“Deceptions” in a lie-detector test

actGrab2Here is the latest from Denver. This does not prove anything one way or the other, of course, it just adds evidence that the truth is somewhere in between the accuser’s pre-election media splash and the Rev. Ted Haggard’s initial denials. In other words, the lie-detector test backs the position already accepted by the leadership of New Life Church.

Ted Haggard’s accuser failed a polygraph test early this morning about the truthfulness of his accusations that he had had a three-year homosexual affair with the influential Colorado Springs minister. The test was given to Michael Jones, 49, an admitted male prostitute, who made the allegations on the Peter Boyles Show on radio station KHOW Thursday morning.

. . . The test administrator, John Kresnik, said Jones’ score indicated “deceptions” in his answers. However, Kresnik said he doubted the accuracy of the test he administered because of the recent stress on Jones and his inability to eat or sleep, according to KHOW producer Greg Hollenback. Kresnik suggested that Jones be re-tested early next week after he was rested.

And for those awaiting the word from on high, here is a New York Times story. Frankly, I would watch the Colorado dailes — here, here and here.

This story is still centered at the local level right now. I would not want to be in charge of media security at the church’s service this Sunday.

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Timing, tapes and Clintonian grammar

062104clintonbill2I assume there will be many posts today on the Rev. Ted Haggard’s fall.

It seems to me that there are still questions about what, precisely, is on the telltale telephone answering-machine tapes. There seem to be quite a few undefined pronouns. Meanwhile, here is the most crucial news breaking this morning in Denver media:

… (The) acting senior pastor at New Life, Ross Parsley, said in an e-mail sent to parishioners late Thursday that Haggard admitted to some of the accusations:

“It is important for you to know that he confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true,” Parsley said in the e-mail.

“(Haggard) has willingly and humbly submitted to the authority of the board of overseers, and will remain on administrative leave during the course of the investigation,” the e-mail continued.

In terms of media coverage, the most interesting angle to this story is the timing.

Here is the crucial question, one that echoes questions about media coverage of the fall of former Rep. Mark Foley: Just how long did KUSA-TV and/or others sit on this story before breaking it mere days before a crucial election? Why did journalists do this? At the request of the accuser?

You can expect this to be discussed at length in evangelical circles today and, perhaps, on talk radio. If there is silence on the conservative talk-radio shows, that will say a lot.

Meanwhile, conservative Democrat Mark Stricherz — a friend of this blog — is sure to ruffle some feathers in the comment pages with this take on the story:

Evangelical Leader Takes a Page, Or Two, from Bill Clinton

As a rule, I am not inclined to believe a male escort who, less than a week before an election, claims on a local TV station that the head of the National Association of Evangelicals paid him for sex. … But check out the denial from the accused, the Rev. Ted Haggard:

I did not have a homosexual relationship with a man in Denver,” said Haggard. “I am steady with my wife. I’m faithful to my wife.”

Note the use of the present tense. The Rev. Haggard didn’t say he has never had a homosexual relationship, nor that he has always been steady or faithful to his wife. He said he is steady and is faithful. That is exactly the language that Bill Clinton used in his first national interview, with Jim Lehrer, after L’Affaire Lewinsky broke.

Maybe Rev. Haggard misspoke. Maybe he once cheated on his wife, just not with a male escort. But I suspect he’s guilty of some sexual misconduct. Which if true probably sinks the Republicans’ chances of holding onto the Senate.

I’m not sure about that last line, because I am not sure that this story will have much of an impact in red-zip-code zones in Tennessee, Virginia and Missouri.

More later, I am sure, from all the gang here at GetReligion.

UPDATE: Here is a link that claims to have the text of the semi-confession email sent to members of New Life Church. Here is part of the text from the Rev. Ross Parsley:

As you’ve likely heard by now, Pastor Ted has voluntarily placed himself on administrative leave as New Life’s senior pastor to allow our external board of overseers to work effectively. … Since that time, the board of overseers has met with Pastor Ted. It is important for you to know that he confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true. He has willingly and humbly submitted to the authority of the board of overseers, and will remain on administrative leave during the course of the investigation.

