Got news? Pelosi and Sunday-only religion

Often you’ll see political blogs regurgitating one another so the same storylines get pushed through the cycle. Some blogs do very good aggregation while others obviously use bait to get more clicks. Few blogs specialize in breaking new ground.

The Washington Examiner has some interesting quotes from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi about faith, contraception and politics. The headline that got me to click in? Pelosi: “‘I do my religion on Sundays, in church”

On one hand, I applaud the blog for doing some reporting, a post that breaks new ground.

On the other hand, I’m still looking for a little bit more information, even if it’s seen through an opinion-page lens. Even though we generally don’t critique columns, blogs or stories outside of mainstream reporting, we hope information would be reported as thoroughly as possible. Here’s what we know from the post:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a Roman Catholic, refused to say whether she supported her church’s teaching that contraception is immoral.

“I do my religion on Sundays, in church, and I try to go other days of the week; I don’t do it at this press conference,” Pelosi said curtly as a reporter asked about her view of the church position on contraception.

When, where and in what context did she say this? How was the question asked?

Pelosi brushed off the organizations and church dioceses that filed suing the Obama administration over the contraception mandate. “I don’t think that’s the entire Catholic Church,” she said. “Those people have a right to sue, but I dont think they’re speaking ex cathedra for the Catholic Church.”

I’d like to know what exactly the questions was and exactly how she “brushed off” the organizations. Did she say anything else on the health care mandate itself? Were there any other follow-up questions, or did she shift the press conference?

The post ends with some context from Pelosi’s statements in February. Again, this isn’t terribly unusual for a blog post, and hopefully we’ll see more writers using blogs to report new information. Perhaps in the future, we could see a Q & A write up or even a video, especially since those with smartphones can record video and audio so easily.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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Got news? The Vatican women’s Page

L’Osservatore Romano reports that it has added a women’s page to its Italian-language edition. The four-page insert will be called “Women, Church, World” and will be written “by and for” Catholic women, and will appear on the last Thursday of the month, the semi-official Vatican newspaper reports.

The first issue was printed on 31 May 2012 (Feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary) and features an interview with Maria Voce, president of the Focolari Movement, an appreciation of the Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi, an essay on Joan of Arc, and other women-themed articles. If the first issue is any guide this section will be more of a feminist Catholic feuilleton rather than a throwback to the traditional women’s page of day’s past.

The front page article in L’Osservatore Romano announcing the new section states:

Historical research is showing how the emancipation and advancement of women is indebted to Christianity from its origins, despite contradictions down the centuries, due above all to the cultural context and, in our day, to persistent prejudices.

The article then notes the fullness of presence of women in the life of the church through history.

And although the female presence in the Church has in some periods seemed to be in the shadows, this makes it no less important. In the second half of the twentieth century the recognition of this element on the part of the Holy See became more decisive, as in 1963 when the new lead role of women in society, especially in that of Christian tradition, was recognized by John XXIII as one of the “signs of the times”.

Then in 1964 it was Paul VI who, with unprecedented determination, invited several women to take part in the Second Vatican Council and, in 1970, proclaimed two women saints  Doctors of the Church: Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila. He was followed by John Paul II – who likewise proclaimed Thérèse of Lisieux a Doctor in 1997 – and by Benedict XVI who has decided on this solemn definition also for one of the greatest women of the Middle Ages, Hildegard of Bingen – as confirmation of an indispensable and valuable presence in Christ’s Church.

In an interview in the Italian language section of Zenit, Prof. Lucetta Scaraffia of La Sapienza University in Rome, the editor of the supplement, acknowledged the project will break stereotypes of Catholic women — inside and outside the church. She accepts that some will not be pleased.

The church world has traditionally misogynistic.Women have been seen as potential competitors for careers inside the church and accepted only if they cancel themselves out by playing a subordinate role. But this position in today’s world is unsustainable.

Prof. Scaraffia stated the new section:

will demonstrate how many women are involved in church life …

and will push for reform by lending:

a hand to a growing need for internal change.

