World magazine

Canadian law school case before Supreme Court tests press impartiality -- again

Canadian law school case before Supreme Court tests press impartiality -- again

Far from the maddening crowd of Donald Trump in Asia and Roy Moore in Alabama is a legal battle in Canada involving a private Christian law school that can’t get accredited because the institution affirms two millennia of Christian doctrine forbidding sex outside of marriage.

The matter is so contentious that its case will be heard Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 before the Canadian Supreme Court. Of course, here at GetReligion we are primarily interested in noting whether mainstream journalists are covering both sides of this debate with anything approaching fairness and accuracy.

I’ll have to hopscotch between news accounts to explain the whole thing. The Toronto Globe and Mail describes Trinity Western University thus

The private university, established in 1962, has a "Community Covenant" obliging students to sign a promise not to engage in sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. Law societies in both provinces voted against licensing the graduates, calling the school discriminatory. B.C.'s Court of Appeal overturned one such rejection, while Ontario's top court upheld the other.

Several paragraphs down, you get this:

Two same-sex advocacy groups, Start Proud and OUTlaws, say in a joint filing that the Community Covenant means LGBTQ persons, including married ones, "can never be their authentic selves while attending TWU. … No one should be forced to renounce their dignity and self-respect in order to obtain an education."

This case is a bit of a headspinner for Americans used to the likes of schools such as Brigham Young University and Liberty University, both of which are private schools that have doctrinal covenants forbidding students to sleep around. These –- and many other universities’ –- prohibition against same-sex relationships have caused some to charge them with violating Title IX (which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender stereotypes).

Although many American religious institutions have been granted exemption from Title IX since 2014, that hasn't stopped gay activists from trying to keep BYU out of the Big 12 (football) Conference because of its standards on extramarital sex. My colleague Bobby Ross has written on this

Canada apparently has no similar protections for faith-based schools, leaving them wide open to lawsuits.

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That cushy Bart Campolo profile: Why weren't the tough, logical questions asked?

That cushy Bart Campolo profile: Why weren't the tough, logical questions asked?

A lot of folks are talking about a piece in the New York Times Magazine that profiles Bart Campolo, the born-again atheist son Tony Campolo, famous progressive evangelical activist and media-friendly buddy of President Bill Clinton.

This is a very readable, albeit totally non-critical, look at a new spokesman for a growing movement that is linked to the whole coalition of atheists, agnostics, religiously unaffiliated "nones" and the old religious left.

The writer, Mark Oppenheimer, wrote the “Beliefs” column for the Times for six years, at which point he did his own exit interview this past summer. (The most astonishing thing in that interview was his remark that he’s paid $3/word for his freelance work. Maybe .00001 percent of all freelancers get paid sums like that).  

Oppenheimer also did a Q&A with GetReligion back in 2012. The bottom line is that he is a brilliant columnist and magazine-style writer. Those looking for hard-news content are going to be frustrated.

The Campolo article begins with a long intro about a bike accident he had in the summer of 2011 and then:

For most of his life, Campolo had gone from success to success. His father, Tony, was one of the most important evangelical Christian preachers of the last 50 years, a prolific author and an erstwhile spiritual adviser to Bill Clinton. The younger Campolo had developed a reputation of his own, running successful inner-city missions in Philadelphia and Ohio and traveling widely as a guest preacher. An extreme extrovert, he was brilliant before a crowd and also at ease in private conversations, connecting with everyone from country-club suburbanites to the destitute souls he often fed in his own house. He was a role model for younger Christians looking to move beyond the culture wars over abortion or homosexuality and get back to Jesus’ original teachings. Now, lying in a hospital bed, he wasn’t sure what he believed any more.

After the accident:

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This just in! New York Times probes old, old, old divisions among American evangelicals

This just in! New York Times probes old, old, old divisions among American evangelicals

If I remember correctly, I wrote my first major feature story on growing divisions among American evangelicals in about 1986, while at The Rocky Mountain News (RIP). It focused on the work of Evangelicals for Social Action, a group that was relevant in Denver because of the work of the late (great) Denver Seminary leader Vernon Grounds (my next-door-neighbor, in terms of office space, while I taught there in the early '90s).

The group's most famous leader is Ron Sider, author of the highly influential book "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger" -- first released in (note the year) 1978.

The basic idea in the Rocky feature was that there was a growing number of evangelicals who simply did not fit under the already aging Religious Right label. In fact, many -- like Grounds and Sider -- never were part of that movement in the first place.

Folks in this "JustLife" crowd (with a few exceptions) were orthodox on essential doctrinal and moral issues, especially abortion and the defense of traditional marriage, but they were fiercely committed to economic justice, racial equality and peacemaking. They were already struggling to find political candidates -- Democrats or Republicans -- they could support in national campaigns. There were quiet arguments about whether it was right to support third-party candidates or to boycott some elections.

