October 1, 2012

Last week we looked at the story about Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid saying Mitt Romney was a bad Mormon. A reporter asked me if Mormons think Harry Reid is a bad Mormon. I’m not Mormon but I asked a few friends who are and even the ones who really loathe his politics were dismissive of the question. One told me that she’d worshiped in Reid’s ward and that nobody seemed to make a big deal about it.

And so I found this Washington Post story about where Romney will worship if he’s elected President to be fun. It turned out that the Obama family never picked a congregation to join in Washington, D.C. But back when Barack Obama was running for office, there were quite a few stories discussing which church he might join should he be elected president.

In Mormon practice, you pretty much just go to the ward you’re assigned to based on your address. And if you live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, well:

If Mitt Romney wins the presidency, one decision about life in Washington would be made for him: His church. Mormonism mandates that followers attend their assigned local congregation, called a “ward,” and folks at the Third Ward on 16th Street NW are already revved up with excitement.

Well, kind of.

They’re mostly Democrats, including the sort of Obama supporters Romney was secretly videotaped disparaging in his now-notorious remark about “the 47 percent” of Americans who don’t pay federal taxes.

But the Third Ward congregants don’t seem inclined to hold a grudge.

“I hope he doesn’t end up making that move [to the White House], but if he does, I’d welcome him with open arms,” said Corban Tillemann-Dick, 26, who works phone banks for President Obama’s reelection.

A real live Tillemann-Dick in the wild? I love it! That family is rather well-known where I’m from in Colorado. The patriarch was an inventor and the matriarch is the daughter of Rep. Tom Lantos, a Holocaust survivor. Their 11 kids had awesome Colorado names such as Charity Sunshine, Liberty Belle and Kimber Rainbow. They’re vegetarians and friends with Dennis Kucinich and what not.

Anyway, the story includes some nice Mormon-specific angles, such as that Tillemann-Dick hopes to become Romney’s home teacher should he be elected. The reporter says this ward is atypical:

A president in the pews would be dramatic, but the D.C. Third Ward, as it’s called, is used to drama. More ethnically and economically diverse than the typical Mormon ward, its roughly 200 congregants are drawn largely from Northeast Washington and have included deported immigrants, a teen shot dead in gang violence, refugees from African wars and youth who depend on the church for meals, tutoring for class and support to pay for Boy Scout camp.

“The standard ward is all middle class, and there is no one you can help. If you want to serve someone or help someone out, there are always people here you can help,” said Kevin Linzau, 51, a telephone systems programmer who lives in the Brookland neighborhood where he grew up.

I realize this is a quote from Linzau, but it’s obviously untrue. And not just because there’s not a place on earth that doesn’t include folks who need help. As if Washington, D.C., is the only place with financial hardship. Heck, I know it hasn’t been reported terribly well by the NYC-DC-focused media, but there have been some rather serious economic difficulties facing any number of families across the country in recent years. And the poor, didn’t someone say something about how they’ll always be with us. I mean, my father-in-law is LDS and he works on helping the many poor and out-of-work people in his ward with finding jobs.

And in general, I did wonder if the “ZOMG! Mormon Democrats!” angle was a tad overplayed. The headline of the piece was “D.C. Third Ward Mormons would welcome Romney, even though most are Democrats” and there were lines such as this:

Although the vast majority of Mormons lean Republican, most Washingtonians lean Democrat, and the D.C. Third Ward is no exception. Congregants describe rolling their eyes when Mormon tourists who drop in for services rave about the possibility of the GOP retaking of the White House. People share jokes about the first Mormon president — a converted Barack Obama.

“People [in D.C.] for the Glenn Beck rally came in here, all excited, and we were like, ‘Oh, we still love you,’?” said Robin Lunt, an attorney who lives in Columbia Heights. “I think the Romneys would be happy in our ward and definitely welcomed, but it would be very different.”

I have absolutely no idea what party the vast majority of members of my Lutheran congregation belong to. And we certainly wouldn’t ask people for it. So my question is how we know that “most” of the people in this congregation belong to the Democratic Party. Were they surveyed? How do they know? Is this something they talk about or generally know? And no matter how it’s known, shouldn’t that be included in the story?

