I. and Religion,” co-edited by Sylvester A. Johnson and Steven Weitzman (University of California Press) and in a May 19 Weitzman article for Christianity Today.

Comey’s 1982 senior thesis at William and Mary compared the Reverend Niebuhr’s political theology favorably over against that of the Reverend Jerry Falwell, founder of the conservative Moral Majority. Both men cited Scripture and advocated Christian political involvement, Comey observed, but Niebuhr always recognized the ambiguities and shunned “America-first” fulminations.  

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Robert Mueller and James Comey: Straight-arrow national prophets for our time?

Robert Mueller and James Comey: Straight-arrow national prophets for our time?

I’ve been fascinated by media portrayals of James Comey and Robert Mueller, America’s newest heroes or, in the case of Comey, a hero-martyr. To the uninitiated, Comey was director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation until President Donald Trump fired him on May 9, right when the former was launching an investigation into the Trump team’s Russian connections. 

Mueller is the 72-year-old former FBI head brought in as special counsel a week later to investigate the Trump-Russia connection. Ever since then, the two men have been linked as moral standard bearers in a very partisan town. Mueller’s appointment is one of the few things on which Democrats and many mainstream Republicans agree.

Media folks have been following Mueller around, even covering his graduation address to a small Massachusetts boarding school to see if they can glean any hints of how the investigation may go. CNN talked about how Mueller spotlighted “honesty, integrity” in his speech.

Question: Are there are any religion themes in all of this virtue talk?

The New York Post cut to the chase by endowing Mueller with supernatural powers.

Holy congressional probe!
Former FBI chief Robert Mueller is the hero America needs to investigate Russia’s meddling into the 2016 presidential election, his former second-in-charge said Sunday.
 “A line in New York would be Batman’s back to save Gotham, but I think in this case, Batman is back to save America,” Timothy Murphy told John Catsimatidis during an interview on “The Cats Roundtable.”

Other coverage has done everything from link Comey to the Old Testament prophet Amos to portraying the Trump Administration as something akin to King Richard III

Let's ask where these men are getting their high principles from. I scoured Google and learned that Mueller and his wife, Ann were married in an Episcopal church outside of Pittsburgh; that he was raised Presbyterian but now attends Episcopal churches and that sometime back, he was a regular at St. John’s Episcopal in Lafayette Square. That’s across the street from the White House.

Let’s hope some reporter can figure out which church he’s now attending. Ditto from Comey, who’s a United Methodist

Why do I ask?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Press coverage of evangelicals and Trump is getting confusing, and that's a good thing

Press coverage of evangelicals and Trump is getting confusing, and that's a good thing

Do you ever have those moments when you think the software gods that run the World Wide Web have lost their minds? You know, all those Amazon-esque programs that plug into your browsing history and try to predict what you want to read, watch or purchase.

So the video at the top of this post was the first thing that showed up this morning on YouTube when I went looking to see if anyone has done a report or commentary about religious reactions to the latest Hurricane Donald revelations. As you would expect, there are more than a few prophecy videos of this kind out there, some of which are just as worthy of The Onion.

No one doubts that there are wild people who are convinced Donald Trump is God's man for this hour. A few even have names news consumers would recognize, dating back to the Religious Right era.

But in terms of serious mainstream coverage -- about the "hot mic" fiasco and related Bill Clinton 2.0 issues -- the big news is that some reporters are starting to get a handle on key facts:

* There are people who buy the Trump gospel. Period.

* Not all religious and cultural conservatives fit under that umbrella. At some point, more journalists are going to need to listen -- seriously -- to conservative Catholics, Mormons and the new generation of conservative evangelical leaders.

* The old guard of the Religious Right is not where the action is, today, when it comes to growth in conservative Christianity.

* Many, many evangelical Protestants who "backed" Trump didn't back him because they think he is the best candidate. They bit their lips and said they would vote for him because they fear a Hillary Clinton victory more than anything else.

* Quite a few religious conservatives have had enough, when it comes to Trump. Did you see the LifeWay poll about a near majority of Protestant pastors that STILL do not know what they want to do on election day? "Undecided" remains the top choice.

So what do you need to read today?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Prayer or protest: Spirituality in events unfolding at Standing Rock 'prayer camp'

Prayer or protest: Spirituality in events unfolding at Standing Rock 'prayer camp'

I’ve been semi-following the Standing Rock protests in North Dakota this past month, but as far as I knew, it had little to do with religion.

Until now, as I just discovered a piece by a DC-based writer about “the growing indigenous spiritual movement that could save the planet.”

Well, I figured I had to read that. It’s from ThinkProgress, a 11-year-old “news site dedicated to providing our readers with rigorous reporting and analysis from a progressive perspective” (their words). It’s funded by the Center for American Progress, an advocacy group founded by John Podesta, chief of staff for former President Bill Clinton.

I don’t usually critique pieces produced by advocacy organizations on either side of the aisle, but, other than a commendable Sept. 16 RNS piece, I’ve seen very little on the spirituality aspect of these North Dakota protests. So let's look at this. ThinkProgress reports:

When Pua Case landed in North Dakota to join the ongoing Standing Rock protests in September, she, like thousands of other participants, had come to defend the land.
Masses of indigenous people and their allies descended on camps along Cannonball River this year to decry the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, a series of 30-inch diameter underground pipes that, if built, would stretch 1,172 miles and carry half a million barrels of crude oil per day  --  right through lands Native groups call sacred.
“We are not here to be anything but peaceful, but we are here,” Case told ThinkProgress, describing the moment she linked arms with fellow demonstrators and stared down rows of police in Bismarck. “We will stand here in our tribal names in respect and honor.”
But while media attention has focused on the massive, sometimes heated demonstrations -- which include several alleged instances of brutality and dog attacks -- there has been less attention paid to how the protest is recharging the lager climate movement, not to mention the peculiar nature of the participants. Case, for instance, traveled quite a long way to the Peace Garden State: she is from the sunny shores of Hawaii, not rugged North Dakota, and she claims a Native Hawaiian identity, not a Native American one. And she wasn’t there just to protest; the sacredness of the land is especially important to her, so she was also there to pray.
“Standing Rock is a prayer camp,” she said. “It is where prayers are done.”

Please respect our Commenting Policy