She added that:

Religious and secular women are not only very numerous but they play important and interesting roles in the life of the Church. However, everyone thinks that the Church is made only of cardinals, bishops … so finally, at least once a month, we will open a window on the fundamental presence, past and present, of women in the Church.

The women’s page will also promote a modern Catholic feminism based upon the principle of complementarity — not interchangeability — of men and women.

Feminism was and is many things. First, it seeks recognition for the role of women, which often – and precisely in the Church – is undervalued and ignored. But there is a difference between feminism that seeks equality by flattening the distinction between women and men, thereby erasing women’s difference from men … Too often this difference has been synonymous with inequality, but we will defend it and advance a new feminism.

One not centered solely around careers, “sexual freedom, contraception and abortion,” she said.

From a journalistic perspective, the addition of a women’s page to advance a feminist agenda appears counter intuitive.

In the early Twentieth century women’s pages began to appear in the middle or back of newspapers and provided how-to-information to women on marriage, fashion, food, beauty, home improvement and the like. In some more progressive metropolitan newspapers the women’s page also ran features on social issues: domestic violence, women in politics, poverty among women, and reports on the growing feminist movements. It also provided an entry for women reporters into a hitherto male dominated profession.

In the 1970′s however, most American newspapers dropped the women’s page, replacing it with a Lifestyle section that produced soft news stories and features about the arts and personalities designed to attract men and women.

Is introducing a women’s page one Thursday a month a good idea? Tell me GetReligion readers, do you agree with the argument put forward by Prof. Scaraffia that this supplement will increase the profile of women in the church?

Or, do you share my disquiet that — while well intentioned — this creates a ghetto for women in L’Osservatore Romano? Should the types of articles that Prof. Scaraffia hopes to publish appear more than once a month? Or, should we accept that this is a start and that good writing and solid reporting will see women-themed stories move from the supplement into a regular slot in the news pages?

What say you GetReligion readers?

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Gay marriage and the French Catholic vote

In light of the media’s fascination with interplay between sex, the Catholic Church and politics, I am always surprised at its lack of curiosity when these worlds collide overseas.

The 6 May 2012 French presidential election is a case in point. Socialist Party (PS) candidate François Hollande captured 18 million votes to incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 16.8 million: 51.64 per cent to 48.36 per cent. The role religion played in the election has received little play in the U.S. save for conservative bloggers, who reported that 93 per cent of France’s 2 million Muslim voters went for Hollande.

Some liberal blogs are warning of the resurgence of a Catholic far right. Writing in the Huffington Post, Eric Margolis argued the National Front was one of the winners in the election, as a Socialist government would invigorate the conservative fringe parties at the expense of Sarkozy’s center-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) party.

But the National Front — xenophobic, racist, violently anti-Muslim and anti-Europe — is poison to moderate French and many members of the UMP. To no surprise, UMP may split, or disintegrate, over the issue of joining forces with the National Front, seen by many French as a reborn fascist movement. In fact, it’s not really fascist, but an avatar of the old 1940 far-right, ultra-conservative, ultra-Catholic movement.

It may very well transpire that a Socialist victory will empower the parties of the far right, but I believe Margolis is off the mark in lumping the far-right with the ultra-Catholic movement (and what exactly is the ultra-Catholic movement anyway?). As I noted in a pre-election post, the French Catholic Church did not endorse any one candidate for the election, but it made it clear that the policies of the National Front were not supported by the Church.

The first article I have seen that looked into how Catholics voted came in the Catholic weekly, La Vie — and its results were a surprise as they closely matched observations made by the editor of GetReligion Terry Mattingly about the American Catholic vote.

Roman Catholics who “go to mass as least once a month” voted 4 to 1 in favor of Sarkozy: 79 per cent to 21 per cent, according to a poll commissioned by Le Vie and conducted by the Harris Institute. Catholics who went to Mass less than once a month, voted 62 per cent to 38 per cent for Sarkozy. Those who self-identified as Catholics but who did not attend mass  showed the same voting patters as the French population at large. Those who identified themselves as atheists voted 70 per cent to 30 per cent in favor of Hollande.

