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Some were surprised that FP had a story about Ralph Shortey’s religious background and what it might reveal about his complex struggles.

I ran that piece because it is an important part of the Ralph Shortey story.  To ignore his religious background and orientation is to miss an important aspect of the man.

Unfamiliar territory

Hypocrisy and moral extremes all existing within the same fundamentalist person is a familiar one for those of us who grew up in the Bible Belt.

We just aren’t used to reading about it in the press.

Segregation of religion reporting to feel-good stories and previews of upcoming church events is the norm.

But, include a story at the top about how religious belief may have partly led to someone’s downfall? Nope.

Many traditional editors would consider that to be way too dangerous. Not worth it.

After all, why alienate churches that might buy ads to let us know about their new coffee bar, rock climbing wall or too-hip concert?

Or in the case of fundamentalist or Evangelical churches, why alienate pastors and create enemies? Life is so much easier for a traditional newspaper when several pastors are not out there preaching against it.

But we won’t have those concerns in this publication.

We don’t sell ads. We aren’t trying to be the most well-behaved publication out there. Sometimes reporting involves telling a story that isn’t very pleasant.

Religion specialists

Rev. Bobby Griffith was very forthcoming when I interviewed him, and he should have been.

He knows.

Griffith grew up in the same fundamentalist background as Shortey on the south side of Oklahoma City. Except now he has a broader perspective on it.

No longer a fundamentalist, Griffith approaches that expression as an academic rather than practitioner.

He is working on his PhD at the University of Oklahoma in Christian fundamentalism and is a practicing pastor in a more open expression of Christianity in his current professional life.

Reporters and their editors think nothing of calling upon a political science professor as an authoritative voice for politics. The only reason we don’t often do that in religion is because religion is far more complex and even vexing for those who have not engaged in extensive study of it.

That’s where my background with a religion degree from OCU and a graduate seminary degree from Emory University comes in.

I know

When I listen to religion specialists I can tell if they are being academically honest and not just promoting a religious expression.

I know what I’m hearing and most importantly, I know the best next question.

So, this publication will not allow promotion of religion in news stories, but won’t shy away from covering the religious aspects of a story when it’s appropriate.

It’s just another way that FP will keep you informed on a deeper level.

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