- newProPublica covers horrors at Liberty University. But do all Christian colleges hide rape cases?
Yes, Liberty University is back in the news — for valid reasons. Yes, the news involves accusations of sexual violence.Let’s start with the basics. It’s never good for a Baptist institution when the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention publishes a story like this one: “Ex-Liberty spokesman says he was fired for raising concerns.”The only thing missing from that somewhat soft headline is, well, the sex angle. However, that promptly shows up in the lede. Once again, we are talking about the overture in a story from a conservative, Baptist press office: A former spokesperson for Liberty University is suing the evangelical school after being fired, alleging in a lawsuit filed Monday (Oct. 25) that his termination came in retaliation for voicing concerns that sexual misconduct accusations were mishandled. Scott Lamb, a vice president-level executive at the school where he was hired in 2018, said in an interview with The Associated Press that he pushed for answers about what was being done to investigate claims raised in a lawsuit filed over the summer by 12 women, and was continually dissatisfied. The women’s lawsuit, which is still ongoing, alleged the school had a pattern of mishandling cases of sexual assault and harassment and had fostered an unsafe campus environment. A student-led movement has since been established to advocate for systemic reforms, and the nonprofit investigative journalism outlet ProPublica published a deeply reported investigation … with findings similar to the allegations raised in the lawsuit.Now, the key to all of this is the brutal contents of that ProPublica piece: “ ‘The Liberty Way’: How Liberty University Discourages and Dismisses Students’ Reports of Sexual Assaults.” If you want a quick summary of the accusations — in another rather conservative source — check out this report at The New York Post: “Liberty University accused of making it ‘impossible’ to report rape, lawsuit alleges.”The ProPublica report is, of course, hostile to Liberty University in every way possible. It’s also clear that Liberty officials appear to have gone out of their way to earn that hostility — in large part by refusing, at ever twist in the plot, to speak on the record about the university’s perspective on these issues.
- 5 hours ago 27 Oct 21, 5:30pm -
- newDon't neglect the Supreme Court's potentially weighty case on religious schools funding
Media eyes are trained on the U.S. Supreme Court's December 1 argument on Mississippi's abortion restrictions, preceded by a fast-tracked November 1 hearing about the stricter law in Texas. But don't neglect the Court's December 8 hearing and subsequent decision on tax funding of religious schools in the potentially weighty Carson v. Makin case (docket #20-1088).University of Baltimore law Professor Kimberly Wehle certainly wants us to pay heed, warning October 14 via TheAtlantic.com that this is a "sleeper" appeal that "threatens the separation of church and state." In her view, the high court faces not just the perennial problem of public funding for religious campuses. She believes the justices could decide "religious freedom supersedes the public good" by aiding conservative Christian schools that, based on centuries of doctrine, discriminate against non-Christian and LGBTQ students and teachers.Journalistic backgrounding: Thinly-populated Maine provides an unusual context for this story because the majority of its 260 school districts do not operate full K-12 systems and instead pay tuition for public or private schools that families choose for upper grades. Religiously-affiliated schools are included, but not if Maine deems them "sectarian."Notably, the parents' plea for tuition is backed by major institutions of the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention and other evangelical Protestants, the Church of God in Christ (the nation's largest African-American denomination), Latter-day Saints (formerly called "Mormons") and Orthodox Judaism, alongside the 63-campus Council of Islamic Schools. A reporter's question: Has such a religious coalition ever formed in any prior Supreme Court case?Of further interest, the case engages a major religious-liberty theorist, Michael W. McConnell, director of Stanford University's Constitutional Law Center and former federal judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. He wrote that circuit's 2008 opinion in Colorado Christian University v Weaver (.pdf here), which tossed out a law that barred "pervasively sectarian" colleges from a state scholarship program.In Carson, McConnell filed a personal brief September 8 that hands the Supreme Court a history lesson (.pdf here) on religious freedom as conceived when the Constitution's First Amendment was framed. He has explored this ground since a significant Harvard Law Review article in 1989.
- 10 hours ago 27 Oct 21, 1:00pm -
- All those fast-growing Christian schools: Are they really bastions of racism, intolerance?