In an odd twist to the conventional media wisdom, Sarkozy increased his margins among mass-going Catholics in this election form 70 per cent in 2005 to 79 per cent this month. What was odd about this increase was that Hollande campaigned on a theme of personal probity — fostering a dour frugal image in contrast to the flamboyant  Sarkozy.

Gay marriage was one of the reasons for the Catholic rejection of Hollande, the survey found.  In an interview with the French gay-oriented glossy magazine TÊTU Hollande stated he would honor the PS’s campaign promise to legalize gay marriage and gay adoption — measures rejected by the UMP-dominated French parliament in 2011. The Harris survey found that mass-going Catholics were not keen on France’s new Socialist President because he was “in favor of same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.”

Last month the LA Times reported that:

A recent poll for the Journal du Dimanche newspaper found that 64% of French disapproved of Sarkozy. That’s higher even than the rating for the unpopular Valery Giscard d’Estaing during his tenure. Giscard was the last president to lose his reelection bid, in 1981.

The truth is that Sarkozy, 57, has never succeeded in shaking off the negative impression he made at the beginning of his five-year term, that the conservative leader was the “president of the rich.” That image plays badly, especially given that a few months after he took office, the global recession hit, leading to belt-tightening measures.

Before the 2007 election, he had hinted that he would go into retreat in the days before the transfer of power to consider how to lead France. Instead, he threw a party at Fouquet’s, one of the most ostentatious restaurants in France. Then he spent a few days vacationing in the Mediterranean on the yacht of a billionaire businessman friend.

Sarkozy, the French were told, had no hang-ups about celebrity or money; instead of reassuring them, however, the flashy watches and aviator sunglasses simply cemented his reputation as the “bling-bling” president.

Distaste among French voters concerned with social values — the segment where most mass-going Catholic voters can be found — for Sarkozy’s lifestyle appears not to have translated into more votes for Hollande.

La Vie explained the “massive” move to the right by practicing Catholics by stating:

Among the many factors to consider – sociological, economic and cultural – should undoubtedly include anthropological and ethical convictions of these strong Christians.

And for French Catholics gay marriage appeared to be key amongst these convictions. The American Catholic voter matrix created by Tmatt — with the Catholic vote divided amongst Ex-Catholics, Cultural Catholics, Sunday-morning American Catholics and “Sweats the details” Roman Catholic — appears to hold true for France also. 

It may be that the sort of article that looks at the big picture of values voters is beyond a newspaper and lies in the realm of a monthly. However, I would welcome an acknowledgement in the American press that the issues that animate our political debates are not unique to these shores.

What say you GetReligion readers? Is this merely interesting ephemera, or a news angle that should be developed further?

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Can a feminist be pro-life?

Can a feminist be pro-life? Can a feminist be a Christian?

Here’s another. Can an atheist be pro-life. Or, is the pro-life movement merely a stalking horse for the Christian right?

While some of this field has been plowed by Christopher Hitchens –  a professed atheist, Hitchens answered the question of whether an atheist can be pro-life in an article he wrote for Vanity Fair (The answer is yes. He was an atheist and opposed abortion.) — it is new to Australia. And the debate over who is a feminist is a live one.

These questions were at the heart of a media furore in Australia last month following the publication in the Sydney Morning Herald of a profile of pro-life activist, Melinda Tankard Reist.  MTR — as she has come to be called on twitter and other social media sites — is the author of Big Porn Inc, a study warning of the pernicious cultural and social effects of pornography.

The SMH‘s ‘Who’s Afraid of Melinda Tankard Reist’ was a mostly positive appraisal of MTR, written in the breathy People magazine style seen in the early stories about Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann.

Melinda Tankard Reist is a woman of strong opinions. She is also a woman about whom people have strong feelings. If you’ve seen her proselytise on pornography on TV, read her opinions on the sexualisation of girls in the newspapers, or watched her go after do-badding companies on Twitter or through her activist group Collective Shout, chances are you have a few opinions about her of your own.

She’s a wowser. A no-nonsense political crusader beloved by both teenage girls and their mothers. A religious conservative in feminist clothing. A brazen careerist. A gifted networker and generous mentor.