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When less isn’t more

evangelicals for mittGosh, once we get through Tuesday, it’s only two years until the next presidential election. And unless Tom Cruise throws his hat in the ring, it looks like Mitt Romney will be the candidate whose religion will get the most media attention.

In that vein, Scott Helman of The Boston Globe filed a report yesterday about meetings Romney is holding with evangelical leaders. Romney has met with Southern Baptist Richard Land and conservative activist Gary Bauer, as well as local pastors in South Carolina.

The meetings have touched on several themes, participants say, but two topics being discussed are Romney’s religious beliefs and how he should address his faith as the campaign progresses.

The story also says that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to which Romney belongs, is meeting with newspapers and other media outlets in an attempt to explain its beliefs and practices. It’s a very interesting story, but for a story about religion, there is very little in it. For instance:

Polls indicate that the religion is widely misunderstood and viewed skeptically by many in the United States.

This is a great thing to mention, but I wonder why there are no details.

What polls? How is the religion misunderstood? What does widely mean? This is sort of the whole point of the story, so it would be nice to have some details about the situation on the ground.

The story discusses a group that was formed to demystify Mormonism called RunMittRun.org. The group runs focus groups that have found voters’ views of the Mormon religion could affect election results. What are those views? How are those views wrong? How does RunMittRun.org shape voter opinions? No details. Helman does speak with one of the 2,000 supporters of RunMittRun.org, Kris Murphy, a stay-at-home father who lives in Alabama.

“I was born and raised in the church and served a mission, and frankly I am sick and tired of the mischaracterization of Mormons not being Christians,” Murphy said, citing a belief held by some evangelicals. “Whenever there’s an opportunity to talk about what Mormonism is, . . . we are ready and willing and able to talk about it.”

Me, too! But unfortunately, there is no talking about it in this article.

Murphy’s claim that the view is a mischaracterization is just left hanging there. At some point, some reports are going to have to cover some of these issues in more detail.

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Missing Mayor O’Malley’s faith

martin o'malleyThe Washington Post‘s 2,300-word profile of Martin O’Malley left me in a state of confusion. How does one write about a talkative Irish guy who speaks of his “Jesuit ideal of being ‘a man for others’” without mentioning his religious affiliation or exploring how this shaped his political philosophy?

Every indication in the article suggests that O’Malley is a Catholic, but reporter Paul Duggan seems content writing around the edges of this aspect of O’Malley’s life.

Consider the article’s opening:

In the synagogue meeting hall, the candidate’s rhetoric has taken flight. “If there is a motto to the O’Malley-Brown campaign,” says the Baltimore mayor, the poet-pol who would be governor, “then it is found in the eyes and faces of the people we seek to serve.”

The congregants of B’nai Israel in Rockville came to the Sunday morning forum with earnest questions on the issues, and Martin O’Malley, the great hope of Maryland’s Democratic Party, gave them answers, on roads and schools, crime and health care.

Now, in closing, as often happens, he’s into oratory.

“While concepts of healing the world — tikkun olam, tzedakah, justice — are clearly Judeo concepts, they are also human concepts,” says O’Malley, a singer-songwriter of Irish folk music. “They are guardians of the freedom of the human spirit and the proof of what our human frailty can achieve.”

o'malleyThe closest we get to exploring O’Malley’s religious beliefs is that in his campaign he has cited his Jesuit ideals, which were formed while at Gonzaga College High School. There are also a couple of vague references to “faith.” We also learn that O’Malley was a Catholic University student. His website says that he, his wife and four kids attend St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.

O’Malley’s religious convictions seem to run deep, but we’re not told that. Do they affect his political philosophy? All we have to work with are his vague notions of ideals and being a man for all people.

