Florida conservatives fighting the death penalty? More balance and context would help that narrative

Florida conservatives fighting the death penalty? More balance and context would help that narrative

As a state reporter for The Oklahoman, I witnessed four executions in Oklahoma. Later, while working for The Associated Press, I interviewed a Tennessee mass murderer behind bars and was on the witness list for his scheduled execution. However, it got called off at the last minute. 

Over the last year, I've written freelances pieces on capital punishment for Agence France-Presse and Religion News Service.

Given my experience with the subject, I'm definitely drawn to news reports on the death penalty. A headline that caught my attention today: 

New conservative group wants death penalty repealed

The story is in the Orlando Sentinel and relates to a Florida group that has formed:

A group of Florida conservatives is joining a national organization in the fight to abolish the death penalty, saying it is too “costly, cumbersome and error-prone” and violates conservative values, such as the sanctity of life.
Florida Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, said Wednesday other punishments such as life in prison are more fiscally responsible. Studies have shown the death penalty, with its years of appeals, is more costly.
“The death penalty is one of the most expensive boondoggles that has ever been forced upon the taxpayers,” said Republican James Purdy, public defender of the 7th Judicial Court, which includes Volusia, Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties.
The group announced its formation outside the Orange County Courthouse, the same spot where Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala, a Democrat, said earlier this year she wouldn’t be seeking the death penalty during her term, laying out many of the same arguments her conservative counterparts did.
Ayala’s decision sparked outrage in conservative circles and caused Republican Gov. Rick Scott to strip her of more than 20 death penalty cases.

OK, how many references to "conservative" or "conservatives" did you count in those first five paragraphs? I believe "five" is the right answer. But still, I have no idea whether we're talking about fiscal conservatives or social conservatives or some combination.

Keep reading, and the story remains rather vague. Specifically, who are these anti-death-penalty conservatives? What exact issues characterize them as, you know, conservatives?

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Conservative, moderate, liberal: A few more thoughts on Baylor, Baptists and theological labels

Conservative, moderate, liberal: A few more thoughts on Baylor, Baptists and theological labels

In my post Thursday, I delved into the religious background of Baylor University's first female president — a Baptist supportive of female senior pastors.

In that post, I noted that the Dallas Morning Newsin a front-page story — referred to Baylor as a "conservative Baptist school."

I wrote:

I'm not certain that "conservative Baptist" is the best description for Baylor, particularly in Texas. Longtime observers know that Baylor in the 1990s "survived a fierce struggle between conservatives and moderates at the Southern Baptist Convention." As Christianity Today notes, Baylor maintains a relationship with the moderate (in Baptist terms) Baptist General Convention of Texas, which "selects a quarter of Baylor’s board of regents and provides a sliver of its annual operating budget."

I also suggested that describing Baylor as "conservative" was questionable given its hiring of a president, Linda Livingstone, who has attended churches affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The CBF, I said, "includes progressive Southern Baptist and former Southern Baptist congregations."

My post drew some excellent feedback from two longtime observers of Texas Baptists — and I wanted to highlight their insight in this follow-up post.

The first comment came from Jeffrey Weiss, the former award-winning Godbeat pro for the Dallas Morning News. Given that Weiss is in the midst of a cancer battle about which he has written eloquently for his own newspaper and Religion News Service, I was especially grateful to hear from him.

Here is what Weiss said:

I would gently suggest that BGCT remains "conservative" if one need not be extreme to justify the word. CBF is a different story, however. Fascinating!

I always appreciate gentle comments from faithful readers. Many thanks, kind sir!

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Dirty words? Conservatives, liberals and accurate descriptions when reporting on religious freedom

Dirty words? Conservatives, liberals and accurate descriptions when reporting on religious freedom

Everybody loves a sequel, right?

I hope so because this is my third post of the week on the same topic.

But I really believe the information I'm going to share is relevant. Even better, it's at the heart of GetReligion's mission to promote quality news coverage of religion.

Before I get to that, though, please hang with me for just a moment. I need to help everybody who might have missed the first two posts catch up.

1. I began the week with a, shall we say, negative critique of NPR's coverage of the religion freedom issue.

2. But overnight, NPR suddenly "got religion" in a big way, which is to say that Godbeat pro Tom Gjelten tackled the same subject matter in a much better fashion.

