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Killing Christmas, Canning the Confederacy

After being celebrated for 24 years as Christmas on the Prado, the annual holiday festival in Balboa Park, Calif., is being renamed Balboa Park December Nights to better reflect the "rich cultural diversity" of the area, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Critics say the new name is meant to remove any connotation of religion and Christmas from the celebration. The committee that sponsors the traditional tree-lighting has pulled out of the event in protest.

"I don't know who made the decision," said Sally Crahan, a volunteer who has been going to the park since the 1960s. "But the Grinch has finally hit the park."

A park spokeswoman said the name change is meant to reflect "the rich cultural diversity" of San Diego and the fact that the event is now throughout the park.

A Sense of History

Officials at Vanderbilt University have decided, after three years of debate, to change the name of a student dormitory there because the word "Confederacy" in its current name might offend some students, reports the Vanderbilt Hustler.

Michael Schoenfeld, vice chancellor of public affairs, said Confederate Memorial Hall will henceforth be known simply as Memorial Hall.

Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Life Steve Caldwell said, "The word Confederate makes many people uncomfortable. This is the right thing and it needs to be done."

The United Daughters of the Confederacy donated money to build Confederate Hall in 1935 in an attempt to improve economic and educational problems in the South. Female descendants of Confederate veterans were offered a rent-free stay at the residence hall, provided they studied education and brought their talents back to better the South.

From Our Animal-Loving Friends:

-- The president of United Poultry Concerns, a poultry advocacy group, is complaining that AFLAC insurance's new ad campaign presents ducks in "dangerous, unnatural, and degrading situations" and should be cancelled. 

Karen Davis is concerned about an ad implying that a duck fell from an enormous height and landed hard and another that shows a live duck hanging upside down in a bat cave. She is demanding that AFLAC stop putting animal abuse images in people's minds.

-- The folks at PETA have put a Pennsylvania church on notice that its annual pig roast is unchristian and will be the subject of protest unless it agrees to serve vegetarian food instead, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Hibernia United Methodist Church has for years roasted a couple pigs as part of its annual fair, which also includes craft tables, balloons, games for children, and an antique car display. "By hosting a pig roast, your church is lending its imprimatur to factory-farming practices that are clearly and completely at odds with Christian values," a PETA spokesman said.

-- Another PETA chapter is irked at Lindenwood University in Missouri for accepting pigs in lieu of tuition from some cash-strapped students, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

For several years, the school in St. Charles, Mo., has accepted pigs then served the meat in the school cafeteria. Lindenwood President Dennis Spellmann started the practice to help family farmers send their children to college. But Bruce G. Friedrich, director of vegan outreach for PETA, suggested in a letter to the school that Jesus had been an ethical vegetarian and that the university's Christian roots should cause it to reconsider the program. Spellmann said he has no intention of doing so. 

Gunning for the NRA

A 12-year-old boy who tried to wear a T-shirt he got at summer camp featuring the silhouettes of three target shooters was told by administrators to turn the shirt inside out because the images of people shooting guns violated school policy, reports The Daily Progress.

Alan Newsom came home from school discouraged, confused and "a little angry," his father said, after being told the shirt, which bears the words "NRA Sports Shooting Camp," was inappropriate. The boy shoots a .22 caliber rifle at paper targets at the Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club, his father said.

The National Rifle Association is suing the school in U.S. District Court, claiming its administrator's decision violated Alan's rights to free speech and due process. NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said in a statement that the case is clearly one of "political correctness running unchecked."

Inclusion Rules

For the first time in his two terms, Connecticut's Republican Gov. John G. Rowland issued an official statement recognizing Gay Pride Day in that state. But The Associated Press reports that some people think it does not go far enough.

A group named PRIDE, or People Respecting Individual Diversity Everyday, is upset because the final document does not specifically mention bisexual, transgender and transsexual individuals.

"It's not inclusive of the entire community," said Frank DeMayo of New Haven. "It's kind of a backhanded slap across the face as far as I'm concerned."

