Wichita Eagle

It's the Friday Five: Our favorite religion story, our most popular post and more

It's the Friday Five: Our favorite religion story, our most popular post and more

Today's post is brought to you -- as they say on "Sesame Street" -- by the number five.

The GetReligion gang is trying out a new kind of post -- the "Friday Five."

At the end of each week, we'll share a few links and quick details in this listicle format. Along the way, we hope to provide a mix of important and insightful information and even a smidgen of humor. 

Here goes:

1. Religion story of the week: We mean for this to be a positive mention. Some weeks, this will be the best religion journalism that we spot. Other weeks, it'll simply be our favorite read of the week.

This week, who can ignore a Godbeat feature that makes reference to "concealed carry hymnals." Katherine Burgess of the Wichita Eagle wrote this story on a man who saved his church with a "hymnal and a body slam." 

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Taking out the pews, taking out the pews, we will come prostrating, taking out the pews

Taking out the pews, taking out the pews, we will come prostrating, taking out the pews

Now here is a sad little story from this land of ours in which almost anything can be turned into a match to light the fuse on a new battle in the culture wars.

In this case we are not talking about a battle in pews -- because the story focuses on pews that were removed.

Let's go straight to the place that most educators across the country will see the story -- The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Changes in the interior design of a campus chapel at Wichita State University -- lambasted in some online circles as the work of Muslim students -- were, in fact, suggested by Christian staff members and students. The Wichita Eagle reports a former campus minister told the newspaper that removing Grace Memorial Chapel’s pews was intended to make the space more flexible, and that he had suggested the change.
But that’s not how Jean Ann Cusick, an alumna of the Kansas university, saw it. In a Facebook post this month, Ms. Cusick wrote that the changes in the chapel were an “accommodation” of Muslim students. Soon, news outlets like Fox News and Christian Today were weighing in.

Now a personal word. I must admit that the first thing that popped into my mind when I connected "pews" with "remove" -- in the context of Wichita -- was, I am sure, not a connection that would have made sense to others.

The first thing that I thought of was the nationally known establishment called Eighth Day Books -- which may be the best Eastern Orthodox bookstore (mixing in coffee, tea and beer) in all of North America. This is evidence of a very lively and growing Orthodox community in that zip code and I assumed -- naturally! -- that this might have led to a thriving community of Orthodox students on the major campus in town.

Now you know what ancient Christians like the Orthodox are going to want to do with pews, don't you? Get. Rid. Of. Them.

Think tradition! It's hard to do lots of bows and prostrations in a room full of wooden furniture. Right?

But, alas, this was not what people were worried about.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

About that disputed removal of Jesus picture from Kansas school — what was the legal reason?

About that disputed removal of Jesus picture from Kansas school — what was the legal reason?

A picture of Jesus hangs at a public middle school for decades.

An advocacy group complains.

The superintendent orders the portrait taken down.

And suddenly, a furor in small Kansas town makes national headlines. That's no surprise, really.

But I have a journalistic question.

First, though, let's check out the lede from Reuters:

Public school officials in the small Kansas town of Chanute are trying to find a new home for a portrait of Jesus Christ after a civil liberties group demanded its removal from the town's middle school.
Local churches and other groups are offering to house the portrait, which had hung in the school since at least the 1950s, and community leaders have been working to defuse anger over its removal.
The district's new superintendent ordered it taken down Thursday from Royster Middle School after the Freedom From Religion Foundation notified him that the display in a public school amounted to an "egregious violation of the First Amendment."
"I conferred with legal counsel and both of them told me to be in compliance with state and federal law that we had to have it removed," said Chanute Public Schools Superintendent Richard Proffitt.
Proffitt said he has been fending off complaints from around the country since the portrait's removal from Royster, which has about 400 students.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

A pastor reports death threats for performing same-sex marriages, and guess who a Kansas newspaper decided to quote?

A pastor reports death threats for performing same-sex marriages, and guess who a Kansas newspaper decided to quote?

This is basic Journalism 101 stuff.

A news story should give all the relevant parties an opportunity to speak and — if accused of wrongdoing — a chance to defend themselves.

So what happened when The Wichita Eagle reported on a pastor who reported death threats against her for performing same-sex marriages?

Of course, the Kansas newspaper quoted the pastor:

A Wichita minister says she has received death threats for performing same-sex weddings after the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was struck down by a federal judge last month.
The Rev. Jackie Carter, pastor of the First Metropolitan Community Church, said the church has been getting at least one phone call a day threatening to kill her or to perform acts of violence against her congregation. The church belongs to a denomination that embraces the gay and lesbian community.
Carter said she had received threats before the ruling, but they have escalated since she performed a wedding ceremony for 15 same-sex couples on the steps of the Sedgwick County Courthouse on Nov. 17.
“Monday was probably the most scary time for me,” Carter said. “The phone rang and I went to answer the phone and it was just somebody heavy breathing on it. Then somebody rang the door bell and then somebody started throwing rocks at the windows.”

The Eagle also contacted the police (who declined to comment) as well as Wichita's mayor.

But what about opponents of same-sex marriage? Don't they deserve a voice in the story since — ostensibly — their side is being accused of a crime?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Pod people: Local vs. national press on religious liberty

Proposed religious liberty exemptions for wedding vendors — such as bakers, florists and photographers — opposed to same-sex marriage keep making headlines. Here at GetReligion, we’ve highlighted recent media coverage of a ballot initiative in Oregon and legislation in Kansas (where the Senate, for now, has killed a controversial measure). The Tennessean reported this week on a similar bill failing in Tennessee.

Meanwhile, LifeWay Research released results of a national survey today. LifeWay’s Bob Smietana has the story:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Americans have always had mixed feelings about religious liberty. Most say it’s important, but they don’t always agree how much liberty is enough or too much.

Please respect our Commenting Policy