gay marriage

RNS: Fuller seminary is 'homophobic' after it kicks out a married lesbian student

RNS: Fuller seminary is 'homophobic' after it kicks out a married lesbian student

Here at GetReligion, we’ve critiqued endless stories where a gay student (or faculty member) didn’t get the memo about the sexual standards of an evangelical Protestant or Catholic institution that they have chosen to attend — even when they actually signed the documents.

Whether they’re called covenants, creeds or behavior codes, such standards are moral, doctrinal and increasingly legal agreements between students and these private voluntary associations. Sometimes students are made to sign some sort of statement attesting that they’ve been informed of what these standards are.

Typically, the standards demand, among other things, that students not engage in extramarital sex. And “marital” is defined as marriage between a man and a woman.

Alas, a recent Religion News Service story forgot to ask those basic questions in its story about a lesbian seminary student married to a woman. Instead we hear of the “homophobic” seminary and the guileless student.

(RNS) — Over her four years at Fuller Theological Seminary’s campus in Houston, Joanna Maxon had come out to most of her teachers and classmates, and many knew that she was married to a woman.

But after Maxon turned over a copy of her tax return, filed jointly with her wife, as part of her annual financial aid application earlier this year, a complaint about her marriage was brought to the dean. In October 2018, less than a year before she expected to graduate, she was suddenly dismissed.

Months went by before Maxon could stand to make the situation public.

“It took me a while to get to the point where I could talk about it,” Maxon said. “It feels like trauma.”

But once she was ready to share her story in June, Maxon’s wife and friend got into contact with Brave Commons.

Then the story turns into a press release.

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Eugene Peterson, RNS and gay marriage: Wave good-bye to clarity and objectivity

Eugene Peterson, RNS and gay marriage: Wave good-bye to clarity and objectivity

Religion News Service definitely made headlines on July 12 when it reported that the revered author Eugene Peterson had changed his mind on same-sex marriage.

Note that I said “reported.”

The news was actually broken in an opinion piece by Jonathan Merritt, a blogger and columnist who is same-sex attracted and writes frequently on LGBTQ issues.

Merritt is passionately on the side of gays to the point where, in March, he opined that it was “good news” that reparative therapy pioneer Joe Nicolosi had died. So I don’t expect objective reporting from that quarter.

But with RNS, as we’ve said previously, the difference between news and opinion is often pretty thin. Also, it's crucial that some RNS material that is opinion -- Merritt is clearly labeled as a columnist -- may run, in some places, with a simple byline. In the online world, clear labeling of news and features is crucial. Readers are getting confused.

So Merritt, we find out later, had heard rumors that Peterson had changed his mind on gay marriage. So why not get all this on the record? The piece starts out:

When a journalist has a chance to interview a paragon of the Christian faith like Eugene Peterson, there’s a lot of pressure to pick the perfect questions. I’d asked him about why he was leaving the public eye and if he was afraid of death. I’d asked him about Donald Trump and the state of American Christianity. But there was one more topic I wanted to cover: same-sex relationships and marriage.
It’s one of the hottest topics in the church today, and given Peterson’s vast influence among both pastors and laypeople, I knew his opinion would impact the conversation. Though he has had a long career, I couldn’t find his position on the matter either online or in print. I did discover that “The Message,” Peterson’s popular paraphrase of the Bible, doesn’t use the word “homosexual” and “homosexuality” in key texts. But this wasn’t definitive proof of anything. After all, those words never appear in any English translation of the Bible until 1946.

The article then veers into a Q&A, which in my book qualifies as news.

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His dishonor: Mainstream media keep slanting news reports on ousted Judge Moore

His dishonor: Mainstream media keep slanting news reports on ousted Judge Moore

I've heard of contempt of court, but open contempt for a judge? That’s apparently OK if that judge is Roy Moore.

Like this headline. " 'Not going to miss the Ayatollah of Alabama': State's chief justice ousted over anti-gay-marriage order," crows The Los Angeles Times. And that's just the most blatant of several tactics in several articles meant to manipulate your view of the case.

Moore, the always controversial chief justice of Alabama, was suspended after telling its probate judges not to issue gay marriage licenses even after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized them. That drew fire not only from the usual liberal groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center -- which filed the complaint that launched the probe -- but also their acolytes in mainstream media.

But before dissecting individual specimens, let's take a workmanlike example -- the Associated Press account, run by CBS News:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s defiance of federal court rulings on same-sex marriage violated judicial ethics, a disciplinary court ruled on Friday before suspending him for the rest of his term.
The punishment effectively removes Moore from office without the nine-member Alabama Court of the Judiciary officially ousting him. Given his age, he will not be able to run for chief justice again under state law.
Moore was found to have encouraged probate judges to deny marriage licenses to gay couples six months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that everyone has a fundamental right to marry in all 50 states.

Not that Moore skirts controversy. He's the same guy who put a stone monument of the Ten Commandments in a court building, then refused to remove it. So the Court of Judiciary -- the same panel involved here -- tossed him out in 2003. Yet he was re-elected years later.