The Canberra-based activist, mother of four and author of four books is difficult to pigeonhole and impossible to ignore. (and so on and so forth)

The article prompted a sharp response in an opinion piece entitled “There is no such thing as a pro-life feminist” published in the SMH by Anne Summers which challenged MTR’s right to call herself a feminist. The original story also prompted a torrent of abuse.

Writing in the Herald Sun in an article entitled “Pro-lifer sparks charge of the spite brigade”, Mirando Devine stated:

The cyber bullies who piled on to anti-porn activist Melinda Tankard Reist last week are behaving like 17th-century witch hunters, not the enlightened tolerance queens they claim to be.

Tankard Reist’s crime was to be profiled not unfavourably in a Sunday magazine, which described her as one of Australia’s best-known feminist voices.

This infuriated the miserable Orcs who lurk in the dark recesses of Twitter and the blogosphere.

Up they sprang to pour calumny on Tankard Reist, a pro-life feminist and 48-year-old mother of four from Mildura.

She was nothing but a fundamentalist Christian trying to hide her religious beliefs. Therefore, her views on the sexualisation of children, the objectification of women, the corrosive effect of internet pornography, were suspect.

Oh, and she should be abused with a coffee cup.

One blogger attacked MTR for speaking out on abortion and offered this put down.

She’s a Baptist and attends Belconnen Baptist Church. … She is anti-abortion. She is deceptive and duplicitous about her religious beliefs. … What does does she have to hide?

Well that’s another one to add to my list: Freemasons, the Tri-Lateral Commission, the Illuminati, Bilderburgers, Bonesmen and now Baptists — agents of Satan all. But I digress.

Writing in The Age in an article entitled “Another day, another fresh wave of e.hate”, MTR objected to the the standards of debate being exhibited in the social media culture, where physical and verbal threats had crowded out rational discourse in battle of ideas. Other feminists soon entered the fray.

The directors of a feminist publishing house defended MTR in a story entitled “The Authentic Feminism of Melinda Tankard Reist”, posted  the ABC’s Religion and Ethics site which argued that being a feminist did not mean checking one’s mind at the door or conforming to a single party line on any issue. Other opinion pieces soon appeared in the Age, “Feminism’s clique does not help the cause”, in the SMH, “Plenty of room under the feminism umbrella” and “Tankard Reist explain yourself”, and on the ABC’s Religion and Ethics site, “Media must do better on porn debate” that adopted differing views on the controversy.

The story took a further twist when MTR engaged an attorney to ask the blogger who said she was a Christian fundamentalist to retract her statement. MTR is not a Baptist and does not attend Belconnen Baptist Church. She is a Christian, however, and has not hidden her faith.

The Herald Sun reported that this attempt to set the record straight prompted a new attack.

The Twitter hate exploded. Leslie Cannold, a so-called “ethicist”, was among the more energetic defenders of Wilson, averaging two tweets every hour every day, indicating a somewhat unhealthy obsession with Tankard Reist.

“She wouldn’t be considered newsworthy if correctly described as fundie Christian. They’re all anti-porn raunch & choice.”

There is more than a little envy among Christophobes at Tankard Reist’s growing influence and good standing with young women.

In a summary of the debate printed in the opinion section of The Drum on the ABC entitled “Tankard Reist furore: feminists on the attack”, Claire Bongiorno questioned the anti-Christian sentiments of some of MTR’s critics.

Eva Cox has suggested that Tankard Reist’s views may be incompatible with “basic feminist criteria” because of her ‘religious’ views.

… Cox argues that people claiming to be feminists should declare their ‘religious’ beliefs. Such declarations would allow those assessing their feminist views to identify any presuppositions with which a feminist writer may be working. Cox stated in a recent article in The New Matilda that, if we knew Ms Tankard Reist’s “religious” views, then it may be that her feminist views “fail to meet what I would see as basic feminist criteria”.  However, knowing the “religious” views of a feminist writer may not be useful and it may result in misunderstandings and incorrect inferences being drawn.