Anyway, the story does say that “This would hardly be the first time Romney worshiped among a diverse group of Mormons,” citing his time as bishop and stake president in Boston. I’m not entirely sure that there is a lack of diversity outside of Boston or D.C., to be honest, but I guess that’s a somewhat subjective characterization in any case.

But back to some good LDS-specific stuff:

What if for security reasons Romney didn’t join the church? What if he was excused due to being too busy? Since every Mormon is assigned a “calling” or volunteer job in their church, if he did join, what would his be?

The Romney hypothetical really tests Mormons, who are hugely proud of the fact that they have no paid clergy and a system built around equalizing the powerful with the peon. Mormonism calls for most everyone to be a home teacher and to have one, and it’s a source of great pride that politicians and chief executives teach Sunday school, tutor or serve in the nursery on Sundays. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is a home teacher and a leader of the men’s group at his Chevy Chase ward, said a regional church spokeswoman.

We get some intel from Debbie Marriott Harrison, spokeswoman for the stake, and learn that Romney would be interviewed for his temple recommend “a regularly updated credential … in order to go to Mormon temples for marriages and baptisms for the dead” from “Robert Nelson, a jolly, 56-year-old IT manager who is the ward’s bishop.”

What a great idea for a story. Perfect for the Post and with some nice color about the ward.

August 22, 2012

Mitt Romney’s surprising decision to allow reporters to follow him into church Sunday drew a slew of major mainstream media coverage.

The New York Times opened its story this way:

BOSTON — Mitt Romney read Scripture from his iPad as he juggled his 2-year-old grandson on his lap.

He made sure to accept a small piece of white bread and cup of water, representing the flesh and blood of Jesus, from a member of the clergy who looked like he was about to accidentally pass him by.

And with a knowing nod, he encouraged his wife, Ann, to leave the pew and join the women’s choir in a rendition of “Because I Have Been Given Much.” (She did.)

On one level, it was a typical Sunday morning for Mr. Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and a devoted churchgoer. But on another level, his Sunday observance was an extraordinary  moment for a candidate who zealously protects his privacy and rarely talks about his Mormon faith.

Now, at this point, I should acknowledge that I am not GetReligion’s resident expert on Mormonism. In my secular religion writing career, I did a feature on a day in the life of Mormon missionaries and covered a sermon by retired Atlanta Braves star Dale Murphy at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In more recent times, I toured the Mormon world headquarters in Salt Lake City. But like most Americans, I have much to learn concerning the intricacies of the Mormon faith.

I mention my background only as an explanation of the elementary-level questions that came to my mind as I read the Times report. Among those questions: Why the sacrament of water instead of grape juice or wine? Maybe I’m the only person with that question, but I wish the story had addressed it. Also, I wish the pool report had been more specific on exactly what Scripture(s) Romney read on his iPad? Was the Scripture(s) from the Bible or the Book of Mormon or both?

The report did offer some specifics on the candidate’s wife, Ann Romney, joining the church women’s choir in a rendition of “Because I Have Been Given Much”:

At one point, volunteers were invited to join the women’s choir in song. Mr. Romney glanced at his wife, and gently and wordlessly suggested she do so. Mrs. Romney and her daughter-in-law both stood, walked to the front pulpit and along with about 40 others — nearly all the women in the congregation — began singing “Because I Have Been Given Much,” a popular Mormon hymn about using one’s blessings to help other people. The lyrics include this line: “I shall divide my gifts from thee with every brother that I see, who has the need of help from me.”

All in all, the Old Gray Lady offered a fairly straightforward account of Romney’s time at church. The sourcing on the decision to bring reporters (“his advisers said”) was extremely vague, but that seems, rightly or wrongly, to be the nature of most attribution in campaign stories.

The Washington Post inserted Romney’s Sunday church experience into a lengthy investigative report on the candidate’s years as a church leader in Boston:

On the presidential campaign trail, Romney has sealed off his experience as a Mormon prelate, only rarely and vaguely mentioning his church leadership. On Sunday, Romney, who often goes to Mormon services when on the road, read scriptures from an iPad, received the sacrament of white bread and water and sang hymns with his family as he attended church near his lake house in New Hampshire. And for the first time since becoming a presidential candidate, he invited the media to watch, indicating that he was willing to put aside reservations about the political consequences of his faith and start allowing some access to that private space.

(Romney, by the way, is not the only person of faith taking his iPad to church these days.)