The governor's spokesman, Chris Cooper, said Rowland did not intend to alienate or exclude anyone by issuing the proclamation. Cooper said the office received two requests for a gay pride statement and, as a compromise, decided to mention only gays and lesbians.

The Many Faces of Racism:

-- The State Journal-Register reports that a Denny's restaurant in Illinois is being accused of racism for closing down between 3 and 5 a.m. on Sundays. 

The restaurant, which is supposed to be open 24 hours, says it closes because patrons, many of whom have been at nearby clubs that close at 3 a.m., were descending on the restaurant and causing problems, including not paying for about $1,000 worth of food a night. But Carl Madison, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, said he received at least six complaints from black patrons who viewed the practice as discriminatory.

-- A new city law in Troy, N.Y., prohibiting spitting on sidewalks is racist because most of the offenders cited so far are minorities, reports the Albany Times Union. Council members said they intended the law as a tool to break up groups of young people who loiter, use abusive language and spit. But a community civil rights leader said the violation, which carries a $50 fine, is being used by police to target minorities. Four of the people cited so far have been African-Americans.

-- A Washington state school district is paying $7.5 million to settle lawsuits filed on behalf of black students there who say the school fostered a hostile climate by, among other things, allowing racially offensive material into the curriculum, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

According to the lawsuit, one complaint is that the Puyallup School District "tolerated and encouraged a racially hostile environment" by assigning and discussing books like Huckleberry Finn and The Grapes of Wrath that used racial slurs.

Mailbag:

Anthony H. writes:

Before the students at Concordia go on a mad rampage against Prime Minister Netanyahu again for his "Hate Speech," I recommend they listen to that bastion of moderation that is the Palestinian Authority.

I quote: "Netanyahu is the child of Brooklyn prostitutes," "The Jews are like Satan," and my personal favorite, "Jews will create earthquakes to destroy Al Aqsa. (The Dome of the Rock.)" These are all quotations from Al-hyat al-jadidyah, Yasser Arafat's official newspaper. Apparently only anti-Israeli hate speech is acceptable to college students.

Ted W. writes:

I'd like to comment on the church sign that read. "There is one God, and His name is not Allah". They have the right to say that. This is America! Allah is not the same as the God of the Bible. As far as the sign not "showing unity," so what! The Christian faith, as promoted in the Bible is an exclusive faith. Jesus didn't say, "I am the way, the truth, and the life and no one can come to the Father except through ME (unless you are a Muslim, or a Buddhist, or a ..."

Rich S. in Mason, Ohio, writes:

I have to say that I never respond to these sorts of things but the recent incident in Long Beach, Miss., has changed that. The man who put up the sign that said "There is one God and His name is not Allah," is a fool. He says that he is standing for his beliefs but obviously doesn't understand what he is standing for. 

"Allah" is the Arabic word for God. Christians who speak Arabic (there are many) refer to God as Allah the same way the French would refer to Him as "Dieu" or the Spanish as "Dios." I won't even point out that Allah is the same God of Abraham worshipped by Jews, Muslims and Christians, but that is another argument. 

I hope that your point in including this idiocy in your column was to show what the dangers of patriotic ignorance are. As a free speech piece this only proves that you have the right to say what you choose no matter how completely wrong you are. As a teacher, I weep for the abject stupidity that runs rampant in our country and our world. 

Aaron H. in Columbus, Ohio:

I am ashamed of the church that displayed "There is one God, and His name is not Allah." The Bible tells us that we, as Christians, are obligated to spread the good word of Christianity, not desecrate other types of worship. The word "Darwin" inscribed in a fish we all see on the bumpers of cars is blasphemy to a Christian symbol. Likewise, that phrase is blasphemy to Islam, and that church should be ashamed.

Sharmon S. writes:

For most people, being overweight is a choice. It is choosing not to exercise, or making poor food choices. I am completely confused as to how that is anyone else's problem. You don't see smokers having "walks" because they can't light up on airplanes or in restrooms. And I would venture to say that being overweight is as dangerous to your health as smoking is!

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