polygamy

Weekend think piece: Dennis Prager on what he said and what journalists said that he said

Weekend think piece: Dennis Prager on what he said and what journalists said that he said

One of the most important skills in journalism is easy to state, but hard for reporters to do.

While teaching reporting classes for the past 25 years of so, I have stated it this way: Report unto others as you would want them to report unto you. The skill? It is crucial to learn how to accurately report the beliefs of people with whom you disagree.

This is why it's important, every now and then, to read articles in which public figures of various kinds discuss journalism topics from the other side of the reporter's notebook, comparing what they said or believe with what ended up in analog or digital ink.

That's what is happening in the following essay at The Daily Signal by the Jewish conservative Dennis Prager. The headline: "Here Are Some Key Ways the Mainstream Media Distorts the Truth."

Now, there's a lot going on in this essay and some of it is pretty picky, personal and political. However, there's a crucial journalistic point linked to religion-beat issues in the section focusing the New York Times coverage of a recent Prager musical gig for charity. The Times headline: "Santa Monica Symphony Roiled by Conservative Guest Conductor." Here is the top of the music-beat news story:

It was supposed to be a dazzling opportunity for the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra -- a volunteer ensemble of professional and semiprofessional musicians led by Guido Lamell -- to play the prestigious Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles for a fund-raiser. Mr. Lamell, music director of the orchestra, invited the conservative talk show host and columnist Dennis Prager as guest conductor for the event.
But that decision caused immediate outrage among some members of the symphony, and a number of them are refusing to play the fund-raiser, saying that allowing the orchestra to be conducted by Mr. Prager, who has suggested that same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy and incest, among other contentious statements, would be tantamount to endorsing and normalizing bigotry.

 

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More Americans 'accept' polygamy as legit, news media report, skipping faith voices

More Americans 'accept' polygamy as legit, news media report, skipping faith voices

There's a popular Facebook meme out these days: "You may want to sit down for this news: I have never seen a single episode of Game of Thrones. Ever."

Your correspondent hasn't viewed GoT either, and I've also skipped -- brace yourselves -- the TLC cable show Sister Wives, about a polygamous family.

But I do read the news, and thus Sister Wives appeared on the horizon when the Gallup Organization, which in recent years has examined various social attitudes along with its traditional political polling, revealed 17 percent of Americans surveyed now find polygamy "morally acceptable." That's up from 14 percent three years earlier.

Let the chattering begin, and, appropriately, let's start with the HuffPost (neé Huffington Post), which credits a change in wording with the greater acceptance, even if a Gallup official demurrs:

Gallup initially attributed a 2011 bump in Americans’ acceptance of polygamy to a change in the wording of the question. Before 2011, Gallup defined polygamy as being when “a husband has more than one wife at the same time.” ...

In 2011, Gallup changed its definition to reflect the term’s gender-neutrality, identifying polygamy as when “a married person has more than one spouse at the same time.” ...

The growing moral acceptance of polygamy may be part of a “broader leftward shift on moral issues,” [Gallup analyst Andrew] Dugan wrote, as well as increased depictions of the marital practice in popular media.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling legalizing same sex marriage in all 50 states, scholar and cultural commentator Fredrik deBoer argued in article on Politico that polygamy would be “the next horizon of social liberalism.” DeBoer seemed to echo in positive terms what many social conservatives ominously warned: that legal changes to so-called “traditional marriage” could lead to anything ― even group marriage.

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Philly.com's coverage of the black Muslim singles scene includes shout-out for polygyny

Philly.com's coverage of the black Muslim singles scene includes shout-out for polygyny

When I saw a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer on black Muslim women seeking mates, I was drawn to it right away. It’s tough for women of any religious persuasion to find mates, as houses of worship tend to have far more women than men in them.

There’s a reason why books like Lee Podles’ Church Impotent were written in response to lots of men avoiding church. But this is a piece on the scarcity of men in mosques. That's new territory.