The suggestion that one needs to scrutinise Tankard Reist further because of what she has identified as a “struggling spirituality”, also suggests a suspicion and intolerance for faith.

Women who ascribe to some kind of faith can and do still have agency to think and form views about feminism. There is also no reason to assume that women can’t critique aspects of their particular faith with which they disagree. For example, some Catholic women may criticise the patriarchal structures that limit female participation and leadership in their church. It is patronising to women of faith that they should be treated differently in intellectual debates.

This is all great stuff. A wonderfully spirited debate is taking place in the op-ed pages of Australia’s leading newspapers that is seeking to flesh out a pressing social and ethical issue — can a women be a feminist and a religious believer? Can she be pro-life and and feminist?

The place you will not see this issue mentioned is in the other parts of the Australian press. Apart from a few articles in the technology section about the perils of abuse on social media sites and the legal liability of libeling someone via twitter or Facebook, I’ve seen nothing.

I hold up this debate in Australia’s op-ed pages for the approbation of GetReligion readers because of its high quality — and because I do not believe we will ever see this sort of thing in the American press. On blogs yes. In newspapers or on the website of television networks, no.

This is my way of making a plea for American newspapers to make space for feuilletons. What in the world is that, you may ask. In the U.S., the most read feuilleton is the “Talk of the Town” section of the New Yorker — a collection of light news, art and literary observations. The German press takes the concept somewhat more seriously and its fueilleton section is the field of  battle in the war of ideas and provides solid reporting on intellectual, literary, philosophical and religious news.

There are specialty websites that meet this high culture niche, but in the race to be the most mediocre, the most vanilla newspaper in the land — offensive to none, advertisers for all — the press is abandoning one of its key duties. The duty to educate and inform the life of the mind.

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Last temptation of Castro

Fidel Castro will be received back into the communion of the Roman Catholic Church during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the island in March, the Italian press is reporting. If true, this is a remarkable story — and one that has yet to catch the attention of editors this side of the Atlantic.

On 1 Feb 2012, La Republicca — [Italy's second largest circulation daily newspaper, La Republicca follows a center-left political line and is strongly anti-clerical; not anti-Catholic per se but a critic of the institutional church] — reported that as death approaches, the octogenarian communist has turned to God for solace.

ABC’s Global Note news blog is the only U.S. general interest publication I have found that has reported this story.  It referenced the La Republicca story and said that Castro’s

daughter Alina is quoted as saying “During this last period, Fidel has come closer to religion: he has rediscovered Jesus at the end of his life. It doesn’t surprise me because dad was raised by Jesuits.” The article quotes an unidentified high prelate in the Vatican who is working on the Pope’s Cuba trip: “Fidel is at the end of his strength. Nearly at the end of his life. His exhortations in the party paper Granma, are increasingly less frequent. We know that in this last period he has come closer to religion and God.”

Some Italian websites have even speculated as to when Fidel will make his confession and credo — setting the date as 27 March 2012 at 17:30 when the two ottantacinquenni, Pope Benedict XVI and Castro, will meet at the Palacio de la Revolución when the pope makes his official visit to the head of state, Raul Castro.

During Pope John Paul II’s 1998 visit to Cuba, Castro attended mass, but did not receive the Eucharist or give voice to Christian beliefs. If his daughter’s story is true and Castro returns to the church it will be very interesting to see how it plays out across the media.

One issue that might be raised is Castro’s excommunication. One of the recurring errors of religion reporting GetReligion has addressed is the misconceptions about excommunication. The overwhelming majority of those who are excommunicated have not been formally and individually censured by the church, but have followed a course of action that led to their self-excommunication. Castro’s excommunication is the same, but over time the lack of clarity in the 1963 press reports have hardened into conventional wisdom.

The Miami Herald has a well written and thorough report on the state of the Roman Catholic Church in Cuba that states as fact that John XXIII excommunicated Castro, while the La Republicca article quotes an unnamed Vatican official as saying:

True in 1963 [Castro]was excommunicated by the Pope, but then that measure was a measure almost automatic for those who professed Communism.

However, Friday’s Vatican Insider column in La Stampa reports there is no evidence that Castro was excommunicated by Pope John XXIII.