Now this may seem like a relatively trivial issue outside of Maryland, but O’Malley has been one of the most visible mayors in the country. If he gains the bully pulpit of leading a state adjacent to the massive media scrum that is Washington, D.C., we should expect to hear a lot more from him.

His friends have suggested a potential 2012 presidential campaign could be in the works (yes, I know it’s too early for that kind of talk). No doubt if O’Malley rises to that level, his rebellious Irish streak and “Jesuit ideals” will receive more than a passing notice.

Top photo courtesy of O’Malley’s campaign website, taken at Bethel A.M.E. Church in Cambridge, Md.

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Katie Couric speaks her mind on modesty

Katie Couric speaks out!

“Plunging necklines and navel-bearing tops” are not appropriate for Halloween, says Couric. In her “Katie Couric’s Notebook” segment Monday night, the CBS Evening News anchor lashed out against the “$5 billion Halloween industry” for marketing “sleazy” costumes to girls. What’s interesting is that this came from an “Only On the Web” videocast. As far as I know, this segment never made it on over-the-air television.

Embedded in this post is the YouTube version of this clip. Apologies for the 15-second ad that comes before Couric’s 60-second musing. If you don’t want to watch the clip, here is the heart of Couric’s message about sleazy Halloween costumes:

Some will say these getups are a sign of women’s confidence about their bodies, but what message are we sending our girls when today’s costumes only reinforce a larger cultural message that they already see in magazines and in ads: that women get more attention by wearing less?

Couric cites the New York Times piece that tmatt blogged about Sunday as the source of her frustrations (her source could also be this NYT piece, but it’s hard to say since they are both behind the money wall).

Couric’s rebellion against the “larger cultural message” is an interesting development. I am not a regular viewer of the evening news, so I would not know if she has directed her news crew to do real news stories on this subject of female modesty. But note the target of Couric’s wrath. It’s not the individuals who dress up as sex witches, it’s those darn marketers and advertisers. Oh, and it’s also the industry’s fault.

But last time I checked, the industry and the marketers will offer what sells. And these sleazy costumes are certainly selling. And it goes beyond Halloween. So who is really at fault for what Couric says is an inappropriate cultural development? And why is this only a Halloween issue? We know you are serious about this subject, Katie, but could you get your notebook out again and do a more serious, in-depth report on what is happening to the self-image of American girls and women?

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The ghost of the moderate Democrat

god in politicsFollowing up on Sunday’s post regarding this new breed of religious Democrats, I want to highlight an excellent comment by one of our readers:

There may be two stories going on here, and I’m not sure that we’ve quite grasped them.

First, there is internal pushback going on in the Democratic Party between the militant secularists (those whom the Deacon, above, rails against) and that significant portion of people who are both religiously observant and politically engaged. For these, faith is a part of their life and why not bring it to the party? Although it is routinely mocked by the conservatives as “putting on a stole and chasuble …” It would be false to dismiss it as mere show or pretense.

A second story is the personal one. It is a recovery of voice of those on the religious left. For a long time they’ve felt immensely frustrated that they were silenced not only internally but in the larger culture. Consciously or not, the Evangelical Right had imported its Reformation-inspired religious wars to its politics, the only difference was that this time they won. The re-emergence of this liberal voice is more fundamentally a personal story.

Now what the story is not: it is not about the organization of a political movement per se (pace Common Good and Jim Wallis). It is not an analogue of the Evangelical Right’s organization — that, as noted, came from deeper theological architecture. It is instead, about the restoration of equilibrium, something noted by Jonathan Alter earlier in October.

Posted by Harris at 8:19 am on October 30, 2006

Well said, Harris, and it seems that The New York Times was listening to you.

