A Central California city nicknamed Christmas Tree City is changing its annual festival in the name of church-state separation.

KGPE television reports that the Sanger, Calif., superintendent of schools, Denise Hexom, told city leaders to remove the word "Christmas" from the city's celebration, "Christmas Around the World," or watch the district pull its support for the celebration. The city caved, and changed the name of the celebration to "A Walk in the Winter Wonderland." 

Elsewhere As Well 

A decades-old nativity tradition in Ontario, Calif., is in danger of disappearing this year because of fears about its religious overtones. Officials told the Ontario Chamber of Commerce that the life-size nativity scene it has been putting up in the median of a highway for 41 years may not be welcome this year because it could violate the constitutional prohibition against the government establishment of a religion. Chamber officials tell The Press-Enterprise they may seek a court order allowing them to put up the display in the name of free expression. 

No 'Talking About This Flag Business' 

A Mississippi judge ruled that it should be the people of the state, not a commission, that determines the fate of the Confederate battle flag emblazoned in a corner of the state flag. The question will likely be on a statewide ballot in 2002. Opponents of the flag, who call it racist, wanted a 17-member panel appointed by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove to propose alternative designs instead of putting the issue to a vote. 

"Gov. Musgrove has put into motion a process by which people can talk about this business of the flag without it becoming a simple thumbs up, thumbs down proposition," said Richard Howorth, a bookstore owner in Oxford who wants the flag changed. 

Diversity Courses Now the Rule at Colleges 

The Association of American Colleges and Universities reports that 62 percent of the 543 American colleges and universities responding to a recent survey said they require diversity courses of their undergraduate students. Debra Humphreys, with the AACU's Office of Diversity, Equity and Global Initiatives, says "learning about diversity is a key element of a quality undergraduate education and should therefore be required of all students." 

But Bradford P. Wilson, executive director of the National Association of Scholars, worries that the diversity courses are distracting students from more substantive coursework. 

"The curriculum is being used to inculcate politically correct attitudes rather than a substantive body of historical and cultural knowledge," he tells the Chronicle of Higher Education

Mascot Mayhem 

Students at San Diego State University have voted overwhelmingly to keep the school's 75-year-old mascot, "Monty Montezuma," and nickname, the "Aztecs," despite complaints that the image is dehumanizing, demoralizing and racist to indigenous cultures. The student council voted last month to retire the mascot, but nine out of 10 students voting in a three-day referendum with unexpectedly high turnout voted in favor of keeping Monty. 

The AP's Headline? 'Survey Shows
Mixed Feelings About Nickname'
 

More unsurprisingly one-sided surveys on the school mascot issue, this time from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. Seems 91 percent of the student body wants to keep the school's "Fighting Sioux" nickname, but the remaining 9 percent may yet have their day and have the moniker banned. A committee, of course, is meeting on the subject and will present the survey's full results to the school president next month. "Mixed feelings" indeed. 

BBQ Battle in S.C. Continues 

Embattled South Carolina BBQ magnate Maurice Bessinger, whose support for the Confederate flag and views on slavery led grocery stores to remove his sauce from their shelves, received support from Reform Party vice presidential candidate Ezola Foster last week. 

Foster, an African-American, appeared at a rally at Bessinger's West Columbia restaurant last week to endorse Bessinger's right to fly the battle flag and denounce the campaign against him. 

"There are too many people going about the business of dividing us," she said. "For us to come together, we've got to recognize the rights of all Americans. And freedom of speech is the most important right we have." 

Salad Days in the UK 

London's Daily Telegraph reports that England's Broadcasting Standard Commission upheld viewer complaints about a Heinz television advertisement. The ad, for the company's salad cream, featured a street dweller using it to disguise the taste of food retrieved from trash cans. The commission said the ad mocked the homeless. 

Incoming 

From Dave U.: "As an Army Reserve chaplain I have noticed the PC references to 'faith groups' rather than to 'religions' in the Army chaplain corps. The latter term is obviously too harsh for the PCers. It implies there are actually differences between religions that are important! What a non-PC idea that is!" 

From Jimmy C.: "I hate the political correctness that abounds in our society today and do everything in my power to be just the opposite. When I talk to some political correctness wannabe I make it a point of being absolutely as incorrect as I can, to see if I can get them to fall into a dead faint over what they've heard. From race, religion to tree hugger to spotted owl. I love telling an "evo" (environmental wannabe) how much like chicken the spotted owl tastes. Or to whip out several pictures of me kneeling beside some of the deer I've shot (I carry some with me so I won't miss a moment). Or when some crank makes a comment about gun control, I love opening my vest so they can see the 9mm holstered and say 'they'll never get this one.' (Yes I have a permit). God how I love trying to shock some of the genetic litter out there back to reality!" 

From K.B. in Seattle: "Last year when we were visiting schools to pick one for our son we had a terrible experience at one of them, University Prep. The school was so PC it made my skin crawl. The capper was a poster of Columbus and an Indian (Native American, whatever). The caption read 'So who is the real barbarian?' I am 1/4 Cherokee myself, and I found the poster extremely offensive. I don't understand why people don't realize that they are just as guilty of stereotyping as a racist when they take such positions. Needless to say, we chose another school for our son." 

And finally, from Daniel M: "This column and its editor sucks. How's that for 'free expression?'"