Officials at the Virginia Military Institute, cadets from which died fighting for the South during the Civil War, are contemplating a ban on all displays of the Confederate flag, reports the student newspaper there, The Cadet.

Officials want to make being caught with a flag display a "number five" penalty, worth six weeks of barrack's confinement, the paper says. The discussion was triggered by members of the Promaji Club, who approached the assistant commandant for cadet life about the issue.

"I believe [the ban] will help steer the acceptance of diversity of the Corps in the right direction." Jason Quash, a member of the Promaji Club, told the paper. "I came here [to VMI] for the duty, honor, and discipline, not the fact that it was part of the Confederacy."

Twisting the Tongue

The Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism at San Francisco State University is out with its handy News Watch Diversity Style Guide. The guide is chock-a-block with helpful tips to keep journalists on the straight and narrow.

Among them (from just the A's through the C's):

Avoid the term "afflicted with" when referring to disabilities. "Not every person with a disability suffers, is victim of, or is stricken. Instead use: 'He has muscular dystrophy' or 'she acquired a spinal cord injury.'"

Avoid also the terms "alien" when referring to an immigrant, and do not use the phrase "All American" to refer to high school and college athletes because it is a "Eurocentric expression used to conjure up images of blonde, blue-eyed people who represent traditional images of white Americans," the guide says.

Also on the no-no list is "circle the wagons" (conjures up stereotypical images of savage American Indians). Confucius doesn't fare well either. To be avoided are the phrases "Confucian work ethic" (stereotypical term referring to the tendency of some Asians to work hard and keep quiet). And "Confucius say" (stereotypical saying poking fun at Asian Americans as speaking in proverbs and not having original thoughts or actions).

So Help Me:

The Honolulu Police Department is being forced to delete the phrase "so help me God" from the oath taken by new officers after complaints from Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church, reports the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Mitch Kahle, president of the group, said the oath as it stood amounted to an unconstitutional religious test, he said.

The change marked the second time within a month that the police department acquiesced to a complaint from Kahle's group. Earlier, it removed a biblical passage and poems containing religious content from its Web site in response to a complaint.

The organization also has demanded that the Honolulu Fire Department recall a safety guide because it includes a firefighter's prayer with the word "God."

Jesse: No Jokes, Please

Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are in a twit over the hit movie Barbershop because it pokes fun at Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and, coincidentally, Rhyme Master Jesse himself, reports The Associated Press.

In the movie, Cedric the Entertainer plays a cantankerous barber who jokes about King's alleged promiscuity and says other blacks refused to give up their seats to whites in the segregated South, but that Rosa Parks got the credit because she was connected to the NAACP. He also directs an expletive at Jackson.

The producers, Bob Teitel and George Tillman, said they apologized to Jackson on behalf of everyone involved with the film.

But Jackson isn't satisfied. He wants the offending scenes removed from video, DVD and cable versions of the movie.

Dissed Missed

Italian-Americans are upset at a Miss America pageant judge who had the gall to ask Miss New Jersey about her views on The Sopranos, reports the Daily Record.

The judge asked Alicia Renee Luciano what she thought about the show during an interview segment of last week's pageant in Atlantic City. Several Italian-American groups called the question insensitive and insulting.

"It was a question that I don't think they would ask of anyone, other than someone with my background," said Alicia Renee Luciano, who is believed to be the first Italian-American to represent New Jersey in the pageant.

School Daze

Burger King pulled a television commercial that poked fun at students in community colleges after it was deemed insensitive by some officials of that sort of school, reports the AP.

In the ad, two students are shown chatting with a talking menu, which decides they probably don't have a lot of money and likely never will because they attend a junior college.

Numerous junior colleges and community college officials complained that the ad implies that community college students don't receive a quality education.

"We understand some people are offended," said Burger King spokeswoman Michelle Miguelez. From now on, she said, the talking menu will choose its words more carefully. 

The Purge Continues

Some 150 high school students walked out of class in Ossining, N.Y., to protest the scrapping of  their school's mascot. Officials axed it because it might be perceived as insensitive by some Native Americans, reports the Journal News.

The Ossining Indian, a symbol for the school's sports teams for decades, was scrapped in June by trustees. New York State Education Commissioner Richard Mills had asked school districts to eliminate all Indian mascots.

"It's been the Ossining Indians for a long time," said Brittany Scheflen, 16, pointing out that an area of Ossining is called Indian Village and there are many streets with Indian names. "There is no disrespect. It's supposed to mean we're powerful."

Mailbag:

Judi O. from Milton, Fla., writes:

PETA has every right to their own views but to force a church to stop their pig roast and serve only vegetarian dishes is WAY over the line!

Gary P. writes:

Now that AFLAC is in trouble for portraying ducks in a demeaning manner, I imagine that Taco Bell will get in trouble for giving the Chihuahua a bad Mexican accent.

Anthony G. from New York City writes:

Ohhh boy! Of all the many unwittingly ridiculous people brought to light in this column, very few, if any, quite top "poultry activists." Some people clearly have FAR too much time on their hands.

David K. writes:

As for the (notion that) the new law giving out fines for spitting is targeting minorities, I have a simple solution: don't spit. It never ceases to amaze me how people immediately claim that laws single-out minorities without asking, "Did the people who got caught actually spit?" However, I've found out that whether they did or not doesn't matter: all that matters is that they were from a minority, and therefore someone must be discriminating against them.

Don't want to be harassed by a new law? Hey, don't spit.

Jan L. from Cedar Park, Texas, writes:

On one hand, the organizers of the holiday event in San Diego don't want to offend anyone that may be uncomfortable with the association of the event with Christmas, while on the other hand the state of Connecticut is now officially recognizing Gay Pride Day. What about the people who are offended by the implied connection between Gay Pride Day and the gay lifestyle? How is that different than celebrating a holiday event associated with Christmas? Has it come to the point where it is OK to publicly celebrate a minority lifestyle but not to celebrate Christmas?

Kile A. from Baton Rouge, La., wonders:

Does anyone see the irony of changing the name of a Christmas festival for religious sensitivity reasons in a city named SAN diego?

Anthony J. writes:

As a soldier fighting on the front lines of freedom, I don't understand why Americans have to censor their speech to please people. We all have the freedom of speech. We have to understand that people have the right to whatever they want to say. That's their right which is protected by the First Amendment. I understand that words can hurt, but that doesn't give anybody the right to censor the person speaking. If we don't stop all this political correctness, we will someday lose our right of free speech.

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