But first to Alter’s piece in Newsweek, which appropriately challenges the use of the term “values voter.” I am guilty of using the term repeatedly in the past, and Alter shows that it is not a very helpful way to describe a political segment. I agree. The term is overused and too narrowly defined as typically used. But does Alter have better terms to describe that bloc of voters who put issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and school prayer at the top of their priority lists? Or, has that bloc of voters disintegrated in the implosion of the current administration’s foreign policy and failure to deliver on its culture-war promises? Or, as Harris puts it, is it a “restoration of equilibrium” between the left and right sides of the political debate?

In Sunday’s post, I noted how an Oct. 19 piece by the NYT failed to mention religion, but the Times revisited that issue on Monday.

In the 1,500-word story, reporters Shaila Dewan and Anne Korblut outline how most Democratic candidates with the best chance of unseating Republican incumbents are moderates. How does one become a moderate Democrat? Apparently it involves being pro-life, maintaining conservative social views and evangelical beliefs, opposing most gun control (being able to hunt animals is always a plus) and supporting the military.

That’s quite a list of issues, but it’s important to note that to be a moderate Democrat, not all of those have to apply. It’s also important to note a couple of issues the NYT left out, namely stem-cell research and separation of church and state regarding faith-baith initiatives. In Moderate Democrat Land, where do these issues land?

While supporting the military or opposing American involvement in Iraq is not going to create a lot of political noise, opposing abortion rights and gay marriage are likely to cause havoc in the current makeup of the Democratic Party. But the influence of new moderate Democrats on the national debate remains to be seen, at least according to the NYT:

One such candidate, Heath Shuler, was courted by Republicans to run for office in 2001. Mr. Shuler, 34, is a retired National Football League quarterback who is running in the 11th Congressional District in North Carolina. He is an evangelical Christian and holds fast to many conservative social views, like opposition to abortion rights.

. . . But if candidates like Mr. Shuler do help the Democrats gain majority control of Congress, it could come at a political price, which may include tensions in the party between its new centrists and its more liberal political base.

While Democratic leaders have gone to great lengths to promote the views of these candidates, some, like Mr. Shuler, have views on issues like gun control and abortion that are far out of step with the prevailing views of the Democrats who control the party. On some issues, they may even be expected to side with Republicans and the Bush White House.

What’s missing from this NYT piece on the potential new class of moderate Democrats? Do these new moderate Democrats have the markings of the “religious left”? On some issues, absolutely, but based on what I have seen, the voters these candidates are attracting are closer to James Dobson than Jim Wallis.

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When Catholics dissent

womenpriests2 01Not all Roman Catholics agree with official church teachings. Disagreement isn’t really tolerated in the church (Happy Reformation Day, fellow Lutherans!), but conflict is embraced by many reporters. This makes sense, since we reporters love drama. Sometimes I root for political candidates to win based on nothing more than which one appears craziest.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel featured two stories this week about dissent in the church. On Friday, reporter Tom Heinen wrote about an upcoming conference of Call to Action, an organization seeking to change church doctrine on female priests and homosexuality, among other things. The conference will feature a tribute to Cindy Sheehan and a service run by women who claim to have valid, if illicit, ordinations.

Last time we looked at WomenPriests, it was because of a horrifically bad article in the Philly Inquirer. The headline to that piece (“Female Catholic Priest has first Mass”) wasn’t even the worst part of it. Compared to that, the Journal-Sentinel article does a much better job of accurately portraying the relationship between the church and those who oppose its teachings:

Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan has termed such ordinations “groundless” and “invalid.” Attempting to celebrate a liturgy led by women who claim to be priests and bishops “would make any claim of Catholic identity by the group to be misleading,” Dolan wrote in his weekly Catholic Herald column in late August.

Roman Catholic Womenpriests, which orchestrated the ordinations and is organizing the service, rejects those characterizations. It is terming the service a Eucharistic liturgy.

