A student group asked to sing at a Red Cross event in California was asked to drop the use of the words "God" and "prayer" from its songs, reports the Orange County Register. The troupe bowed out of the performance instead.

The Orange County High School of the Arts seventh- and eighth-graders planned to sing a medley of "America the Beautiful," "Prayer of the Children" and "God Bless the U.S.A" at a ceremony in honor of 9/11 rescue workers, but group director Cherilyn Bacon was told the lyrics she chose might offend some people attending the event.

Another song the students were to perform, "Declaration" -- based on the Declaration of Independence -- was too political, Bacon said she was told

The Red Cross said the disagreement had nothing to do with patriotism. "The dispute centers only on our sensitivity to religious diversity and a preference for a music program that would be inclusive and not offend different populations participating in this event," it said in a statement.

'All the Hallmarks of Sexual Stereotyping'

Student criticism cited in Ithaca College's decision not to offer tenure to a journalism professor carries "all the hallmarks of sexual stereotyping" and should not be considered, the former teacher charges in a lawsuit.

Carolyn M. Byerly, 56, claims the school didn't offer her tenure because she pushed for a more diverse faculty and had "progressive ideas" about coverage of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation that were too controversial for the "conservative, male-dominated department."

But former provost Jim Malek said it was her teaching style that influenced the tenure decision. "I've been reading student evaluations for 25 years," he said. "These are among some of the most negative ones that I have read."

The students complained that Byerly was intimidating, too aggressive and tried to impose a feminist agenda in the classroom, reports The Ithaca Journal.

Muzzling Pro-War Writers

Leftist writers in Britain who are insufficiently anti-American say the magazines for which they work are muzzling them when they try to challenge their editors on the issue, reports London's Daily Telegraph.

John Lloyd, a former editor of the New Statesman and a regular contributor to the magazine, was so disgusted by the magazine's "ferociously anti-American coverage" and its criticism of Prime Minister Tony Blair for backing Washington that he wrote a letter for publication denouncing it.

But the magazine, in which a columnist recently offered his salary to anyone who would kill President Bush, refused to run it, saying there is no reason the writer "should have a privileged position to attack the editorial line of the New Statesman."

Similar charges of censorship and anti-Americanism have stirred the waters of the London Review of Books, a left-wing literary journal.

Mixed Signals on Mascots

A poll published in the March 4 issue of Sports Illustrated suggests that the Indian team names so maligned by Native American activists are not nearly as offensive to the Native American community at large.

Asked if high school and college teams should stop using Indian nicknames, 81 percent of Native American respondents said no. As for pro sports, 83 percent of Native American respondents said teams should not stop using Indian nicknames, mascots, characters, and symbols. The poll also found that 75 percent of Native Americans don't think the use of these team names and mascots "contributes to discrimination."

The name "Redskins" doesn't seem to be especially controversial: 69 percent of Native Americans don't object to it. As a general rule, Indians on reservations were more sensitive about team names and mascots, but not to the point where a majority of them ever sided with the activists on these questions.

The Peter Harris Research Group polled 352 Native Americans (217 living on reservations and 134 living off) and 743 sports fans on the subject.

Violent Antiques

An Ohio University journalism professor is being forced to remove his great-grandfather's rifle from his campus office after someone complained about it, reports The Associated Press.

The 1878 Springfield, which has been mounted on the wall of Patrick Washburn's office for 15 years, is not a threat to anyone, Washburn says. He said he doesn't even know what kind of shell the gun would take.

But an official from the university says the school's workplace violence policy forbids the display.

Rednecks Have Feelings, Too

A New Jersey teen-ager kicked out of school for wearing a T-shirt listing comedian Jeff Foxworthy's "Top 10 Reasons You Might Be a Redneck Sports Fan" argued in a federal appeals court that the shirt did not, as the school charged, constitute racial harassment, reports the Newark Star-Ledger.