There is also much talk about the excommunication bestowed on him by John XXIII, who is now a Blessed pope. What has sparked these rumours, is the excommunication decree for communists, published by Pius XII in 1949 and renewed in 1959 by Pope Roncalli.

Indeed, the news regarding the excommunication decreed by the “good Pope” against Fidel and dated 3 January 1962, can be found practically all over the web. What happened that day? The first man to mention excommunication was Dino Staffa who was working as Secretary of the Congregation for Seminaries at the time, a renowned scholar of canonical law. Paul VI allegedly promoted him to the Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and then made him a cardinal in 1967. Newspapers presented him as a “high-ranking prelate” of the Secretariat of State, even though he did not in fact hold any position in said office. What is more, Mgr. Staffa’s reasons were not related to communism, but to violence against bishops. The prelate, an expert in canonical law, essentially said that Castro should consider himself excommunicated by virtue of the Code of Canonical Law, which automatically prescribes this very serious punishment to those who are violent against bishops or who collaborate to carry out such acts. The excommunication therefore boiled down to the opinion of a scholar of canonical law, not to an excommunication decreed at that moment.

In other words, Castro’s was an excommunication latae sententiae, “by the very commission of the offense.” No action was taken by the church to excommunicate Castro. He did it himself.

The La Republicca article closes its report on Castro’s return to the church by stating:

In Havana there waiting for the arrival of Benedict XVI. The Church in Cuba is loved and respected. So is the government for its broad social interventions.

The church can thus serve as a “mediator” between the people and the government in the post-Castro era, La Republicca argues. I think it is a bit of a stretch to say the government is loved and respected for its “social interventions”, but La Republicca is a left-wing European paper and its default position is that Cuba’s experiment with socialism is a moral good.

Which ever way it goes, the Castro/repentance story will be fascinating to watch. What does it mean for a dictator to seek  repentance? What does forgiveness mean? Is moral redemption possible in this day and age? How will those who have been harmed by the regime respond? What about the prisoners of conscience who remain in Cuban jails — a Cuban political prisoner, Wilmar Villar, died on 21 January 2012 after a 50 day hunger strike — what does an old man’s repentance have to say about that?

What say you GetReligion readers?

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See no evil, report no evil

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If an Muslim radical makes death threats against a university audience in London, and the BBC does not report it, did it really happen?

There is a sense of unreality about the reporting of militant Islam in the U.K. The BBC is regularly chastised for its biases and omissions in reporting on Islamic militancy — while some tabloids are taken to task for whipping up anti-Muslim hysteria. However, one can usually count on the corporation making mention of an incident.

Maybe not.

While I was researching background materials for an article, I happened to page through the website of the National Secular Society (NSS) — a humanist group in the U.K. I came across a 17 January 2012 press release entitled “Islamist stops university debate with threats of violence.” I had not heard about this incident, and when I googled the name of the lead actor in this drama I imagine you did not hear about this either as the Independent was the sole broadsheet to cover the story — and they buried the article in the crime section.

According to the NSS press release:

A talk on sharia and human rights by NSS Council Member Anne Marie Waters’ at Queen Mary University of London was cancelled at the last moment because of an Islamist who made serious threats against everyone there.

Ms Waters was due to give a talk on behalf of the One Law for All campaign on 16 January but before it started, a man entered the lecture theatre, stood at the front with a camera and filmed the audience. He then said that he knew who everyone was, where they lived and if he heard anything negative about the Prophet, he would track them down.

The man also filmed students in the foyer and threatened to murder them and their families. On leaving the building, he joined a large group of men, apparently there to support him. Students were told by security to stay in the lecture theatre for their own safety.

The Independent reported the same set of facts and interviewed a number of witnesses and Ms. Waters. The headline fairy seems to have been at work that evening at the Independent as the title of the story was sanitized. “Man threatens students at debate” is not likely to pull many readers interested to learn more.

The police are investigating the incident we learn, and the university is appalled by the incidence. Ms. Waters is made of sterner stuff, telling the Independent:

“This is the first time this has happened, it’s really very frightening and you don’t know what else it’s going to turn into,” she said. “I’m not worried about repercussions, but I’m worried about it happening again.”