“We’ve had a lot of response, e-mails and notes, from people who found this is a very hopeful sign of women now taking their rightful place,” Bridget Mary Meehan, U.S. spokeswoman for Roman Catholic Womenpriests and the woman who will preside at the liturgy, said of the ordinations.

“We know our orders are not licit; they are against (church) law. We are saying we want to confront the law,” Meehan said. “But we are claiming our orders are valid because we were ordained by Roman Catholic bishops in full Apostolic succession and in full communion with Rome.”

On Thursday, Journal-Sentinel reporter Bill Glauber wrote about a priest who opposes an amendment to the Wisconsin constitution that defines marriage as the union of one man and one women. Only one priest is named as an opponent of the measure that Wisconsin Catholic bishops support. That article, which meanders a bit, is about his views — with a couple of cursory remarks at the end from people who disagree with him:

Father Bryan Massingale, an associate professor of moral theology at Marquette University, wrote a lengthy essay in which he struggled with the idea that “the amendment, read in its entirety, poses a dilemma for many faithful people.”

“The amendment upholds certain beliefs about the uniqueness of marriage,” he wrote in the Sept. 21 issue. “But it does so at a cost, namely, potentially damaging impacts upon the welfare of individuals and their children.”

He also dealt with the issue of homosexuality.

“Too often, discussions of this issue treat ‘those’ people — specifically, gays and lesbians — as if they were an alien species,” he wrote. “They are not. They are our sons and daughters; our sisters and brothers; our aunts, uncles, and cousins; our friends, neighbors, students and co-workers; our priests, ministers and parishioners. ‘They’ are us!”

The piece reads like a puffy profile of Massingale rather than a balanced look at Catholic views on a controversial amendment. Eric Gorski of The Denver Post wrote a story using a similar hook. An organization of Roman Catholic nuns is urging Colorado voters to support abortion and gay marriage, among other issues. Whether or not you agree that groups that oppose archbishops should get as much coverage as they do, Gorski does a great job of characterizing both sides’ views, as evidenced here:

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput has urged Catholics to “act Catholic” when they vote or run for office and called opposition to abortion “foundational.”

“We’re supposed to vote as our conscience tells us, not as the archbishop’s conscience tells him,” said [Sister Mary Ann] Cunningham, a member of the Sisters of Loretto. “I have great respect for the archbishop, but I think that’s kind of treating us like children.”

Jeanette DeMelo, spokeswoman for the Denver Archdiocese, said Chaput has highlighted a broad range of issues, all grounded in Catholic teaching.

“Archbishop Charles Chaput is not teaching his personal opinion,” she said. “This is the church’s teaching, and it is the responsibility of a Catholic to vote their conscience, but their rightly formed conscience, their educated conscience.”

Sometimes it’s just as easy as calling multiple sources for a story. As with these articles, which were sent to us by readers, please keep us informed of good or bad examples from your local papers.

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Religious Democrats on the march

harold ford newsweek coverDid you hear what I heard? There are Democrats out there who are religious. In an attempt to grab a slice of that voter bloc that supposedly put George W. Bush a second term in 2004, Democrats are not shy talking about their faith. And journalists are picking up on it.

In a relatively unrevealing cover story, Newsweek‘s Jonathan Darman explores the Senate candidacy of Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn., and starts out talking about — yes, you guessed it — the candidate’s religious beliefs. First of all, I want to take issue with the cover’s title, “Not Your Daddy’s Democrats.” I am hardly The Expert on things before 1981, but last time I checked, my daddy’s Democrats, or maybe that was my granddaddy’s Democrats, were represented by people like Ford. As best I can tell, the secularization of the Democratic Party is something that has happened in my father’s lifetime.