For those more familiar with the Mormon faith than I am, I’d be interested in your reaction to the Post story: Was it fair to Romney? Did it accurately portray the typical inner workings of the church? How, if at all, might the story have been improved?

The Associated Press, meanwhile, used Romney allowing reporters into his church as a peg to explore the candidate’s decision to open up “a little” about his religion. Godbeat pro Rachel Zoll’s story impressed me as a quintessential piece of concise but quality journalism by AP — filled with revealing details about Romney’s faith background and expert analysis by qualified sources.

CNN, on the other hand, took a more sensational approach, delving into polygamy and asking “if powerful church leaders could somehow control a Mormon president.”

From the CNN transcript:

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN: The Southern Baptist Convention calls the church a cult. Many Americans say they don’t even consider Mormons Christians. An article in the online magazine “Slate” brands the religion’s founder Joseph Smith a con man. In fact, he was Elder Russell Ballard’s great, great uncle.

My question: Does the Southern Baptist Convention really call the Mormon church a cult? Yes, a Texas pastor made headlines last year for labeling Mormons a cult. Yes, Southern Baptists obviously have major theological differences with Mormons. But did the convention as a whole endorse the “cult” terminology? CNN might want to consider a little more nuanced reporting on the subject. To its credit, the CNN report did include interviews with Romney and Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Finally, for those who savored tmatt’s scoop the other day on “Mitt Romney, consumer of sinful ice cream,” this just in: Religion beat specialist Peggy Fletcher Stack of the Salt Lake Tribune reports that Mormons, like Mitt, can indulge in caffeine ice cream. Enjoy!

Salt Lake Temple image via Shutterstock

August 19, 2012

As all loyal GetReligion readers know, sometimes we see things make it into news print that are simply too good, too strange, too funny, to make up.

When this happens, the best course of action is simply to share the love and laughter.

In this case, here is what we need.

I’m calling out Jettboy (who provided the tip) and company. We need our Mormon readers to join us in, uh, consuming this delightful little Associated Press story about Mormonism and cold caffeine.

We will NOT get into a discussion of Mormons and their potentially sinful addiction to ice cream (which is another part of life in which they have a lot in common with Southern Baptists). Anyone who has ever been to urban Utah knows that, where New York City has world-class coffee shops and bars, the streets of Salt Lake City — at least as I remember them from the 1980s — offer a stunning number of fine ice cream shops.

With no further ado, dig into this sweet little number:

NANTUCKET, Mass. (AP) — Mitt Romney joins other observant Mormons in shunning alcohol and coffee. He apparently draws the line at ice cream.

The Republican presidential candidate ordered coffee ice cream at Millie’s restaurant in Nantucket Saturday when he bought treats for his staff and mingled with diners. His aides selected flavors including vanilla, rocky road, butter pecan and birthday cake ice cream.

It’s not clear that Romney took more than a bite or two as he shook hands and posed for pictures in the crowded and buzzing vacation eatery. Mormons traditionally avoid alcohol and caffeine.

Romney aides shrugged off the selection, saying the candidate can have whatever kind of ice cream he likes.

Where to begin when tackling this complex doctrinal issue? How about a quick insight on this Mormon-menu topic from

Like many aspects of the LDS religion, the duty to maintain good health has its roots in revelation, in this case a section of the Doctrine and Covenants that Mormons call the Word of Wisdom. The legend surrounding its origin is that Joseph Smith and other early LDS leaders used to chew tobacco during Church meetings, spitting juices on the floor. Joseph’s wife, Emma Hale Smith, was disgusted by this act, and her complaints led the Prophet to ask God whether tobacco use was really appropriate for Latter-day Saints.

The Lord’s response, contained in D&C section 89, covered far more than just tobacco; it also restricted the consumption of wine, liquor, meat, and hot drinks (today interpreted to mean tea and coffee of any temperature). Although many Mormons understand this scripture as suggesting that all caffeine is bad and should be avoided, this idea isn’t official Church doctrine; the Church allows members to decide that issue for themselves, and some members choose to drink cola.

So is coffee-flavored ice cream simply coffee at another temperature?

Speak out, readers.

October 29, 2012

A recent front-page Los Angeles Times story makes the case that reluctant evangelical Christian voters are warming to Mormon Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee.

Or, should I say, the story purports to make that case.