Does any of this sound familiar?

You got it! This is now breaking news in The New York Times, months after that wall-to-wall national media "Evangelicals Love Trump!" thing that helped create momentum for the Donald Trump brand in the GOP primaries. The headline at the Gray Lady proclaims: "Donald Trump Reveals Evangelical Rifts That Could Shape Politics for Years."

Let me stress that this is a good Times story, even if it is very, very, very old news.

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Listen to the silence: It does appear that most evangelicals will reluctantly vote Trump

Listen to the silence: It does appear that most evangelicals will reluctantly vote Trump

In the beginning, when there was a massive GOP field of candidates for the White House, about 30 percent of America's white evangelical Protestants backed Citizen Donald Trump. There was evidence -- primarily the ongoing World magazine coverage of evangelical leaders and thinkers -- that Trump's supporters were "cultural" evangelicals, as opposed to folks at the heart of evangelical institutions and churches.

The headlines proclaimed: Evangelicals flocking to Trump.

As Trump rode waves of free press coverage, other candidates dropped out of the race. Slowly, the percentage of Trump evangelicals rose, backed in part by the endorsement of several old-guard evangelical leaders with strong, but old, Religious Right credentials. Trump support among white evangelicals passed 50 percent. See this April release from the Pew Forum team.

The headlines proclaimed: Evangelicals flocking to Trump.

Now, Trump stands alone and the world of mainstream conservatism, especially cultural conservatism, has not produced a ballot-box alternative. The Pew Forum has produced poll research that shows a solid majority of white evangelicals are now planning to vote for Trump.

The headline at Christianity Today, one of the voices of mainstream evangelicalism, states the trend like this:

Pew: Most Evangelicals Will Vote Trump, But Not For Trump
With half of voters dissatisfied with both presidential candidates, white evangelicals primarily plan to oppose Clinton.

Meanwhile, headlines in the mainstream press continue to proclaim: Evangelicals flocking to Trump. Here is what that looks like at Religion News Service. What is crucial, of course, is the framing language at the top of the report:

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Hey Washington Post czars: Evangelicals and Catholics are irrelevant in #NeverTrump camp?

Hey Washington Post czars: Evangelicals and Catholics are irrelevant in #NeverTrump camp?

It you have followed Republican politics over the past quarter century or so, you know that GOP White House wins have often been linked to what researchers have called the "pew gap," especially when there are high election-day vote totals among white evangelicals and devout Catholics.

That "pew gap" phenomenon can be stated as follows: The more non-African-Americans voters attend worship services, the more likely they are to vote for culturally conservative candidates -- almost always Republicans.

As I have stated before, it's hard to find a better illustration of this principle than the overture of the 2003 Atlantic Monthly essay called "Blue Movie." This piece focused on a campaign by Bill, not Hillary Rodham, Clinton, but it remains relevant. This passage is long, but remains essential -- especially in light of the very strange Washington Post piece about the remnants of the #NeverTrump movement that is the subject of this post. The Atlantic stated:

Early in the 1996 election campaign Dick Morris and Mark Penn, two of Bill Clinton's advisers, discovered a polling technique that proved to be one of the best ways of determining whether a voter was more likely to choose Clinton or Bob Dole for President. Respondents were asked five questions, four of which tested attitudes toward sex: Do you believe homosexuality is morally wrong? Do you ever personally look at pornography? Would you look down on someone who had an affair while married? Do you believe sex before marriage is morally wrong? The fifth question was whether religion was very important in the voter's life.
Respondents who took the "liberal" stand on three of the five questions supported Clinton over Dole by a two-to-one ratio; those who took a liberal stand on four or five questions were, not surprisingly, even more likely to support Clinton. The same was true in reverse for those who took a "conservative" stand on three or more of the questions. (Someone taking the liberal position, as pollsters define it, dismisses the idea that homosexuality is morally wrong, admits to looking at pornography, doesn't look down on a married person having an affair, regards sex before marriage as morally acceptable, and views religion as not a very important part of daily life.) 

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Wait! Donald Trump isn't the anointed leader of the Religious Right after all?

Wait! Donald Trump isn't the anointed leader of the Religious Right after all?

OK, is everyone ready for tonight's next big contest linked to good and evil and the religion beat?

No, I am not talking about game two in the World Series, although as a new semi-New Yorker (living in the city two months out of the year, including some prime baseball weeks) I will be cheering for a comeback by the team that I totally prefer to the Yankees. And when it comes to baseball and God, as opposed to the baseball gods, you still need to check out Bobby's post on that missionary named Ben Zobrist.

No, I am talking about the latest gathering of GOP candidates for the White House, which is always good for a religion ghost or two or maybe a dozen.