This intrigued me because of all the major religions, Islam was reputed to be the one that skewed heavily male according to recent Pew data.

So here is the crucial question: Is it the Muslim factor or the black factor that is causing the problematic ratios?

Naeemah Khabir, a 35-year-old devout Muslim who works for the Department of Veteran Affairs in Philadelphia, has attended matchmaking events from New Brunswick, N.J., to Queens, N.Y. She has used several matchmaking services. Khabir, of Elkins Park, who has a master’s degree from Syracuse University, even hired a private matchmaker for nine months until the counselor assigned to her conceded that race was part of her problem.
“When you look at all Muslims, of all races and ethnicities, who has it the hardest? Black women unequivocally have it the worst. Black men have it bad, too, but black women have it the worst,” Khabir said. “Everyone knows it, but it goes unspoken.”
Muslims say there’s an epidemic of educated, professional women older than 30 struggling to find suitable matches among Muslim men, who are often less bound by a biological clock and societal expectations, and more likely than Muslim women to marry younger and outside their culture or religion.

I don’t doubt Muslims are saying this, but how about quoting an expert or two? Are there any studies to back this up?

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Are polygamous Mormons part of Western narrative? The High Country News thinks so

Are polygamous Mormons part of Western narrative? The High Country News thinks so

The High Country News (HCN), a 30,000-circ. environmental journal based in western Colorado, usually reports on investigations within the National Park Service, wind energy projects in Montana, fish die-offs in Colorado and similar regional stories, but rarely anything to do with religion. I managed to find one piece in there last fall about wild wolves and morality but that was about it.

But the magazine does have a villain -- the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which occupies land on the Utah-Arizona border smack in the middle of the high desert country that HCN calls its backyard. And whenever HCN goes after them, they wade into a mix of police and religion reporting.

Thus, see their latest on how corruption among city officials in that region has stymied the FBI from catching FLDS leaders who were raping children in the name of their religion.

This is a long passage, but, in a way, it points to one of the journalistic challenges linked to these reports.

In January 2006, more than 3,000 members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), a polygamist offshoot of the Mormon Church, gathered inside their huge white meetinghouse in Colorado City, Arizona, for a regular Saturday work project service. Outside, unknown to the congregants, a handful of FBI agents were quietly approaching. They wanted to question 31 people about the whereabouts of Warren Jeffs, the church’s former “president and prophet,” who was on the run for performing a wedding involving an underage girl.
Within five minutes, just as a FLDS member named Jim Allred began the first prayer, FBI agents entered the building.

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Nagging legal question: Will polygamy become the next same-sex marriage?

Nagging legal question: Will polygamy become the next same-sex marriage?

Future-gazingjournalists take note: The question above is the lede of an article in the April edition of First Things magazine.

Author John Witte Jr. devoutly hopes the answer is no.

Witte, the noted director of Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion, presents that viewpoint at length in “The Western Case for Monogamy over Polygamy” (Cambridge University Press). The issue arises due to the gradual legal toleration of adultery and non-marital partnering that culminated in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell opinion last June that extended such  liberty to same-sex marriage.

The high court’s wording leaves open whether polygamy laws still make sense. This is “becoming the newest front in the culture wars,” Witte writes, and legalization may seem “inevitable” after Obergefell. We've had federal district court rulings supporting religious polygamists that Utah is appealing at the 10th Circuit. The case involves a family from the “Sister Wives” cable TV show that has helped make polygamous families seem less offensive and more mainstream-ish.

Witte writes that aversion to homosexual partners has been based historically on religious teaching, but rejection of polygamy is quite different. Polygamy occurred in the Old Testament (and usually demonstrated resulting ills and family strife). But it was opposed by the non-biblical culture of classical Greece, and in modern times by Enlightenment liberals on wholly secular grounds. (For more on biblical and Mormon history, see this piece by the Religion Guy.)

Witte observes that multiple mates are the pattern among “more than 95 percent of all higher primates,” and yet human beings “have learned by natural inclination and hard experience that monogamy best accords with human needs.”