The headline and deck:

Evangelical support grows for Romney

Overcoming concerns about Romney’s Mormon faith, conservative white Christians, buoyed by a massive outreach effort, get behind the GOP challenger.

Presumably, the writer traveled to Colorado to write this story because it features a Colorado Springs dateline:

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Celebration Church sits tucked away in the corner of a repurposed shopping mall, one of the more modest venues for worship in this city of booming megachurches and superstar preachers. It has no cafe, bookstore or multimedia wizardry, but it compensates with warmth, friendliness and an especially erudite pastor who has a day job as an entrepreneur.

Still, the message from the pulpit on Sundays this month is not so different from that being heard in conservative evangelical churches across America. “When you vote,” Pastor Barry Farah tells his flock, “you have to vote responsibly.” And that, he says, means supporting “biblical principles.”

Farah hasn’t endorsed a candidate, nor does he need to. It doesn’t take a theologian or seer to figure out which presidential candidate is closer in line with biblical principles as he describes them — principles that translate into opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage and support for school choice and limited government.

Hope you enjoyed your quick visit to Colorado, fellow readers, because that’s all the time you’ll spend there until a couple of bare-bones quotes at the end.

As for the “especially erudite pastor,” the above three paragraphs represent the full extent of his cameo appearance in this front-page news story.

I’m not a theologian or a seer, but I must admit that I need a few more details to understand what Farah means by supporting “biblical principles.” How exactly did he describe those principles? Did he mention abortion/same-sex marriage/school choice/limited government specifically? If not, how did the reporter decide which candidate is closer in line?

Also, since the story is supposedly about evangelicals who once had concerns about Romney and his Mormon faith but no longer do, has Farah’s position on the Republican candidate changed in recent months? If so, wouldn’t it be appropriate for the reporter to quote the pastor on how his outlook has changed? If not, what’s the point of featuring him up so high in this story? Seriously, it would be nice if the Times gave some clue as to why this particular church and pastor were chosen for the spotlight amid all the “booming megachurches and superstar preachers” in Colorado Springs.

In a story full of unattributed generalizations (in the old days, we called it “editorialization”), the Times quotes Romney advocates who claim he has gained support among evangelicals. But the piece provides no polling data to confirm that. (For those new to journalism, attribution means providing a named source to answer the question, “How do you know that?” That, by the way, does not seem to be a question asked that frequently by Times editors.)

Meanwhile, here’s the entire rest of the story from the Colorado church:

Celebration Church members who were interviewed said they planned to vote for Romney in part because they agree with him on social issues, in part because they believe he is best equipped to turn around the economy, and in part because they are unhappy with Obama.

John Chinnock, 62, manager of an environmental cleanup company, said he sided with Romney on social issues but believed the economy was the most important matter in this election. Obama, he said, is trying to make the country more like Europe, “where the government stresses the direction of where the economy is supposed to go.”

Chinnock said he had no problem voting for a Mormon. “Not all the Founding Fathers were Christians,” he said. “Some of them were Unitarians; some of them were Deists. … But they did believe in inalienable rights — that is, rights that come from God.”

So, there you go. A front-page story in a major American newspaper on once-leery evangelicals changing their mind about a Mormon candidate. The only thing missing: an actual evangelical who changed his/her mind on Romney.

October 23, 2012

Inside the ultimate Beltway, everyone is talking about Ohio.

Which is why I am surprised at how The Washington Post has decided to play a very interesting political-ad story from that crucial swing state. Of course, the Post team also deserves some credit for publishing the story in the first place, even if the A4 location, with no art, is a bit on the strange side given the report’s explosive content. By the way, where is The New York Times on the story? Have I missed something? Just asking.

Here’s the crucial question, for me: When it comes to Mitt Romney, the public figure, which factors dominate his public image? First and foremost, are we talking about race, social class or, well, religion?

So here’s the top of the Post report, which opens with a direct quote lede:

“Mitt Romney. Not one of us.”

That’s the tag line to a tough new ad that the Obama campaign is airing in Ohio. But ironically, it echoes a slogan that has been used as a racial code over at least the past half-century.

The context of the Obama ad is very different from some others, in which the phrase “one of us” was used to divide voters along racial lines, but conservative commentators have quickly seized on it.

President Obama’s critics said the fact that he would use such loaded language in the hard-fought Ohio race shows how much he has changed since his famous “one America” speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, in which he denounced “those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.”

