AP: Accused corpse-stealer is ‘religious’

So here’s a weird story, out on the Associated Press wire:

A man accused of stealing his father’s body from a Detroit cemetery with the hope of bringing him back to life has pleaded guilty in exchange for avoiding prison.

His name is Vincent Bright and he pleaded guilty to one charge of disinterring a body. So I guess that’s illegal now.

In any case, the big question here is not the Who and What and Where and When so much as the Why. (I’ll admit I’m also curious about the How.) The story isn’t terribly long but mostly it’s filled with details about the first four questions. The very end of the story tells us:

Bright, then 48, stole the body of 93-year-old Clarence Bright from Gethsemane Cemetery on Jan. 14 and stored it in a home freezer. Police, acting on a tip from other family members, found the corpse in Vincent Bright’s home on Detroit’s east side.

Police said Vincent Bright is religious and took the body in hopes his father would be resurrected.

Prosecutors sought a mental health examination for Bright, and he was found competent to stand trial.

Uh, “religious”? OK. Can we in any way get any more detail on that one? At all? It’s such an odd way of explaining the motivation. And so very inadequate. This story is not new. It first broke early this year. At which time the Associated Press reported:

Police Lt. Harold Rochon told The Detroit News that the son was religious and took the body hoping for it to be miraculously resurrected. Clarence Bright was 93 years old when he died.

That was in January. Way to ask not a single religion angle follow-up question in eight months! I searched the Detroit News for anything on Vincent Bright and came up completely empty-handed, for what it’s worth.

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Got news? Mother Jones on ghosts in FBI’s Hasan probe

Your GetReligionistas normally do not spend much time looking at ideological media outlets, such as National Review or Mother Jones.

But rules are made to be broken. The progressive outlet Mother Jones has a great straight news story right now that many other outlets seem to have downplayed or missed. And it has an important religion angle. The piece reveals how internal documents show that the FBI completely mishandled information that could have helped avoid the Fort Hood massacre perpetrated by Nidal Hasan.

The story is published in the context of increasing revelations about how our intelligence system includes the capability of spying on American citizens. In this case we have a story about how intel agencies have long monitored communications with Muslim clerics with ties to terrorism. And a year prior to the massacre, the FBI intercepted emails between Anwar al-Awlaki and Hasan. They described them as “fairly benign.” Mother Jones‘ reporting questions that assessment. It begins:

Last Thursday, as the jury in the trial of Nidal Hasan was deliberating, outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller appeared on CBS News and discussed a string of emails between the Fort Hood shooter and Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Islamic cleric with ties to the 9/11 hijackers. The FBI had intercepted the messages starting almost a year before Hasan’s 2009 shooting rampage, and Mueller was asked whether “the bureau dropped the ball” by failing to act on this information. He didn’t flinch: “No, I think, given the context of the discussions and the situation that the agents and the analysts were looking at, they took appropriate steps.”

In the wake of the Fort Hood attacks, the exchanges between Awlaki and Hasan—who was convicted of murder on Friday—were the subject of intense speculation. But the public was given little information about these messages. While officials claimed that they were “fairly benign,” the FBI blocked then-Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s efforts to make them public as part of a two-year congressional investigation into Fort Hood. The military judge in the Hasan case also barred the prosecutor from presenting them, saying they would cause “unfair prejudice” and “undue delay.”

As it turns out, the FBI quietly released the emails in an unclassified report on the shooting, which was produced by an investigative commission headed by former FBI director William H. Webster last year. And, far from being “benign,” they offer a chilling glimpse into the psyche of an Islamic radical. The report also shows how badly the FBI bungled its Hasan investigation and suggests that the Army psychiatrist’s deadly rampage could have been prevented.

Much of the story deals with how the FBI bungled its handling of an investigation into a man who was openly asking Awlaki for permission to kill American soldiers. We get specifics about the bureaucratic mis-steps and failures. We learn from the article that “a group of more than 100 Fort Hood victims and victims’ relatives has filed suit claiming that the government’s ‘gross negligence’ and ‘reckless disregard’ for the lives of Fort Hood residents and staff paved the way for the tragedy.”

