Tongue Tied

In some Brooklyn, N.Y., high schools, Muslim students will be allowed to worship in school buildings during the holy month of Ramadan.

Students will be allowed to report to class 15 minutes late and to turn an auditorium into a makeshift mosque, reports the New York Post. This, in the same district that last month painted over a playground mural that featured an image of Jesus Christ. The New York Civil Liberties Union is already saying it will investigate the Muslim dispensation. "It creates the impression of an endorsement of a religion by the school, which creates a constitutional problem," NYCLU Executive Director Norman Siegel told the Post

A Little Late, Aren't We? 

Christmas is just around the corner, but the Conway, N.H., school board is still trying to figure out how to celebrate Halloween without offending anyone. The board last week approved guidelines urging teachers to avoid the occult or macabre aspects of the holidays and be "sensitive to diverse community points of view about Halloween traditions." But the Associated Press says some parents still aren't satisfied. Betty Hounsel believes the holiday glorifies evil and said the school should have "harvest parties" instead of Halloween shindigs. 

Sexual Politics in Public Schools 

A Cornell law professor and a Washington lawyer are arguing that abstinence-only sex education in public schools may be unconstitutional because it endorses a religious agenda. Writing in the latest issue of The Southern California Review of Law and Women's Studies, Gary Simson, a constitutional law professor and associate dean at Cornell Law School, and Erika Sussman, a Cornell Law School graduate now a litigation associate with Swidler Berlin Sheriff Friedman, LLP, in Washington, also argue that schools should not have to allow parents to opt their children out of sex-ed courses. The writers focused primarily on the widely-used "Sex Respect" curriculum, which they claim endorses the views on sex held by the Christian Coalition and its allies among the "religious right." Such programs should be found in court to violate the "Establishment Clause," which bans laws that have the purpose or effect of endorsing religion. 

No Free Speech for Those in the Military 

The Washington Post reports that members of the Army and Air Force have been put on notice: no dissing America's political leaders in speech or e-mail. After reading negative comments about Democratic shenanigans attributed to military personnel, Air Force Brig. Gen. Jack Rives sent out a message stating that "this is not the time to send e-mails or otherwise get involved in an improper or unprofessional manner with the continuing controversy over the presidential election." An army colonel followed suit shortly thereafter. Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice apparently forbids military officers from using "contemptuous words against the president, vice president, Congress, the secretary of defense, the secretary of a military department, the secretary of transportation, or the governor or legislature of any state." 

Count D'Ballot Skit Goes Awry 

Staff members at NBC's Miami TV station, WTVJ, are in hot water over an internal video conference skit that looked to many like someone was wearing black face. reports that the sketch, about the Florida recount, was a parody of a Sesame Street character, The Count, who is purple. TVJ's Count was dubbed Count D'Ballot, and featured an employee in purple makeup. But the purple looked too much like black face to some, and NBC President Bob Wright sent out a company-wide e-mail apologizing for the skit. 

Prison Chapels a Bad Idea? 

The ACLU has put Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster on notice that if he proceeds with plans to build three new chapels in state prisons, the state may find itself in court. Foster and his wife, Alice, through the Louisiana Prison Chapel Foundation, have raised $1 million in private funds to build the chapels and want to raise $6 million more to build or refurbish 21 more. After they are built, the chapels will revert to control of the state Department of Corrections. But Joe Cook, executive director of the state ACLU, tells the Associated Press that the group would look at the complaint of any inmate who feels he is discriminated against by the presence of the chapels. "It raises some issues of separation of church and state and favoring one religion," Cook said. 

Win Some... 

Officials with the Kent School District in Washington state are revising earlier guidelines that prohibited decorated Christmas wreaths or trees in schools or anywhere on school property. Bowing to the concerns of parents and students, Superintendent Barbara Grohe said schools will indeed be able to put up regular trees and "giving trees," on which tags are hung listing basic items, such as soap and socks, for families in need. Despite the new guidelines, parents say they are still concerned about the chilling effect of the whole debate. "Even if they come out with yes, trees, and yes, wreaths, that's great," parent Jeanie Smith told the South County Journal in Kent. "But it's not right that teachers feel like they can't say anything without fear of losing their jobs. I hope there will be a way to address that." 