While the head of the British Humanist Association stated:

“Free expression, the free exchange of ideas and free debate are hallmarks of an open society; violence and the threat of violence should never be allowed to compromise that, especially in our universities.”

No comments from Islamist groups, or from experts on censorship was appropriate, or an exploration of why someone would commit a criminal act in the name of Islam. Yet, I am not that worried about the brevity of the Independent story and am pleased that something made it into print that reported on this assault on free speech and civil liberties.

Let’s look at this another way — imagine if a professed Christian activist entered the Queen Mary University lecture hall and threatened death to those attending a lecture disparaging the Christian faith.  Do you think that this would not be spread across the British press? How many column inches would Polly Toynbee or Richard Dawkins take to denounce the incident and the belief system behind it?

But this is Islam — so we have silence.

In Peter Godwin’s wonderful memoir of life in Zimbabwe, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, he cites a phrase of Winston Churchill’s that speaks to this moral cowardice:

… appeasement is feeding the crocodile, hoping it will eat you last.

Perhaps it was an oversight, perhaps it was a cringing, craven self-censorship, perhaps the A-team of reporters was not back from the Christmas holidays. Whatever it may be, I can see no reason to spike this story.

Crocodile photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Got news? Holy Mary gets smashed

Here we go again. In the past few days I have received a mini-wave of emails asking why GetReligion hasn’t commented on the mainstream news media’s alleged refusal to cover some of the controversial religion and anti-religion stories linked to the whole “occupy” movement.

A few of these letters, I am glad to say, have pointed toward some fascinating material.

Take, for example, the interesting fusion of various world religions and “occupy” politics in some of the Wall Street photos at this website. I know that many liberal mainstream leaders are involved in these demonstrations. However, it appears that many, shall we say, “untamed” and freelance groups are there, as well. How are these groups mixing and clashing?

I am sure some viewers would be intrigued by these photos and others would be appalled. Syncretism has that effect on some people. The key journalism point is that something newsworthy is happening on the religious left and it deserves coverage.

Unfortunately, some of the emails are from press bashers who are absolutely certain that there is an ink-stained conspiracy to keep this material out of major newspapers and broadcasts. Here is a sample of what that sounds like:

How come no articles have popped up on the virulent anti-Semitism on the part of many Wall Street Occupiers? Locally there have been clips of some of the most virulent swill along those lines that I’ve seen in years — along with a parade of signs with swastikas, etc. How many times do ignorant toads (even school teachers) have to be recorded talking about Jewish bankers and how rich Jews ought to be run out of the country for the media to take notice? …

I Googled and found virtually no mainstream media coverage of it. …

The problem, of course, is that the primary reason GetReligion exists is to critique — pro and con — mainstream coverage that does exist. We look for the errors, the gaps and the “ghosts”, as well as for stories that really get the job done.

Thus, I asked this angry person for at least one or two links to MSM stories that tip-toed into this subject or, at least, religious-press accounts of the same. In return, I received this:

No URLs for mainstream media because they are ignoring the issue and the anti-Semitic strain in the mob. … All across YouTube I found many different disgusting photos or sound videos. Some of the left blogs are claiming the equivalent of some sort of Jewish Conspiracy or conservative smear. But the ones talking beyond the just anti-Semitic sure sound like leftists. At the very least the mainstream media should be reporting on the “controversy” of where the anti-Semitic voices and signs are coming from (although unlike with the media’s Tea Party smears they will whitewash this, I am sure). Most of the Jewish blogs are at a minimum scared of the direction mob actions of this nature go. …

In other words, no URLs — even to alternative media.

However, The Politico eventually did jump on this story when — of course — it affected the current political shouting on Capitol Hill. This piece does contain some of the key video links, but never take seriously the religious content of these remarks and counter-remarks. It’s just political shouting, you see.

There has been some mainstream news coverage, mainly at the blog level, of some of the anti-Catholic protests linked to the “occupy” activities in Rome. In part, this has taken place because of the riveting video featured at the top of this post.