Usually most New York Times’ pieces about anything conservative and (particularly) Christian gets reams of nasty remarks in the comments section. But a recent story on the rapid growth of private Christian schools drew a wider range of constructive responses.I’m talking about Ruth Graham’s piece about a Christian school in an obscure corner of southwestern Virginia (drive west of Richmond, then head south) and how such schools are booming around the country in the wake of COVID-19 realities.It’s a trend that a lot of us have seen coming. The key question, for GetReligion readers, is how the story handled the “Why?” factor looming over this trend. We will start at the beginning: MONETA, Va. — On a sunny Thursday morning in September, a few dozen high school students gathered for a weekly chapel service at what used to be the Bottom’s Up Bar & Grill and is now the chapel and cafeteria of Smith Mountain Lake Christian Academy. Five years ago, the school in southwestern Virginia had just 88 students between kindergarten and 12th grade. Its finances were struggling, quality was inconsistent by its own admission, and classes met at a local Baptist church.The Smith Mountain Lake real estate market is the largest marketplace for lake property in Virginia unless you can afford expensive beachfront to the east. Now, it has 420, with others turned away for lack of space. It has grown to occupy a 21,000-square-foot former mini-mall, which it moved into in 2020, plus two other buildings down the road. Smith Mountain Lake is benefiting from a boom in conservative Christian schooling, driven nationwide by a combination of pandemic frustrations and rising parental anxieties around how schools handle education on issues including race and the rights of transgender students.Homes in Franklin County, which includes Smith Mountain Lake, are selling at 35% above assessed value, so people are definitely moving to this exurb because, well, they can.Everyone is working remote these days and if you don’t HAVE to live near a place like Washington, DC (about a four-hour drive to the north), why would you?
- 1 day ago 26 Oct 21, 3:59pm -
- That question again: What's happening to religious believers and others stuck in Afghanistan?
This is a case in which I don’t want to say, “We told you so,” but -- well — we told you so.If you dug into this recent podcast-post — “ 'What's next in Afghanistan?' Warning: this news topic involves religion” — you’d know that the GetReligion team has been worried about what will happen to elite news coverage of human rights issues and, specifically, religious freedom, in Afghanistan under this new Taliban regime. In fact, that podcast included many themes from an earlier GetReligion podcast-post with this headline: “When the Taliban cracks down, will all the victims be worthy of news coverage?”It appears that there are two problems.Reality No. 1: It’s hard to cover the hellish realities of life in the new-old Afghanistan without discussing the messy exit of U.S. diplomats and troops from that troubled nation. Thus, new coverage will please Republicans, who are infuriated about that issue, and anger the White House team of President Joe Biden, which wants to move on. New coverage allows Republicans to “pounce,” as the saying goes.Reality No. 2: There are many valid stories inside Afghanistan right now, but some are more explosive than others in terms of fallout here in America. This is especially true when dealing with stories about Americans who are still trapped there. Then there are religious believers — including Christians and members of minority groups inside Islam — who face persecution and even executions because of their beliefs. It appears that some journalism executives (and foreign-policy pros) continue to struggle with the reality that religious issues are at the heart of the Afghanistan conflict.Thus, cases of political and religious persecution in Afghanistan are “conservative news.” For a quick overview, see this National Review piece: “In Afghanistan, ‘Almost Everyone Is in Danger Now.’ “ Note this snarky line: The sort of headline that shouldn’t just be local news. … Those knee-jerk Biden critics over at . . . er, the Connecticut affiliate of NBC News report: “43 Connecticut Residents Still Stuck In Afghanistan. ”Here is a key chunk of that NBCConnecticut.com report:
- 2 days ago 25 Oct 21, 4:30pm -
- Plug-in: Ransom demands and prayers -- 17 with Anabaptist mission group kidnapped in Haiti
As a journalist who covers religion, I’ve been blessed to report firsthand from countries such as Israel, Mexico, Nicaragua and South Africa.As a result, when violence and war flare in those places, the news doesn’t seem a million miles away. Instead, I envision real people and places.The same is true of Haiti, where I reported on a well-drilling ministry in 2018. We took safety precautions, but I never felt unsafe as I traveled with a U.S. mission team in the capital of Port-au-Prince.Three years later, circumstances have changed in that impoverished Caribbean nation, rocked in recent months by a presidential assassination and natural disasters.The latest: a gang’s kidnapping of six men, six women and five children working with Christian Aid Ministries, a global missionary organization based in Millersburg, Ohio. A gang leader has threatened to kill the hostages if a ransom of $1 million per head is not paid.Coverage of the mission group by the New York Times’ Ruth Graham and Elizabeth Dias resonates with me.”Christian missionary workers typically labor in obscurity, running medical clinics, building wells and delivering Bibles without fanfare — until crisis erupts,” Graham and Dias write.Here at ReligionUnplugged.com, Michael Ray Smith talks to missions leaders about the surging number of kidnappings in Haiti, where gangs have gained control of roughly half the capital.Other related stories that help explain what’s happening:• As abductions in Haiti increase, churches and ministries find themselves in the crosshairs (by Jamie Dean, World)• An around-the-clock prayer effort to save the Haiti hostages (by Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham, New York Times)
- 2 days ago 25 Oct 21, 1:00pm -