The key, of course, is the meaning of the term “us” in the advertisement. So, who is this “us” crowd?

The story makes it clear — accurately — that the text of this ad (shown above) focuses on economic issues in the hard-hit Ohio economy. At the same time, the Post story notes the long and ugly racial history of this “not one of us” slogan in American politics. This is explosive stuff, in a campaign that has racial and class-warfare overtones.

Yet, what about religion? Surely the creators of the ad knew that — on the religious and secular left and among African-Americans — Romney’s leadership role in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been a hot-button topic. The minute I saw this headline, I wondered how long it would take the Post team to ask if the Obama team was playing the Mormon card.

More than half-way into the story, there is this:

Obama, the nation’s first black president, has himself been a target of insinuations of otherness, including false but widely circulated suggestions that he was not born in this country and that he is a Muslim. During this presidential campaign, his allies say, they have seen racial coding in accusations that Obama is a “food stamp president” and in popular tea party slogans such as “Take back our country.”

Romney has faced mistrust and prejudice as well, regarding his Mormon faith.

Other than this reference, the entire story focuses on the history of “not one of us” being used as racial code language.

That is, in fact, the old news angle on that phrase. The question for the current news cycle is different: If this slogan is not, in this case, a reference to race — which would be highly unlikely — then how is the term “us” being used this time around? Try to imagine the vehemence with which this question would have been explored if the Romney team had used this slogan in swing states such as Colorado or Virginia.

So, kudos to the Post team for having the courage to run this story, even if it’s on A4 without art. At the same time, I’d like to ask why the Mormon card angle isn’t in the lede, along with the class-warfare angle that actually dominates the ad text? Why bury the religion angle? Who focus on the old story from the past, rather than what appears to be the actual story in this campaign?

This is not quite a “religion ghost” story. It was a close call, however. Too close, for my news tastes.

September 24, 2012

It’s almost obligatory now for religion reporters to write their own version of “Romney is a Mormon,” ensuring readers know precisely what they’re getting into if they vote for him in two months. Or you have the general assignment reporters who think no one has already written that tired narrative.

In this case, we have the religion reporter for the Los Angeles Times connecting Romney’s faith to his view of personal responsibility. The piece launches with a Mormon couple who had never thought to seek government assistance, somehow tying it to Romney’s recent remarks about personal responsibility.

That worldview, focused on church and not government, is part of the culture of American Mormonism, paradoxically rooted in both self-reliance and communitarian idealism. It may help explain the roots of Mitt Romney’s conservatism, which in many ways mirrors the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

When Romney said in a secretly recorded video that 47% of Americans lacked personal responsibility and believed they deserved government entitlements, it reflected a conservative political view rooted in the idea that freedom demands responsibility.

But it also may reflect his history as a Mormon bishop, whose duties included giving the needy among his flock a hand up — but never a mere handout.

I don’t necessarily doubt that the above paragraphs could be true, but I would like to see some evidence, either from Mormon teaching or from more of what Romney has said. Otherwise, from a readership standpoint, it feels like the reporter is reading into a remark.

Two-thirds of American Mormons describe themselves as politically conservative and only 8% as liberal, according to a recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Nearly three-quarters lean Republican. Mormons are significantly more conservative, on balance, than evangelical Christians, the religious group most identified with the political right in this country.

But Mormon conservatism differs from its evangelical counterpart. It can be more pragmatic, more flexible. It springs from different sources, some theological, some rooted in the Mormons’ rugged pioneer history. Those steeped in Mormon culture can hear echoes of it in Romney’s political rhetoric, although he generally avoids explicit mentions of his faith.

It might be worth mentioning just how many Mormons there are in the electorate as a whole. Can they really be compared to evangelicals, who dwarf the sheer number of Mormons when it comes to voting? I also don’t know that a reporter can definitively say Mormons are more pragmatic, more flexible than evangelicals. Says who? I don’t necessarily deny it, but how would you even begin to measure those qualities?

Romney is not in lock step with his fellow Mormons on all issues, and he has shown a willingness to take positions at odds with LDS doctrine, as when he took a stance in favor of abortion rights. (He now espouses antiabortion views similar to those of his church.) But it is difficult to fully understand him without grasping how his faith and its unique culture play out in political belief.