My take is that, once again, the story has been driven — in “Got news?” fashion — by coverage in religious and/or “conservative” news outlets.

Once again, in other words, there is niche religion news and then there is mainstream religion news. Frankly, I have trouble figuring out how the buttons get pushed that help serious news stories of this kind leap out of the “niche” news and into the “real” news.

Consider this, from the Philippine Daily Inquirer:

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican has condemned Saturday’s violent clashes in central Rome including an attack by protesters on a church in which a crucifix and a statue of the Virgin Mary were destroyed.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said he “condemned the violence and the fact that a church was desecrated by some protesters who broke in and destroyed some images.” He referred to the clashes in Rome as “horrific.”

The 18th-century church of Santi Marcellino and Pietro is near St John Lateran square where much of Saturday’s violence occurred.

“When I came down, I saw the entrance door had been smashed in,” the church’s parish priest, Father Giuseppe Ciucci, was quoted by Italian media as saying.

“The Virgin Mary’s statue, which was at the entrance, had been taken away and I saw it had been thrown into the street and smashed,” he said. “I went into the sacristy and I saw the door there was also destroyed. The large crucifix at the entrance had been vandalized,” he added.

News? Not news?

“Real” news? “Conservative” news?

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Got news? Clock ticking louder in Iran

I’m still using Google News to search for mainstream news media reports on the fate of the Iranian pastor who faces the death penalty for being a Muslim apostate, even though he has never practice Islam.

Here’s the latest from this morning — from a conservative news source, of course:

Today, evangelical Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani refused to recant his Christian faith before a court in Iran for the third time. He will be brought to the court again for this purpose tomorrow, for the final time. If he refuses, his death sentence for apostasy can then be carried out. …

Those of us in the free world should press our members of Congress to speak up. Not only were American hikers accused of spying for Israeli recently released, but 13 Iranian Jews convicted in 2000 of spying for Israel and facing the death penalty were all released by 2003 — but only after voices had been raised in Washington and other Western capitals.

This note at National Review Online came from the Catholic activist Nina Shea, who directs the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute. Actually, that ID tag is severely lacking. Here’s a bit more biographical information:

Since 1999, Shea has served as a Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. She has been appointed as a U.S. delegate to the United Nation’s main human rights body by both Republican and Democratic administrations. …

For the ten years prior to joining Hudson, Shea worked at Freedom House, where she directed the Center for Religious Freedom, an entity which she had helped found in 1986 as the Puebla Institute.

Yes, we live in an interesting age when people do human-rights work at Freedom House (founded with the help of Eleanor Roosevelt) and then do the same work at the Hudson Institute. As I keep saying, defending the rights of religious minorities is not a left vs. right issue these days. At least, it shouldn’t be.

I have seen some editorials (Fox News here) on the Yousef Nadarkhani case, but no mainstream news reports in the American media. It is possible that I have missed stories in the global press. Please help me watch.

Over at the Washington Times, an editorial provided some additional background on why this case is so bizarre, even by the standards if Iranian courts:

In the fall of 2010, a Revolutionary Tribunal affirmed the death sentence, and the case was appealed to Iran’s Supreme Court. In June, the high court asked the lower court in Rasht to review whether Mr. Nadarkhani had been a practicing Muslim at the age of maturity, which is 15 in Iran. Prosecutors acknowledged that he had never been a Muslim as an adult but said that the apostasy law still applies because he has “Islamic ancestry.” …

Mr. Nadarkhani may face execution as early as Thursday. The U.S. State Department has registered a protest, but Tehran has shown no response to international pressure. Members of international church groups are fasting and praying for Mr. Nadarkhani, who remains committed to his beliefs even facing the gallows. “I don’t need to write anything further about the basis of faith,” he wrote to his supporters earlier this year. “Let us remember that beyond beautiful or painful feelings, only three things remain: Faith, Hope and Love. It is important for believers to make sure which kind of Faith, Hope and Love will remain.”

Thursday is tomorrow. Maybe there will be coverage by dawn, especially if the pastor is executed.

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