Boycott Atkins' cheesecake; it might give you indigestion

Dateline: Tue 03 Jul 2007

The story of the owner of Atkins Elegant Cheesecake and her deeply prayerful life with her employees gets prominent play on the Star's web page today and in the Gannet-owned Noblesville Ledger.

Here's a little different slant --- Atkins' cheesecake boss lady Jeanne Atkins' halo is tarnished by a recent nasty court battle involving her gay son and his partner of 25 years. That aspect of her life -- which was legal news in a June 27 court ruling -- goes strangely unexamined and unmentioned in this sugar-coated piece of cheesecake reporting.

"Time out for prayers," is the headline, followed by the subhead: "At 3 p.m. daily, Atkins president leads workers to pray for others, themselves"

According to reporter Katie Merlie, Jeanne Atkins is a deeply religious woman who just loves to pray to God:

" 'I thought we all need prayer in our lives,'" said the Carmel resident, adding that participation is voluntary and those who don't attend aren't thought of any differently.

"I pray for my strength, my joy and my wisdom," said the member of St. Luke Catholic Church who is a devout Catholic and attends Mass daily. "Prayer is my strength."

Maybe she girds herself with prayer, but she also helps herself to the costly advice of attorneys at the expense of her own child. What the story neglects to tell you is that Atkins has an ugly court case in her past, one that indicates she can't forgive her grown son's "sin" of being a homosexual. Atkins is so prejudiced against gays that when her son Patrick Atkins had a near-fatal aneurysm on a business trip in 2005 in Atlanta, she refused to allow his partner of 25 years into the hospital to see him. She kept her attitude during rehabilitation.

The Atkins decision was summarized in the Indiana Law Blog when it was issued June 27th, just as every Indiana appeals court decision is summarized, every day. Here is the link to "In Re The Guardianship of Patrick Atkins":

I received an email tip today about the Star's story and Mrs. Atkins' legal history with her son and his partner; Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana has also posted about the Star's story today, and on June 27 he posted on the legal ruling. He used that opportunity to remind gay men and women that they need to establish legal ties, such as durable power of attorney, to protect themselves in Indiana.

I'm appalled at so many levels I don't know where to begin.

First, Mrs. Atkins told the court she would rather her son "never get well" than return to his gay partner. Where is the love and charity in that?

From a journalistic perspective, the integrity of the story is totally compromised by this court case. How can such a good Christian be so hell-bent on keeping a grown man from his life's partner? Patrick Atkins and Brett Conrad met in 1978 while they were students at Wabash College. They have been together ever since, sharing a home and a bank account. They were partners, in every sense.

As a Catholic, I'm disturbed by prejudice and ignorance. There is no Christian justification for a woman to ostracize her son's beloved partner during her son's most critical need. Even if she is convinced she is right, where is her maternal sense of self-sacrifice? Where's the Christian attitude of "love the sinner, hate the sin"?

It is tempting to rail against the reporter, but having been in the heat of the newsroom, I can only imagine that the story was hastily reported and viewed simply in the light of a "feel good" category. And prayer in the workplace is a potentially interesting topic, although it's also a hot-button legal issue.

That said, it's disturbing to learn that the reporter was notified about the court case after the story ran and didn't show much concern. According to a source who talked to the reporter, she was neither apologetic nor interested in digging any deeper. She simply defended her role as being a religion writer, and her story one of faith. That's a shame, because life is complicated, and this story might have carried weight had the reporter dug deeper. Even now, she could return and write a follow-up, because the drama being played out here is a classic for our times: how do families reconcile -- or not -- a loved one's homosexuality?

" 'You're making God's heart smile,' " writes Katie Merlie, quoting Atkins as she spoke to 36 praying employees at her plant on June 28.

God's heart may be smiling in Mrs. Atkins' mind, but many of us are frowning that this story didn't go deeper.



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