Right now, the mainstream media has its magnifying glasses out to dissect the theological and cultural views of the still mysterious Dr. Ben Carson, which was the subject of my GetReligion post this morning ("A complicated trinity in the news: Dr. Ben Carson, Donald Trump and Ellen G. White").

This is a very interesting development, in part because -- when it comes to press coverage of moral conservatives -- it represents such a snap-the-neck turnaround from the gospel according to the pundits that was in fashion just a few weeks ago.

What has changed? Check out this material at the top of this New York Times pre-debate poll story!

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Global religious freedom: Watchdog is threatened, and only religious media notice

Global religious freedom: Watchdog is threatened, and only religious media notice

It's a definite "Got News?" item when religious news outfits report the appeal of a major human rights watchdog to stay alive -- and almost no one else notices.

World magazine and Baptist Press this week wrote up a letter signed by 86 religious liberty advocate surging Congress to reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. USCIRF, a semi-official organization that monitors how nations treat those of various faiths, was born by an act of Congress in 1998, but its mandate runs out on Sept. 30.

Both stories are spot-on in highlighting the need for such a voice. USCIRF is the group that releases an annual report on the state of religious freedom worldwide, red-lighting "Countries of Particular Concern." The reports, and interim statements, are often quoted in media reports on human rights.

The story by World, an evangelical newsmagazine, is the more political of the two:

WASHINGTON—A coalition of international religious freedom groups is urging the Senate to approve a six-year reauthorization for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and reject attempts to cripple the organization.
Eighty-six partners of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable this week delivered a letter to the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which currently is weighing two drastically different visions for USCIRF. The letter noted the authors agree on “very little” theologically, but they agree religious freedom strengthens cultures, stabilizes democracies, and is “the ultimate counter-terrorism weapon.”
“The most effective way to ensure the continuity of USCIRF’s essential mandate to protect and promote religious freedom worldwide is for the Senate to pass, in a timely fashion, S. 1798,” the groups wrote to Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the Foreign Relations chairman, and Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the ranking member.

World's article also does us the service of linking to the International Religious Freedom Roundtable letter itself. And World identifies who filed S. 1798: Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican candidate for president.

The Baptist Press version stars Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, part of the Southern Baptist Convention -- saying he "and his allies" with the Roundtable put out the letter:

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Abortion in China? Bad karma, some Buddhists say

Abortion in China? Bad karma, some Buddhists say

The ongoing drama of the Planned Parenthood videos has attracted the attention of an international audience, not the least of which are pro-lifers in the world’s most abortive country. That would be China, whose 13 million abortions a year is more than 10 times the amount of similar pregnancy terminations in the United States. Foreign Policy just posted this piece on how China’s Christians and Buddhists are trying to get those numbers down.

On July 14, a U.S. anti-abortion group released an undercover video of an employee of abortion provider Planned Parenthood casually discussing, over wine and salad, the harvesting and donation of fetal tissue for medical research...The news quickly reached China, and within days the video had been posted to Chinese video streaming site iQiyi, where it received more than 170,000 views.

China has the highest number of abortions in the world, with an estimated 13 million performed annually. Many in China view abortion as a purely personal decision, a necessary if sad option for people in difficult situations. Unlike in the United States, where abortion clinics face tight restrictions in some areas, similar facilities in China are readily available and widely publicized.

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Wanted: Critical distance in the mainstream press on overseas abortion stories

Wanted: Critical distance in the mainstream press on overseas abortion stories

About six weeks ago, the story broke of the Nigerian army finding and freeing about 677 women and girls who’d been enslaved by Boko Haram in the Sambisa Forest in the northeastern part of the country. About 214 of them were pregnant. However, none of them were the girls from Chibok who had been kidnapped a year ago.

Last Thursday, a coalition of liberal religious groups seized the moment to demand that the Obama administration fund abortions for these women. A press conference at St. John’s Episcopal Church across Lafayette Park from the White House featured groups ranging from Catholics for Choice to Muslims for Progressive Values and the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

I will start with how the New York Times framed it:

WASHINGTON -- A starkly worded ad began appearing this week at bus stops near the White House. Next to a silhouette of President Obama’s back reads the words: “Don’t walk away from women and girls raped in conflict. Act now.”
A coalition of religious and human rights leaders on Thursday followed up the advertisement with demands that Mr. Obama support the financing of abortions for women raped during violent conflicts overseas by members of terrorist groups like the Islamic State and Boko Haram.
The leaders of several Jewish, Christian and Muslim groups accused the president of talk rather than action in addressing the grim fate of women and girls by refusing to direct the United States government to help pay for abortions in cases of rape in foreign countries.
“President Obama has spoken compassionately about women and girls raped in war and conflict, but has failed to act on that compassion,” the coalition said.

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