Sun leaves Hobby Lobby out of its timely higher-wages story

So, are there any Hobby Lobby stores in the greater Baltimore area?

Yes, it appears that there are. Hold that thought for a moment, because I would like to connect two dots that I just read in two different newspapers.

We will start with an op-ed page column by Ross Douthat of The New York Times. Yes, it’s an editorial column — but I am interested in his timely news hook. The headline: “A Company Liberals Could Love.”

Douthat’s goal is to note that there are companies that model what can be called communitarian, if not old-guard “liberal,” values when it comes to policies that impact their employees. The leaders of some of these companies — whether they are religious or not — would even say that they are making choices that reflect their moral worldviews, even if that would appear to slice some dollar signs off their bottom line. Thus, Douthat writes:

One such company was hailed last year by the left-wing policy website Demos “for thumbing its nose at the conventional wisdom that success in the retail industry” requires paying “bargain-basement wages.” A retail chain with nearly 600 stores and 13,000 workers, this business sets its lowest full-time wage at $15 an hour, and raised wages steadily through the stagnant postrecession years. (Its do-gooder policies also include donating 10 percent of its profits to charity and giving all employees Sunday off.) And the chain is thriving commercially — offering, as Demos put it, a clear example of how “doing good for workers can also mean doing good for business.”

Of course I’m talking about Hobby Lobby, the Christian-owned craft store that’s currently playing the role of liberalism’s public enemy No. 1, for its successful suit against the Obama administration’s mandate requiring coverage for contraceptives, sterilization and potential abortifacients.

OK, there is no need to repeat the rest of his argument here. Like I said, what interested me was the hard-news hook in that passage, especially the reference to higher wages in the current service-industry marketplace.

Why do I bring this up?

Well, the business section at the newspaper that lands in my front yard had an interesting local feature this weekend on the timely topic of fair wages, in an era of debates about the minimum wage. Here’s the top of that Baltimore Sun story:

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Are all Jews preparing for Thanksgivukkah the same way?

Many years ago, I worked at a newspaper — let’s leave the name out of this discussion — that ran a Hanukkah feature, with lots of art, about an exhibit of menorahs. The interesting wrinkle was that some of these menorahs were quite modern or even postmodern in design, including several that specifically violated ancient Jewish laws about how to make, and how not to make, menorahs.

The newspaper feature did not note this conflict about the shape and content of menorah designs and the faith wrinkles in the clashing visions of Judaism built into these works of art.

Several readers, all Orthodox Jews, called the newsroom to ask if this oversight — for them, it was an offense — was intentional.

The answer was “no.” The people doing the feature had no idea that there were kosher menorahs and decidedly un-kosher menorahs.

You know the old saying about China, the one that says, “Just about anything you want to say about China is true, somewhere in China.” The same thing is true in Judaism. Trust me on that. On just about any issue linked to life and faith, there are plenty of Jews who disagree with one another. Often, this is a clash between very old and very new approaches to the faith.

Thus, I would like to offer limited praise to the A1 “Thanksgivukkah” feature that ran the other day in the newspaper that lands in my front yard. Let me note that the comments I now offer about this story could have been made about dozens of other stories in the mainstream press, as the tsunami of news builds related to this very interesting crossroads between ancient and modern calendars.

The bottom line: This Baltimore Sun story is lots of fun and contains all kinds of interesting wrinkles. The problem is that the Sun team never slows down long enough to note that not all Jews will be celebrating in the same way and why this is the case. By the way, this kind of dispute about religious traditions is at the very heart of the deeper meaning of Hanukkah.

More on that later. Let’s start right up from with the fine overture:

Brace yourself for the epic convergence of two holidays — a celebration of rich dishes, piles of sweets and family togetherness the likes of which have never before been seen and won’t be repeated for more than 77,000 years.

Thanksgivukkah is coming. Latkes with cranberry sauce. Turkey-shaped menorahs. Cornucopias stuffed with dreidels.

Thanks to quirks of the Jewish and Gregorian calendars, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving will coincide this month for the first time since 1888, back when celebrations of both holidays were more muted. The next time the holidays will match up is the year 79,811. Why the long gap?

“Nobody understands it,” said Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg of Beth Tfiloh Congregation. The short answer, according to Wohlberg, is that Nov. 28 is the earliest possible date for Hanukkah and the latest possible for Thanksgiving.

OK, at some point all Hanukkah stories have to explain what this minor Jewish holiday is all about. This story is no exception.

Read carefully.

Although Hanukkah is sometimes seen as being the Jewish equivalent of Christmas, the holiday’s underlying themes have more in common with Thanksgiving, Wohlberg explained.

“The concept of Hanukkah is a concept of thanksgiving,” he said. “Hanukkah marks the first victory over religious persecution. On Thanksgiving, we’re celebrating living in a country that has allowed us to have that freedom.”

The religious persecution and religious liberty theme is there. But there’s more. Later on, readers are told:

Wohlberg said this would be a good year to try frying the turkey. Since Hanukkah commemorates a miracle in which a small vial of oil managed to keep the flame in the Temple burning for eight days, Hanukkah foods, like latkes and doughnuts, are traditionally fried in oil.

Yes, that oil symbolism is crucial. But there’s another layer of meaning in that miracle.

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Wait, Baltimore’s archbishop is a national voice on WHAT?

As one would imagine, the editorial team that produces the newspaper that lands in my front yard in the liberal environs of greater Baltimore was celebrating a great victory yesterday.

I am, of course, talking abou those U.S. Supreme Court decisions that were consistent with the newspaper’s longstanding and clearly stated editorial stance on all matters linked to gay rights.

Thus, it would have been miraculous to have seen any degree of editorial balance in the large package of coverage published by The Baltimore Sun in the wake of this major victory for the moral, cultural and religious left. I mean, check out the strategic variation in the newspaper’s “Light For All” slogan in the header graphics used with key elements of the NEWS package (as opposed to an opinion weblog) for the day.

Still I think it is fair to pay attention to the material included in the main story that represented the views of traditional Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and countless others who believe that the word “marriage” should not be redefined to include same-gender unions.

In particular, I was interested in how the Sun team would deal with the two primary realities in Maryland debates about sex, marriage and family.

The first is the majority of the state’s African-American Christians who do not back same-sex marriage and, also, continue not to equate race and sexual orientation.

The second is that the city’s archbishop serves as the chair of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ ad hoc committee on religious liberty, a First Amendment issue that — for leaders on one side of these public debates — is directly linked to the future of U.S. laws and policies on marriage and family. In fact, would the story deal with the impact on religious believers and institutions at all?

So, what do we see in the main story (or in the whole package, for that matter)?

Trust me, this will not take a lot of your time.

Here is all of the material in this A1 story that is dedicated to the Maryland defenders of marriage as traditionally defined.

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