The emails themselves have some religious components and context that I do wish were further explored:

Meanwhile, Hasan kept writing Awlaki…

The San Diego field office intercepted these missives, too. But the database where the FBI stored intercepted emails didn’t automatically link messages from the same sender, so the staff didn’t realize that Hasan’s early 2009 emails were from the person who had set off alarms the previous December. Meanwhile, the Washington-based DCIS agent assigned to investigate Hasan put off his inquiry for another 90 days, the maximum allowed under joint task force rules, before conducting a cursory investigation. Over the course of four hours on May 27, 2009, he ran Hasan’s name through several databases to see if the psychiatrist had been targeted in previous counterterrorism probes. He also reviewed Hasan’s Pentagon personnel file. Hasan’s officer evaluations were mostly positive, and the chair of psychiatry at Walter Reed had written that Hasan’s research on Islamic beliefs regarding military service had “extraordinary potential to inform national policy and military strategy.”

The Senate investigation later found these reports “bore no resemblance to the real Hasan, a barely competent psychiatrist whose radicalization toward violent Islamist extremism alarmed his colleagues and his superiors.” Nevertheless, the DCIS investigator concluded, based on Hasan’s file, that the Army psychiatrist had contacted Awlaki in connection with his academic research and “was not involved in terrorist activity.” The DCIS investigator and a supervisory agent in the Washington field office debated interviewing Hasan or his superiors. They ultimately decided doing so could jeopardize the Awlaki investigation or harm Hasan’s career.

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Hurrah: Learning more about Antoinette Tuff’s religion

The other day I was reading an obituary of Tom Christian, descendent of the Bounty mutineer. It was in the New York Times and written by my very favorite obituary writer, Margalit Fox.

So, right up top the obit included this line:

Mr. Christian, who for his services to Pitcairn was named a Member of the British Empire in 1983, was long considered an elder statesman on the island. He served for years on the Island Council, the local governing body, and was a lay elder in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, to which most islanders belong.

Thank you! It’s a common refrain here, but oh how frustrating it is to not learn the basics of someone’s religious affiliation. It seems like such a modest expectation, but one that is frequently unmet.

Which gets us to this follow-up about my new favorite person: Antoinette Tuff.

You may remember that she’s the bookkeeper who talked a deranged man out of shooting up any students or faculty at an Atlanta area school. Listening to her 9-1-1 call is wonderfully inspirational. She’s so realistic about the threat but she just manages her fear and speaks to the gunman with love. We talked about some early coverage here.

A long-time GetReligion reader sent in this CNN story that explored some of her religious views, headlined “CNN Exclusive: A hug, then ‘We made it!’ as school bookkeeper, dispatcher reunite.” The story is about Tuff and 9-1-1 dispatcher Kendra McCray:

In their voices, both women sounded calm throughout the call — even as gunshots were ringing out around Tuff, and later when the suspect reached into a bag to reload his AK-47-type assault rifle.

But inside, they now admit, they were terrified.

McCray recalled Thursday how her hands were shaking, though she knew that she couldn’t reveal her fears in her voice. And Tuff said she was trying to incorporate the lessons she’d learned in church to stay strong for herself, the 800-plus elementary school students in the classrooms behind her — and for the gunman whom she came to feel for.

“I was actually praying on the inside,” she recalled. “I was terrified, but I just started praying.”

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Religion and the 1963 March on Washington

August 28 is the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. There’s a huge rally down at the Lincoln Memorial today and media coverage has been ramping up in preparation. One of the complaints we’ve gotten about that coverage is that it has oddly avoided mention of the religious component of the original march and of continued civil rights efforts. And that has been missing from some coverage.

But let’s look at some of the coverage that did cover that angle, and covered it well. First up is (friend of the blog) Hamil Harris’ piece in the Washington Post headlined “Civil Rights leaders lift up prayers marking March on Washington.”

I stole this picture from Harris’ twitter feed. He said of it that William Allison,92, came to the march with same sign in 1963.

The story is full of great quotes, including:

Rev. Kendrick E. Curry, pastor of the Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church, told the crowd of several hundreds that the “prayer and praise service grounds the 50th anniversary march so that it can become transformative.”

“ If we simply gather without the very rooting that the original march had, and the spirit that King had, then we are forever off course and out of order,” Curry said.

and:

Rev. Barbara Williams Skinner, co-chair of the National African American Clergy Network and a spiritual advisor to President Obama, gave the closing charge for the evening. She she said that it was important to remember that march began in a sanctuary.