Lose Some 

City officials in Eugene, Ore., have banned all Christmas trees or holiday decorations with religious content in public spaces or work areas shared by city employees, reports the Eugene Register Guard. A subcommittee of the city's diversity advisory committee has been struggling with the matter since July. In a memo sent out to city employees, City Manager Jim Johnson wrote, "While an argument can still be made that a Christmas tree is only a 'holiday' or 'seasonal' decoration, it is just as clearly a decoration associated with a religious holiday or tradition." Not all is lost, though. The city will make a special exception for a local senior center where, according to Johnson, patrons have "come to rely on the Campbell Center to provide them a space where they can decorate a tree as a holiday activity." 

Bibi Speech Not Welcome in Birthplace of Free Speech Movement 

A group of Berkeley, Calif., activists made such a ruckus outside a theater where former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to speak that the event had to be canceled. Demonstrators supporting Palestinians and the Middle East peace process howled through bullhorns and said the conservative former leader of the Likud coalition didn't deserve to speak. "I don't believe in free speech for war criminals," said one demonstrator, Lori Berlin, according to the Associated Press. They argue that the First Amendment's other religion clause — which bans laws "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion — does not require school districts to allow for opt-outs 

Mail From the Central Servers 

From P. Armstrong: 

Why do we, in this day and age, consider removing one person's or group's rights in favor of another person's or group's to be correct? What is happening is that the rights guaranteed by the Constitution are only being allowed to certain groups. 

From Janis R: 

All this uproar over things that happened decades or centuries ago. Slavery did exist — Indians did kill white settlers and white settlers and military massacred Indians — the Holocaust really happened. It is important that these injustices are remembered so that they are not repeated, but wouldn't it be better to spend our energy creating a society that respects the rights of all than trying to rewrite history? 

From Matt H.: 

If you all are truly fair and balanced on your site, then I would assume you'll have a section devoted to uncovering those things which are decidedly P.C.? I will assume you'll have topics related to uncovering unfair credit checks on minority home applications, people hunting rabbits with AK47s, zany policemen handcuffing black professors for being black, etc? Why is it more American to be outraged at something that attempts to not exclude others as opposed to something that really does exclude others?... 

After all is said and done, you who are creating these things will have little to look back on and be proud of — what service to the world are you providing? Nothing more than an outlet for whiny, emasculated conservatives. 

From Linda J.: 

...Nowhere in our Bill of Rights does it say we can re-write history to be more palatable to some group. Racial or ethnic biases, and religious intolerance will not go away because this age of Americans has decided history was too ugly. It was ugly, and like it or not it is our heritage, along with liberty, justice and freedom of expression ... Bigotry in any form will only subside when people of all races, creeds and backgrounds stand up and say, "Yes that was our history, but it is not our current world." 

From Len A: 

If you were just making fun of efforts to reduce the amount of discrimination and racism you would merely be an advocate for discrimination and racism. But you go further than that. More than being just funny, you present efforts to make our country more fair and equal as unbelievable attacks on your rights. I'm not sure which rights you are protecting. Perhaps your right to live in a bubble protected and insulated from the racism in our country, or your right to force others into accepting your version of history... 

From Sara W.: 

I am a person of American Indian (Tuscarora) and European mixed ancestry. I think most of the examples of political correctness mentioned in this column are ridiculous and extreme... 

Now, with that said. 

The only example that I don't see as ridiculous mentioned in this most recent article is the issue of the EPA asking for the removal of a 1930s era mural depicting Indians savaging settlers. Indian history is barely touched on in most history books so a lot of people don't know much about us — beyond what they think they know about Thanksgiving and Columbus. Murals such as the ones mentioned in this article perpetuate stereotypes that are biased and inaccurate. Furthermore, they inspire negative feelings about Indians to people who view the murals and who don't really know history of Indian/government relations. 

I would imagine a mural depicting American cavalry soldiers slaughtering Indian women and bashing Indian infants' heads in (as was often done) would also be unpopular in a government building. Why? Because it would be an image that demonizes one group and makes a victim out of the other. 

Let's not confuse dismissing negative, stereotypical images about a race of people with ridiculous political correctness. The two are very different. That mural coming down would not be ridiculous political correctness, it would simply be the right thing to do.