All of that is in the 400-word AP article, but the Los Angeles Times goes further. Right from the lede, you can tell where things are going:

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Powder-puff press: Tutu's daughter marries a woman, and media hand her the mic

Powder-puff press: Tutu's daughter marries a woman, and media hand her the mic

"Tell us how the bad men hurt you": As she often does, M.Z. Hemingway adroitly blends humor and precision in finding the nugget of a story.  Her suggestion for a GR post on the daughter of Desmond Tutu was devastatingly accurate, not only for the BBC but for the Guardian.

The Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth recently married a woman -- an atheist, at that -- and now she's complaining that the church yanked her preaching license. And the BBC and the Guardian help her complain. Not just by reporting her quotes, but enshrining every word as gospel.

Here we go with the BBC:

Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth followed her father into a life in the Anglican church, but when she decided to marry the woman she loved, she had to leave.
She married her long-term Dutch girlfriend, Marceline van Furth, in a small private ceremony in the Netherlands at the end of last year, but they went public last month when they had a wedding celebration in Cape Town.
"My marriage sounds like a coming out party," explains Ms Tutu van Furth.
"Falling in love with Marceline was as much as a surprise to me as to everyone else," she tells me.

At least the BBC quotes church law: "Holy matrimony is the lifelong and exclusive union between one man and one woman." So why is Tutu van Furth making an issue of it? To advance what she calls a "very important conversation'" about same-sex marriage:

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More on Mississippi religious liberty bill: Some views are more equal than others

More on Mississippi religious liberty bill: Some views are more equal than others

Can you endorse differences of opinion and reject them at the same time?

The Memphis Commercial Appeal did it in its look at Mississippi's new religious liberty bill.

The Mississippi bill, like the one Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia vetoed last week, would allow people to decline to perform certain services because of religious objections. The sponsoring legislators said it was prompted by the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

The Commercial Appeal news article, in its DeSoto County edition, doesn't leave you guessing its slant. Not when it gives the lede to someone who attacks the law:

Differences of opinion don't bother Kelly Harrison as long as they're just differences of opinion. When those differences potentially become a matter of life or death, that's another matter.
"If you don't want my money, I don't want to give you my money," Harrison, of Nesbit, wrote on her Facebook page last week. "But what if I or my family needed your service, life or death, and this could stop you from providing it without any worries? No matter how you paint this picture, it's discrimination."
Harrison was referring to Mississippi's "Freedom of Conscience" Act, a measure that would allow government employees or private business operators to cite religious objections as a basis to deny services to gay or lesbian couples. The bill, House Bill 1523, has passed in both legislative chambers and is on its way to Gov. Phil Bryant. The Republican governor said Friday he would look at the bill and decide what to do when it reaches him, but he has said he doesn't think it discriminates and has supported religious liberty bills previously.

Only toward the end of the article, BTW, does the newspaper reveal that Harrison and her mate are the first same-sex married couple in DeSoto County. She has a right to her opinion, but it's hardly an impartial one.

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Los Angeles Times isn't sure what to do with 'honey-smooth' Christian activist

Los Angeles Times isn't sure what to do with 'honey-smooth' Christian activist

Every so often, an article runs in a major publication that is so awful, one wonders if the copy desk was on strike that day. Such is a Los Angeles Times piece about a black activist who opposes gay marriage. The headline: “Christian activist decries ‘evil’ gay marriage with a honey-smooth voice.” Am I the only one out there to whom the “honey-smooth” adjective brings to mind something deceptive, fawning or false? Check this online thesaurus to see what I mean.

The article starts thus:

In a state where 86% of voters cast ballots for a ban on gay weddings in 2004, and where opposition is fierce to last week's Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right, Meeke Addison stands out from the fire-and-brimstone preachers and politicians usually associated with the fight against gay marriage.

Her view of marriage came from divorce. It was her mother's divorce, and according to family lore, it came after Addison's father handed his wife a pearl-handled pistol, told her to use it on anyone who tried to break into their apartment, and walked out.

Despite being left with five children to raise, Addison said, her mother trumpeted the value of marriage and instilled in her a passion for the institution that has turned Addison into one of Mississippi's most vocal opponents of same-sex marriage.

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Coverage of the religion angle to Supreme Court decision: Fairly predictable

Coverage of the religion angle to Supreme Court decision: Fairly predictable

OK, so you're a religion reporter, and it's Friday morning the 26th, and you're glued to your desk awaiting the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage. 

Word starts to seep out at 11 a.m. Eastern. 

Since many of the justices took special care to mention the concerns of religious groups, it's your job to do the sidebar. What do you write? 

As I scanned various papers large and small, ranging from the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger to Utah's Deseret News, it seemed that most punted by simply getting reacts from local religious and political leaders. Or they took the compendium from Religion News Service. I've had to write zillions of similar react pieces and it's harder than it looks, so I'm not knocking these folks. 

But I am going to credit the outlets that went the extra mile.

The Wall Street Journal didn't just react to the ruling but looked ahead to coming battles on religious freedom. It had some of the best quotes I saw all day, including one from Richard Land, the former culture wars czar for the Southern Baptists who's been a bit of a pariah in recent years after he was edged out of his position in 2012. However, the Journal remembered Land and gave him a call:

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