My follow-up post gushed all over Gjelten's piece on the religious freedom debate:

This latest piece is absolutely fantastic: 1. No scare quotes. 2. No biased language such as "so-called." 3. No favoritism — it clearly explains both sides and fairly represents each side's arguments and concerns.

So why do a third post? Because of the excellent discussion generated by a reader's question about Gjelten's story.

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Who was behind the 'honor killing' of that Pakistani model? Conservatives!

Who was behind the 'honor killing' of that Pakistani model? Conservatives!

"Honor killings": It's hard to think of a more ironic phrase. In some lands, like Pakistan, it means to kill a relative -- most often a girl or woman -- because of anxieties over actual or perceived immorality.

It happened again with the weekend murder of Qandeel Baloch, who has been called the Pakistani Kim Kardashian for her many tweeted cheesecake photos, Facebook posts and appearances in videos. Baloch, 26, was strangled by a brother for "honorable" reasons.

At GetReligion, we've complained for years about the reticence of many media professionals to link the killings with some versions of Islam. And here we go again, with USA Today  blaming nebulously described "conservatives":

Baloch, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, shot to fame and notoriety with a series of social media postings that would be tame by Western standards but were deeply scandalous by conservative Pakistani societal norms. She cultivated an outrageous public persona, recently promising to perform a public striptease if the Pakistani cricket team won a major tournament.
Baloch had a large following of more than 700,000 people on her official Facebook page. She posted recently she was “trying to change the typical orthodox mindset of people who don’t wanna come out of their shells of false beliefs and old practices.”

You know conservatives. Those are the guys who oppress women and hold back progress and cut welfare and keep out immigrants. The heavy implication is that in Pakistan and in the U.S., conservatives are pretty much alike.

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Are evangelicals America's only real moral conservatives?

Are evangelicals America's only real moral conservatives?

Nearly a decade ago, the conservative Weekly Standard ran a very newsy story on its cover under this ominous double-decker headline: The coming conflict between same-sex marriage and religious liberty.

The story shocked quite a few people and, behind the scenes, I know that many journalists linked to the religion beat passed it around, in part because so much of its reporting — even in the pages of a consevative magazine — centered on the complex and at times clashing legal views inside gay-rights groups.

Catholic Charities of Boston made the announcement on March 10: It was getting out of the adoption business. “We have encountered a dilemma we cannot resolve. … The issue is adoption to same-sex couples.”

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Do baby elephants dwell on same-sex marriage?

Young Republicans: so stylish and libertarian. So free of cares, except perhaps for weed and gay marriage. That’s the view, at least, from the New York Times, which highlighted them at the recent conference of the Conservative Political Action Committee. The story purports to unveil differences between the baby elephants and their elders. It succeeds only on an extremely narrow band: the two hot-button issues of marijuana and homosexual relationships.

The Times piece starts out as “color,” with the reporter wandering through the convention hall, apparently picking out young faces. It’s not hard to find the ones he wants to highlight:

It was difficult to miss Ian Jacobson at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Known as Rooster, he was 33, with an ample beard, earrings and a towering orange-and-aqua spiked Mohawk haircut. But he also sported a pinstriped suit, French cuffs and a natty contrast collar.

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Wives, submission, web traffic and Candace Cameron Bure

Candace Cameron Bure (Photo by Joe Seer/ Candace Cameron Bure, darling of ’80s sitcom television, is all grown up.

In case you’re mired in Nick at Nite reruns of “Full House” and hadn’t heard, the younger sister of fellow actor Kirk Cameron has been married for 17 years, has three teenage children and is on her second book tour. She calls herself a devout evangelical Christian and, while on tour promoting said second book, has been peppered specifically about a chapter where she explains her take on the biblical concept of wives being submissive to their husbands.

She writes in her book, “I am not a passive person, but I chose to fall into a more submissive role in our relationship because I wanted to do everything in my power to make my marriage and family work.”

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Pod people: 'Conservative' Baptists spark a conversation

In three and a half years, I’ve written 439 posts for GetReligion (this makes 440, I believe). That ranks me No. 5 on the all-time GetReligionista list, with tmatt the Hank Aaron of GR at 3,139 and Mollie next at 2,015.

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Which religious group should be blamed for the election results?

Well, everyone, we made it through another presidential campaign year! Congratulations to the winners and condolences to the losers and all that.

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