Lawyers for Thomas Sypniewski Jr. said he did not intend to make a racist statement by wearing the shirt. "He wasn't crying fire or attacking any people," said lawyer Gerald Walpin said. "He was saying, 'Stop being so politically correct' as so many are."

Sypniewski was suspended for three days last March for wearing the shirt. School administrators said it violated its racial harassment policy and dress code banning clothing portraying racial, ethnic or religious stereotyping. They said the T-shirt had the potential to create disruption in what was an already hostile climate.

Gunplay

An 8-year-old Michigan boy was charged with felonious assault for pointing a toy gun at three other youngsters and threatening to shoot them, reports The Ann Arbor News.

Officials in Washtenaw County initially said that even though the incident involved a toy, Tommy Davis' intent was to threaten and scare the other children. The boy, who was 7 at the time of the incident, was charged with three counts of assault with a dangerous weapon.

Later, prosecutor Brian Mackie said his office was wrong to pursue such charges and dropped them. The mother of the children Davis intimidated, however, said she still intends to pursue the case in juvenile court.

Jeff Davis Lives

A Washington state Senate committee quietly killed a proposal to rename Jefferson Davis Highway there after a black Civil War veteran and early Washington settler, reports The Seattle Times.

A small stone marker near the Canadian border dedicates the highway in honor of Davis, president of the Confederacy. A group called the United Daughters of the Confederacy placed it there in 1939, part of an effort to create a national Jefferson Davis Highway.

Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, who sponsored the bill to rename the highway, called the decision "disgusting."

From the Central Servers:

Nick A. writes:

As a member of our armed forces for 10 years, I am proud to be defending the right of those Florida "journalists" to free speech. Wish they could spare the 30 seconds it might take to stand and say the pledge to show me, my fellow vets and this country some respect.

Lee R. writes:

That was very encouraging to hear about the reporters in Florida. If anyone's unwillingness to say the Pledge of Allegiance offends you, you're just as bad as those who are offended by team mascots and off-color jokes. Get over it!

Byron Y. writes:

At least the Prince of Gaffes is able complete a sentence coherently, albeit offensively. That's a lot more than our Illiterate Thief-in-Chief can claim.

William C. writes regarding last week's Quote Quotas item:

A very funny story. Thanks for writing it. I doubt Roger Ailes even noticed the funniest line of all: "Fox News just talks to people who know what they are talking about regardless of their race or gender."

Given the obvious rule at Fox to have hosts use as truth only right-wing experts and to challenge those experts not of the far-right, the phrase "people who know what they are talking about" takes on a whole new meaning. I love the sarcasm.

In any case you have great comic sense. I look forward to your next attempt to get us to laugh at the idea that different social levels/cultures might have different evaluations of 5/4's policies.

Larry B. in New Jersey writes:

As an American who happens to be black, I must ask how can Fox expect good stories by only quoting people who know what the hell they're talking about? No thought as to race, creed, national origin, sexual preference, or gender confusion? I fear for the future of the Republic.

Linsey K. in Pittsburgh, Pa., writes:

Why is it that Africans and African-Americans are virtually untouchable in terms of their culture and practices, but just about every other culture that is different is acceptable fodder for any comedian needing a low-brow laugh? As a Korean-American, I was extremely offended, particularly because I am a dog lover (and not for the taste). I am glad that Leno's inexcusable remark was noted by Koreans and Korean-Americans, and hopefully an outcry will get his big fat chin off the airwaves.

Michael G. writes:

I grew up on a farm in Missouri and one of our best pets was a pig. He was actually better at some tricks than the dog. One thing that comes to mind about his emotional well-being was that he would be waiting for us when the school bus dropped us off at the house. His little pig tail twirling away and his fetch ball in his mouth waiting for some play time. He was a happy pig, until we ate him. I know, that sucks, but we was poor. Rusty was a great friend for a pig, and a tasty breakfast treat.

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