Tongue Tied

A 14-year-old New Mexico boy who slapped a female classmate on the butt could face felony charges and two years in a juvenile detention facility.

The incident occurred at a middle school and was reported to police because of the school's strict sexual harassment policy, assistant principal Ruben Lucero told Reuters. "Anytime a person's body is violated, we consider that major," he said. 

The 13-year-old victim's mother said she would not have pressed charges considering that "it was just a slap on the butt," but police, assisted by forensic psychologists, are investigating and trying to decide whether the incident should be categorized as criminal sexual contact or just battery. 

Too Much Time on Le Hands 

France's "Immortals," those aging intellectual overseers of the French language with the Académie Française, have relented and allowed several new Americanisms into the latest edition of their official dictionary. 

Now permitted in polite Parisian society, reports London's Daily Telegraph, are such phrases as les hamburgers, le ketchup, le jack-pot and le jogging. Also allowed in state school textbooks without the italics to label them as foreign intrusions are words like geisha, groggy, kitsch and jumbo jet. 

Still verboten by the Ministry of Finance, though, are some of the most common phrases of the dot-com world. Earlier this year, the ministry insisted in an edict supported by the Académie Française that in literate circles the Web still be referred to as la toile, as in spider's web, and that e-mail be called message electronique. The latter may, however, be abbreviated to mel on business cards, it said. 

More Bathrooms = Less Offense 

Forbes' Dan Seligman, summing up the year in political correctness in the latest issue of the magazine, cites a Minnesota state Court of Appeals ruling that said a transgendered man had the right to sue an employer who barred him from using the women's restroom. 

A similar, still-pending case from Massachusetts has a boy suffering from gender identity disorder asserting his rights to use the girls' bathroom at his school. Making our culture more "trans-inclusive," writes Seligman, is the goal of activists who say: "The first step is the bathroom." 

Freedom From Religion at Canada's Schools 

Aspiring teachers graduating from conservative Christian universities in Canada may be barred from working in public schools if a case pending before the Supreme Court of Canada goes against them, reports the Christian Science Monitor

In 1996 the British Columbia College of Teachers, the province's teacher accreditation agency, refused to accredit Trinity Western University, which requires students to sign a code of conduct forbidding among other things smoking, premarital sex, cheating and homosexual behavior. The agency says that because of their beliefs the Trinity grads, as teachers, might be intolerant of gay students in their classrooms. 

At issue before the court is whether a quasi-governmental body such as the accrediting board can essentially restrain people from public life because of their religious views. 

"This case has tremendous implications for religious freedom," William Sammon, an Ottawa attorney representing the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the Monitor. "We made the argument that [denying accreditation] would tend to marginalize Catholic school students. They would be denied full access to public life until their religious views had been diluted or nullified." 

No Cradling the Confederacy 

Two roadside markers, long covered by weeds and debris, are stirring up new controversy in Montgomery, Ala. 

Placed in a now predominantly black neighborhood in the western part of the city in 1928 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the markers call attention to Mobile Highway's designation as "Jefferson Davis Highway" and the road's status as the "Entrance to the Cradle of the Confederacy." The plaques were uncovered recently by workers cleaning up new county offices. 

Rep. Alvin Holmes, who represents the area in Alabama's state legislature, says residents have complained that the markers are in poor taste and should be removed. 

How Soon They Forget 

A professor at Baylor University in Waco, Texas often billed as the largest Baptist university in the world has been demoted and is in virtual exile from campus for championing a theory about the origin of the universe that his opponents call "stealth creationism," reported the United Press International. 

William A. Dembski is a leading proponent of a theory known as Intelligent Design, a hypothesis that the universe is the product of mindful planning rather than a random set of circumstances. He is an evangelical Christian with doctorates in mathematics and philosophy but does not name the designer of the universe, at least not in his work. 

Dembski used to run Baylor's Center for Complexity, Information and Design, but after a conference on the subject, the faculty senate asked the university president to end all Intelligent Design initiatives on campus. The conference was boycotted by biologists on campus, and scholars from other universities tried to sabotage it by sending out bogus notes to scheduled speakers "disinviting" them. 

Baylor's president, Robert Sloan, said, "It's rather ironic that people in the scientific community now appear to be suppressing others," considering how much scientists had suffered in the past when pressured by fundamentalist creationists. 


Mail From the Central Servers 

Joey R. from Duluth, Ga., writes: 

I spent the first 24 years of my life growing up in Mississippi, and 12 of those in public school. I wasn't a Christian, and not once in my life was I ever physically or verbally assaulted. There are bullies in every school, but for John H. to ask us to believe that "Christian" kids were beating him and abusing him is absurd. Children, especially Christian children are very passive, even when their parents are zealots. Get a life, it's freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. What part of "nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof", do these people not understand? 

William V. sympathizes with John H. (sort of): 

I understand how you would feel that you were castigated for your beliefs. I feel the same way now. I am not allowed to speak highly of the true reasons we celebrate Dec. 25th in my kid's public school. We can't offend anyone that might not believe as we do. I can't get my company to acknowledge my volunteer time to my church's outreach ministries, as they would an employee who volunteers at an abortion clinic because my church has certain beliefs that another employee of my company might be offended by. So I can certainly understand how you might feel. 

Rev. James C. informs us: 

In your online column on 25 December 2000, Linda S. decried the encouragement of other dating suffixes, rather than 'B.C.' or 'A.D.'. 

I wanted your readers to know that this is current usage in many disciplines as a way to recognize that humanity is comprised of many different philosophies, cultures, and religious systems. The terms that are more appropriate and in use now are BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era). 

What could possibly be inappropriate about recognizing the entire family of humanity in our writings and in our dealings with each other? 

I think it is a wise and timely practice that avoids focusing solely on Christianity's view of human history and provides us all with practical, working frames of reference for historical periods. 

Larry P. argues: 

According to Scott Novell and Fox News "political correctness" is owned and used strictly by liberals/democrats. 

But if PC is as "an overarching attempt to appease or not to offend" then indeed when George Bush speaks at Bob Jones University or nominates ex-senator Ashcroft (recipient of a Bob Jones honorary degree) for a cabinet post, is it not PC at its best (or worst)? Is he not using PC to appease and not offend a niche religious voting base? 

While conservatives exploit rare and unusual events in an attempt to hang the PC Albatross around liberals' necks, political correctness is clearly blind to, and shared by, all ideologies and political parties. 

So where is the "fair and balanced" reporting you at Fox so love to claim? 

Warren T. asks: 

Are you familiar with the Air Force's politically correct term for an aircraft cockpit? It is now called a flight deck. Never mind that cockpit has nothing to do with sex. It originated as a nautical term for the part of a small ship that the pilot would be in to steer the boat.