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Next in the Sexual Revolution news: movement to legalize polygamy and 'polyamory'

Next in the Sexual Revolution news: movement to legalize polygamy and 'polyamory'

It didn’t take long. 

Four days after the U.S. Supreme Court’s epochal 5-4 decision to legalize gay marriage nationwide, a Montana threesome applied for a polygamous marriage license. If denied, the trio intends to file suit to topple the law against bigamy. Husband Nathan Collier was featured on “Sister Wives,” so “reality TV” now meets legal and political reality.

More significant was a July 21 op-ed piece in The New York Times, that influential arbiter of acceptable discourse and the future agenda for America's cultural left. University of Chicago law professor William Baude, a “contributing opinion writer” for the paper, wrote, “If there is no magic power in opposite sexes when it comes to marriage, is there any magic power in the number two?” To him, “there is a very good argument” that “polyamorous relationships should be next.”

Baude was a former clerk for Chief Justice John Roberts, who warned against precisely that possibility in his opinion for the court’s four dissenters. Baude observes that tacticians needed to downplay the polygamy aspect that could have harmed the same-sex marriage cause, but with the Supreme Court victory this next step can be proposed candidly.

The savvy Washington Post had a solid polygamy analysis soon after the Court’s ruling.

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The Guy poses this question: So what does the Bible teach about polygamy?

The Guy poses this question: So what does the Bible teach about polygamy?

THE RELIGION GUY:

Nobody has yet posted a question about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. “Mormon” or “LDS”) acknowledging delicate details about founding Prophet Joseph Smith’s polygamy, but The Guy decided he ought to examine the classic matter of how the Bible views polygamy.

Smith declared that God was simply using him to restore “plural marriage” (the church prefers that term to “polygamy”) that was divinely inspired in the Old Testament. A major interpretive question affects such Old Testament issues, including slavery.

Did God command, or commend, a practice, or did he merely avoid punishing what humans were doing on their own? If the Bible recounts an action without tacking on moralistic criticism, does that signal divine endorsement, or only recording of facts that may be problematic?

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Pod people: More on Mormon church founder Joseph Smith's 40 wives and the media's delayed bandwagon

Pod people: More on Mormon church founder Joseph Smith's 40 wives and the media's delayed bandwagon

My "big news report card" this week on media coverage of the Mormon church acknowledging that founder Joseph Smith had up to 40 wives drew a humorous response from Daniel Burke, editor of CNN's "Belief Blog".

"Is there a curve?" Burke asked on Twitter, joking that it wasn't fair to "compare hacks" like him to The New York Times' Laurie Goodstein and the Salt Lake Tribune's Peggy Fletcher Stack.

Stack replied that it bugged her that the Mormon essay wasn't seen as big news until the Times reported on it, but she said Goodstein did a good job.

As my post noted, Stack reported on Smith's multiple wives three weeks ago, followed quickly by The Associated Press. 

But most news organizations jumped on the story only after The New York Times published the story on its front page earlier this week.

Over at Religion News Service, the delayed media bandwagon also perplexed Mormon blogger Jana Riess, who wrote a very GetReligion-esque post about it (there's a lot of that going around this week).

 

 

 

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Big news report card: Mormon church acknowledges founder Joseph Smith's many wives

Big news report card: Mormon church acknowledges founder Joseph Smith's many wives

Nearly three weeks ago, the Salt Lake Tribune's Godbeat pro Peggy Fletcher Stack reported on a new Mormon essay concerning church founder Joseph Smith taking multiple wives.

A few days after that (right after reporting on Mormon undergarments), The Associated Press jumped on the story.

But not until this week did The New York Times put the story on its front page with this headline:

It's Official: Mormon Founder Had Many Wives

Apparently, when the Times declares news "official," it becomes much bigger news — because suddenly the story is everywhere.

It's time for another "big news report card," and I'm in a relatively generous mood when it comes to today's grades.

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