“It suggests that prayer and worship was behind the civil rights movement,” Skinner said in an interview. “It was then and it is now. Without the power of God we won’t get anywhere, we won’t have voting rights… we won’t have anything that we are really seeking.”

Frequently reporters don’t include such religious language in stories about this and other mass efforts, even though people allude to and specifically reference their religious motivation. Kudos for simply reporting some of these powerful quotes.

While we’re looking at Post coverage, here’s an interesting essay by one of the original reporters who covered the march. It’s about how the paper was trying to get a story about some type of problem breaking out at the march. By focusing on that, it missed the major news of the day — the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. But I couldn’t help but think it’s also about how much difficulty many media outlets continue to have about covering a march. Part of that is cultural — the coverage of early Tea Party protests was so tonally off as to be offensive — particularly the hungry efforts to find “problems” at the march. You didn’t see similar efforts at ideological protests from cultural bedfellows, such as the Colbert/Stewart rallies. But you can still sense the confusion and misguided efforts at covering massive annual pro-life marches. Perhaps the essay should be required reading in newsrooms. A snippet:

We were poised and ready for a riot, for trouble, for unexpected events — but not for history to be made.

My favorite religion news angle on the March anniversary events comes from Religion News Service. Adelle M. Banks and Corrie Raye Mitchell interviewed tons of participants in the march and Banks and Sally Morrow compiled photos and videos to make a fantastic multi-media presentation. It’s fun to just wander through the package, with interviews of:

 

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The heroism of Antoinette Tuff

YouTube Preview ImageA reader sent along a link to a story about an amazing woman who talked down a gunman at an Atlanta-area elementary school. Her name is Antoinette Tuff and the full 9-1-1 call she made — which includes her conversation with the gunman — is gripping. You can hear it from CNN here. Her courage is inspiring and her love for her neighbors is just beautiful. She talks about her own hardships to help him see that he’s not alone in having a bad situation. The love she shows the mentally disturbed man who could have destroyed so many lives is just staggering.

The story the reader sent in, from ABC News/Yahoo included the following passages:

Hill, according to Tuff, said he had no reason to live because nobody loved him.

“And I just explained to him that I loved him,” Tuff told ABC News in an exclusive interview Tuesday night. “I didn’t know much about him. I didn’t know his name but I did love him and it was scary because I knew at that moment he was ready to take my life along with his, and if I didn’t say the right thing, then we all would be dead.”…

“I knew at that time it was bigger than me,” she said. “He was really a hurting young man, so I just started praying for him. And just started talking to him and allowing him to know everything that was going on with me and that everything was going to be OK.”

Then Tuff made the request that she said helped end the standoff. She asked the suspect to put his weapons down, empty his pockets and backpack and lie on the floor.

“He brought a gun bag, a book bag, a bag full of ammunitions in there, a bunch of magazine clips in there, a whole lot of stuff,” she said…

Tuff said she will be returning to work later this morning.

“Yes, I will be back,” she said, “sitting in that same seat, blessing that next person.”

The comment from the reader, a journalist herself, “Talk about a religion hole.”

Indeed. If you want to know more about the religious motivations of this woman who helped save so many lives, don’t look to em>Parade magazine. The story has nothing about her religious views.

One of my concerns about how journalists cover shootings is the fame given to those who kill others. When men and women courageously thwart gunmen, their names and actions should be remembered and covered well. The media have, in fact, done a good job of noting Tuff’s courage, but looking at what gave her the strength to handle such a worrisome situation could be handled better.

The Los Angeles Times ended its piece on the matter with this quote:

When it was all over, she said a prayer: “I said, ‘Thank you, Jesus.’ “

NBC News gave this snippet:

Only after the ordeal was over did Tuff reveal just how scared she’d been the whole time:

“I’m going to tell you something baby — I’ve never been so scared in all the days in my life,” she told the unidentified operator. Then, she started crying and exclaimed, “Oh, Jesus! Oh, God!”

To which the operator told the courageous bookkeeper: “You did great. Hold on. Hold on”

More, please.

There’s another religion angle cropping up in this story.

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God works through means: a story

I’m not sure if we looked at the media coverage of the “miracle priest” in Missouri. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, here’s an early Associated Press account of how a “mysterious priest” “suddenly appeared” and prayed over and anointed a badly injured car accident victim with oil. That piece is headlined “Priest comes out of nowhere to aid accident victim.” Here’s a News-Tribune (Jefferson City, Mo.) follow-up with more details.