OK, the history is a bit more complicated, but more on that in another post, and now to the actual article, which was actually fairly decent:

The sun is just rising over Chattanooga when Harold Ford Jr. begins to pray. A young African-American congressman from Memphis, Ford is running as the Democratic candidate for Senate in Tennessee. Here, in the shadow of Lookout Mountain, an audience of 300 has come out of the early-morning darkness into the historic Read House hotel to hear Ford praise the Lord and lecture man. Dressed in dark suits and hats fit for a Sunday service, they bow their heads and thank a God who “even now has dipped us in fresh, anointing oil.” They shout Hallelujah as a soprano sings “Amazing Grace.” And they cheer and clap when Ford welcomes them, and the spirit of Jesus, into the room. “I love Jesus, I can’t help it,” the congressman tells the crowd. “We serve such a big God,” he shouts, and a chorus of Amens agrees.

It is a storied place to pray. “Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain in Tennessee,” Martin Luther King Jr. cried in his “I Have a Dream” speech, and four decades later, the diverse crowd that has gathered here suggests that in many ways, freedom has. Looking out at his audience, Ford offers political pronouncements in the cadence of Scripture. “The politics of destruction,” he shouts, “the politics of those who define and malign people, that’s all coming to an end.” He asks the audience to “heal and make whole this great country of ours” with “a renewed sense of faith.” Pointing to the sky, he tells them that “as long as your faith derives from up there, and not down there, we’re going to be OK.”

Ford’s intertwining of the secular and the sacred would make many urban liberals squirm. So would much else that comes out of his mouth today. From the podium, he says he gets “in trouble with my party because I believe a government is only as good as its ability to defend itself and protect itself.” (That stance wouldn’t actually trouble most Democrats, but the implication that Democrats are weak on defense might.) Later, as he makes his way out of the room, he spots a Fox News Channel correspondent who’s flown in from out of town. “Mr. Cameron!” he yells, throwing his arms around Carl Cameron, the network’s political correspondent. “So good to see you again.” Before the day is done, Ford will reiterate his opposition to same-sex marriage and late-term abortions.

One of the photos in the multiple page spread stands out. It’s of Ford and his staffers gathering in a group to pray. You don’t see that everyday on the Democratic campaign trail. Or are reporters just now beginning to pick up on its significance and the fact that religion and values actually matter to a large number of voters?

Both parties are now unabashedly courting the pew vote, but one has to wonder how this will play out in actual policy. Ford won’t be chairing any major committee anytime soon. Nor will any of these values Democrats. Will the more secular senior members of the Congress allow them their say? Talking about opposing same-sex marriage and late-term abortions is nice, but will these values-oriented Democrats be able to produce results? And how do the secular Democrats feel about this influence? Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., anyone?

For another example of how reporters are picking up on the values theme, check out this Washington Post piece on Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., who is running against Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a Republican. In a more distinct tone compared to the Newsweek piece, reporter Katherine Shaver gets right into the faith and values talk at the beginning of the article, as a way of introducing us to the candidate, and continues on that theme throughout the piece. Sometimes, Cardin even sounds like a person that, and you’re not going to believe this, people who have traditional values could vote for:

During 40 years in public office — 20 in the General Assembly followed by two decades in Congress — Cardin has woven his political life into the faith and family that he says sustain him.

He followed his father and uncle into the state legislature. One of his closest political advisers is Myrna, his wife of 40 years, whom he met in elementary school. At one of the lowest points in his life — when his son committed suicide eight years ago — Cardin carried out a Jewish custom of mourning for 30 days by gathering Jewish staffers and fellow Congress members in his Capitol Hill office for daily prayers.

His faith informs his actions in the House of Representatives, particularly a six-year membership on the ethics committee, he said.

A quick note on this New York Times piece on the rise of Democratic conservatism: There is hardly a mention of religion. What’s that telling us?

As reporters trip over themselves to cover the Democratic candidates who can legitimately court the values voters, it’s important to look back at the earlier stories where reporters were tripping over themselves to cover those other guys who were attempting to corral the supposedly “religious left” into a legitimate political movement. Have they succeeded? If the previous two examples are a barometer, the rise of the religious left remains a tiny dot on the political landscape.

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