The reporter starts this section of the piece showing how Romney hasn’t been 100% in line with the LDS Church but then proceeds to show historically where the Republican Party and the LDS Church have met or diverged. The narrative set up seems too forced.

For many Mormons, the idea of free agency, with its intrinsic emphasis on individual responsibility, translates into a belief in limited government and an abhorrence of the welfare state, which is seen as crushing individual initiative. This meshes neatly with the ideals of the Republican Party, and was echoed in Romney’s recorded comments about Americans who believe they are “victims” and are entitled to help.

…But Mormons are quick to point out that, unlike many evangelical churches, their church allows for exceptions for abortion in the cases of rape, incest, when the life or health of the mother is in danger or when the fetus has such severe defects that it is not expected to survive beyond birth.

…Mormons tend to be less conservative on immigration than evangelicals, a position some attribute to the fact that so many of its young people serve abroad as missionaries.

Seen by whom, exactly? The reporter continues to suggest where Mormons and evangelicals diverge, but last time I checked, evangelicals really do not hold official church positions the same way the LDS Church would hold. That’s what you call apples and oranges, right? Generally, the piece seems to include quite a bit of conjecture, connecting dots that might not be worth connecting without more evidence.

August 31, 2012

The last night at the Republican convention was one that included a ton of religion. While some of the networks didn’t cover all of the speeches, there were multiple testimonies from people who talked about Mitt Romney’s life as a Mormon. They gave truly interesting testimonies about how Romney had interacted with them in their lives. One liberal Mormon I follow on Twitter joked, saying, “Y’all just went to Mormon church.”

But in a world of limited resources, networks have to choose what to show and so much of that religious discussion wasn’t seen. There were other mentions of religion in the speeches, including Marco Rubio’s introduction of Mitt Romney.

Romney mentioned his religion a bit in his speech, although it wasn’t a major theme, but there was one part where I saw journalists trip up. Here’s the relevant section, as written up in Politico:

Romney also spoke a little about his religion, mostly referring to the community that built up around his church when he was in Massachusetts, far from his family, which still mainly resided in Michigan where both he and his wife were born and raised.

“Like a lot of families in a new place with no family, we found kinship with a wide circle of friends through our church,” Romney said.

He also joked about his religion when talking about his time at Bain.

“I had thought about asking my church’s pension fund to invest, but I didn’t,” Romney said. “I figured it was bad enough that I might lose my investors’ money, but I didn’t want to go to hell too.”

The crowd chuckled.

“Shows what I know,” he continued. “Another of my partners got the Episcopal Church pension fund to invest. Today there are a lot of happy retired priests who should thank him.”

On Twitter and via email, I saw reporters asking about Mormon doctrines on hell. And that’s actually something I would typically encourage. But there is a time when a Mormon talking about hell makes a good hook for a discussion of Mormon doctrine.

And there’s a time to know when you’ve just heard a corny church pension joke. And this was simply the latter.

But perhaps we’ll see some good religion coverage built around the joke in any case.

Photo of church lady laughing at corny joke via Shutterstock.


August 25, 2012

On the latest Issues, Etc. podcast, host Todd Wilken and I discuss my recent post on media coverage of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney going to church.

In the comments section of that post, Mark Hemingway, GetReligion’s resident expert on Mormonism, raised an interesting question:

There’s one interesting detail I would like to know, though I don’t know whether it’s here nor there in relation to what Bobby wrote. Did the Romney campaign allow multiple reporters to attend services — or just one? Because the pool report that all of the details in this story appear to have been cribbed from was written by McKay Coppins, who is covering Romney for Buzzfeed and happens to be an active Mormon.

Wilken and I also talk about my recent post on a New York Times feature on sexually abstinent New Yorkers.

A topic that Wilken and I didn’t address: my recent post on the religion ghosts in media coverage of country star Randy Travis — full of drink and devoid of clothing — being arrested at a Texas convenience store.

I bring up that post here because (1) this post is running short and (2) there has been a new development related to Travis. A hat tip to my GetReligion colleague George Conger for pointing out this headline from Canada’s Vancouver Sun: 

Randy Travis, fully clothed, hospitalized after ‘church fight’

You can click this link for all the juicy details.

But to all who questioned if a religion angle really existed related to Travis, I say: I Told You So.

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