The initial coverage looked at how onlookers were looking for the priest who helped the victim and how no photos of the accident scene showed the priest, even though many people had seen him. A perfect August story.

The priest ultimately revealed who he was. That was also covered. A typical example is this New York Daily News piece, which begins:

There’s no mystery to this Father Dowling — he’s a prince of a priest.

But the best story was definitely the one that appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The reader who sent it along wrote:

I realize that there as been a lot of coverage of this story but this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article is actually quite good in both explaining Church teaching, letting the “religion” survive the reporting, and it even follows up with a university professor explaining how this event could still be a “miracle” even if God was acting just through a human being.  It is quite good.

Couldn’t have said it better. Reporter Tim Townsend introduces the backstory before adding:

What [the Rev. Patrick Dowling] did next would unexpectedly trigger an international media frenzy over miracles, angels and divine intervention.

After officials allowed him to approach the accident, Dowling reached his arm well into the car to touch Lentz’s head with oil. “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.”

The prayer was the Anointing of the Sick, an ancient ritual with roots in Judaism that is one of Catholicism’s seven sacraments.

As the priest walked away from the Mercedes, Lentz — a member of an Assemblies of God Pentecostal church — asked him to return and pray aloud with her, which he did. He then moved out of the way so rescue efforts could resume.

Dowling said in an interview this week that he was only doing his job at the sight of someone hovering near death. “You stop and anoint because that’s what Jesus told us to do,” he said.

I loved this story about the mystery priest, but not for “miraculous” reasons. My dad is a pastor and that meant that my childhood was full of random roadside stops where my father would see what help was needed and would pray with and for those who needed help. I thought the lack of photos was a weird detail, but mostly I just liked how it showed that many clergy act as first responders.

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A detour through some good reporting on life issues

Because I’ve been so critical of the way abortion is routinely covered in the mainstream media, I wanted to quickly highlight two recent stories that were different. One of the points that activist Lila Rose has made in her criticism is that the media needs to tell positive stories related to the sanctity of human life. One criticism I’ve made in the past is how the media have completely failed to explain the ethical or religious concerns related to assisted reproductive technology.

A reader passed along this story originally out of KCCI but also posted on CNN.com. It’s about a family that adopted embryos that were left over from IVF treatments. The couple in question are religious, although their religious views aren’t explored in the story. He’s a pastor in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which is mentioned in the story. But just telling a simple story that involves the fact, oddly obscured, about how IVF treatments routinely create embryos that are never implanted, and about how people can gestate these young humans, is a big story and one that should be told. Link to the CNN story here. I can’t figure out how to embed it.

A sample:

Reporter: But last year, the dad who doubles as a pastor got a  prayer request that stumped him.

Pastor Luke Timm: Pray for this couple. They’ve adopted an embryo. And I went – ‘what is that?’

Reporter: He found after couples go through in-vitro fertilization, many have leftover embryos they don’t want to just throw away.

Joni Timm: There are lots and lots of embryos out there waiting for a chance at life.

The second story is a simple profile of two lobbyists in the abortion fight.

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AP badly flubs Catholic teaching

The media’s obsession with sexualityism is somehow getting even more pronounced. We have a backlog of stories to look at.

But here’s a quick example of how shoddy the coverage is, this time from the Associated Press:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie plans to sign a bill Monday barring licensed therapists from trying to make gay minors straight.

There are so many questions I have about this. So many questions not answered in this brief AP report. One might be how this bill handles treatment of minors who have unwanted same-sex attraction. Does this ban affect their treatment options? How so?

In any case, that’s not why I mention the story. Here’s the portion that fails utterly:

In a signing note accompanying the bill obtained by The Associated Press that will be made public Monday, Christie says he believes people are born gay and homosexuality is not a sin. That view is inconsistent with his Catholic faith.

Really?

How so?

AP preaches this interpretation of Catholic teaching from the pulpit but provides … no substantiation. So we can’t know why AP is making this statement. I’m really curious how in the world that view is inconsistent with his Catholic faith. That church teaches that same-sex attraction is not a sin but that homosexual acts are. And as for people being born gay, a doctrinal view of key importance in the church of sexualityism, neither is that view “inconsistent” with Catholic teaching. The church even puts its teaching on the matter online so AP reporters and others can check.

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