Tongue Tied: A Report From the Front Line of the Culture Wars

A Vermont pastor and his wife have been denied the right to put the words ROMANS5 and ROMANS8 on their vanity license plates by the state Department of Motor vehicles because the religious connotation might be confusing or offensive to some people, reports the Burlington Free Press.

Robert and Nancy Zins have appealed the decision to the state courts, insisting that their free speech rights are being violated. The Romans references are to a section of the New Testament that speaks of acquiring peace and joy through faith in Jesus.

Recently, the same DMV denied one woman’s request to have the word IRISH on her license plate for similar reasons.

Olympic-Sized Gaffe?

International Olympic Committee members say the Toronto mayor’s offhand remarks about snakes and cannibals are a remarkable display of insensitivity to other cultures and may hurt the city’s bid for the 2008 games, reports the Associated Press. 

In comments to a newspaper reporter, Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman said he was not keen on going to Mombasa, Kenya, for a meeting of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa, where he was due to stump for the Toronto bid. "What the hell would I want to go to a place like Mombasa?" he was quoted as saying, adding that he feared snakes. "I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me."

Later in the week, Lastman apologized profusely. "I am truly sorry and I'm going to say it again," Lastman said. "I'm sorry that my comments were inappropriate and I want to apologize to everyone for my remarks, particularly to anyone who was offended by them.”

But one senior African Olympic official said the remarks could cause IOC members to take another look at the entire Toronto bid package.

Hostility in Prison

A union recruitment poster featuring a nearly naked middle-aged man in not particularly good shape hanging at offices in the California Department of Corrections is said to be causing a hostile work environment for women working there, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

State officials removed the poster after at least one employee, a female corrections officer, filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint about it. The state says the presence of the poster opens it up to workplace harassment lawsuits. 

The ad features a man who is nude except for a union logo over his midsection. The slogan, "Don't Go Naked," is meant to promote the union's Gold Shield plan. 

The California Correctional Peace Officers' Association has sued to get the posters put back up. Ronald Yank, a union lawyer, said it is no more revealing than your average underwear ad, and that most people who see it “think it's a hoot." 

Scaling Back Shakespeare

A production of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice changed two scenes after a Muslim-Canadian lobby group protested the comic depiction of Muslim prayer, reports the Associated Press.

The changes were made to appease the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which called the Stratford Festival’s portrayal of the Prince of Morocco as offensive. The character fell on his face while prostrating himself — or touching his head to the ground in prayer — before God, and also prostrated himself before a woman in the production.

Muslims are prohibited from prostrating themselves before anyone but God. 

After learning of the complaint, the festival production changed the scenes so that the prince no longer prostrated himself, and agreed to distribute educational material about the Islamic faith to school audiences and make brochures available during performances of the play.

Gay History in the Doldrums

A report by the Committee on Lesbian and Gay History, a division of the American Historical Association, complains that historians who focus on gay issues are having difficult in the academic job market and says institutional discrimination is to blame, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The report tracked 44 scholars in the field over the last three decades and found that 18 of the 32 who had completed their Ph.D.’s has found jobs, but only two had tenure-track positions.

"Despite a significant increase in the number of [gay-related] history Ph.D.'s produced over the past decade, U.S. history departments have not made a commensurate increase in hiring such scholars to tenure-track positions," the report says. People who study gay history are often the "most vulnerable to institutional, professional, and departmental discrimination," it adds.

But other historians said everyone in the field is having trouble. "I've heard tales of woe from historians in other fields," said William R. Keylor, a professor of history at Boston University. "I'm not sure that this group has a stronger case than other groups I can think of."

Dangerous Bible Passages

A Human Rights Commission in Saskatchewan, Canada has ordered a man who placed an ad with biblical references and gay stick figures in a local newspaper to pay three gay plaintiffs $1,500 each for subjecting them to hatred or ridicule, reports the Ottawa Citizen.

Hugh Owens’ ad in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, which was also ordered to pay a fine, featured an icon of two stick figures holding hands covered by a red circle and slash, along with four references to the Bible. The slashed figures alone are not enough to communicate hatred, the commission ruled, but the addition of the biblical references are more dangerous.

"It is obvious that certain of the biblical quotations suggest more dire consequences and there can be no question that the advertisement can objectively be seen as exposing homosexuals to hatred or ridicule," said the ruling.

Aggrieved Catholics

Catholic pressure groups succeeded in putting the kibosh on a newspaper ad campaign for Lipton that features a man about to dip his communion wafer in a bowl of onion dip at church, reports the New York Post.

William Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said the ad for Lipton Recipe Secrets mocked the core beliefs of tens of millions of Catholics. "For the elite at Unilever to allow their ad department at Lipton to insult Catholics like this is the height of corporate arrogance and stupidity," he said.

Unilever, which owns the Lipton brand, called the ad an error in judgment, apologized and immediately pull it from print.

Long Day at UCLA

At a growing number of colleges, students are choosing to segregate themselves on graduation day not only by academic discipline but also by sexual orientation and ethnicity, reports Fox News.

The University of California Los Angeles, for instance, now hosts several commencement ceremonies, including a "Lavender Graduation" for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students. Also on the big day's schedule at UCLA are celebrations for American Indians, the Iranian Student Group, the African Student Union, Asian Pacific Islanders, Samahang Philippinos and "Raza Grads." 

While some view the separate graduations as an opportunity for special recognition — and say they’re acting out of pride, not prejudice — others are concerned the phenomenon represents a step backward, undermining integration rights that minorities have fought hard to get. 

All or None? California Takes None

An Orange County, Calif. high school district banned non-curriculum clubs from its campuses altogether rather than allow the establishment of a Christian club, reports Fox News.

Saddleback Valley Unified School District agreed to exclude student clubs rather than allow a chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes on one of its campuses as part of a lawsuit settlement.
The clubs will have to meet before or after school, and can no longer use campus bulletin boards or other school outlets to solicit members or publicize meetings. More than 1,100 students belonging to service or social clubs at four campuses have not been allowed to meet, among them Amnesty International, Girl's League, Key Club, the Multicultural Club, the Red Cross Club and Students Against Destructive Decisions.

From the Central Servers:

David T in Atlanta writes:

The Japanese Fleet came in behind a weather front, with no radio traffic, launched two major sorties in which over 100 or more attack aircraft were used to attack the Fleet at Pearl Harbor. They attempted to infiltrate the harbor using midget submarines and did all of this without warning. Whether that was intentional or not, that constitutes a “sneak attack.”

The politically correct hacks always want to parse words. Let them explain the difference between “sneak” and “surprise” when both essentially mean "an attack without warning."

G. Henson writes:

As an educated person, I am surprised by the ignorance with which Sen. Karnette approaches her concern.  As you read how the dictionary defines the word foreign, it is plain to see that there is no need for concern over its use in the school system.

Sen. Karnette has chosen to attack an innocent word and proclaim it to be potentially offensive or inappropriate.  I'm sure she will gain some mileage out of her endeavor. Sadly, she will probably succeed.

Jeff A. in Simi Valley, Calif. suggests:

If the Los Angeles Times is so worried about offending the Japanese people who live in America (not Japanese-Americans), they should not stop at calling the attack on Pearl Harbor a "surprise attack" instead of a "sneak attack," the Times might as well call it a "surprise party".

Wayne L. in Portland, Ore. says:

In today's ultra-PC society it seems speaking a truth about African Herdsman and Hunter/Gatherer cultures is not allowed. If we are to continue to grow as a people we must be able to hear the truth without going into a frenzy.

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