A columnist for the Naples Daily News in Florida was forced to grovel as an apology after dozens of readers wrote to complain that a column he penned in a hip-hop dialect was racist and offensive.

Brent Batten wrote in early December what he described as an explanation of why a hip-hop festival at the local fairgrounds didn’t go over as planned. He explained that the column was "written for fans of the genre" with an English translation added.

It included sentences like: "See, da brotha had some phat new school playaz lined up. Cris was in da house but 5-0 came down hard, wit Macs an' dogs sniffin fo' bud so da peeps all bailed."

Following its publication, he said, he was accused of being a racist, of "reaching back to the days of blackface minstrel shows and Amos and Andy routines to find language belittling the black community."

But he said that wasn’t his intention. He said he used language in the column drawn from the lyrics of the rap singer Ludacris, who was supposed to perform at the concert, and online glossaries of hip-hop slang.

His insensitivity brought distress to good people, he writes. "I should have looked beyond the obvious and seen that while hip-hop artists and their diverse fan base have a singular means of communicating, it too closely parallels the racist vernacular."

Snowpeople?

The Central Michigan University affirmative action office’s attempts to ban Santa Claus backfired after noel-lovers stood up for their rights, reports the Saginaw News.

The office posted a "Christmas Warning" on its online calendar warning against displays of Christmas cheer. The advisory, entitled, "How to celebrate Christmas without offense" said it "is inappropriate to decorate things with Santa Claus or reindeer or other 'Christmas' decorations."

"Good ideas for decorations during this time are snowflakes, snowpeople, poinsettias to give a feeling of winter," the notice said. Other cultural or religious holidays in December such as Hanukkah or Kwanzaa did not have similar warnings attached, the paper said.

The university took down the warning after fielding complaints from the Catholic League in New York. The office replaced its warning with a softer "suggestion" advising the campus community to "please be sensitive and respectful of others of all cultural traditions."

Sublime Guidance Maybe?

An alderman for the city of New Haven, Conn., doesn’t want her colleagues to be able to mention any particular God when they lead the moment of reflection (a.k.a. Moment of Divine Guidance) at meetings of the City Council, reports the New Haven Register.

The city’s 30 aldermen currently take turns leading Divine Guidance, scheduled at the beginning of board meetings on the first and third Monday of each month. But Alderwoman Lindy Lee Gold wants to change the rules to ensure that any prayer or invocation "must contain no reference to a particular deity, sect or denomination, or to any central religious figures associated with any particular religious belief."

Jolly in Mobile

The folks that run Mobile, Ala.’s annual end-of-December parade have renamed the event "Mobile’s Jolly Holiday Parade" in order to reflect a larger number of religious and cultural traditions, reports the Mobile Register.

The Mobile City Council isn’t too happy about the switch, and has voted 5-0 on a resolution asking the company that runs the parade to change the name back to the "Mobile Christmas Parade."

City officials have threatened to withhold financial backing for the event unless its organizers make the switch.

Human Rights in Canada

A group of women in Calgary is heading to court to make the case that the use of the term "aldermen" to describe elected city officials is a violation of their human rights, reports CFCN.

The women lobbied unsuccessfully this fall to have the title changed to councilor, so now they are taking their complaint to the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission.

Mary Valentich, one of the women leading the charge, said members of the council have no understanding of the bias women face. "This has to do with gender equality," she said. "It's an important issue -- it isn't just a name, it's a symptom of a male-dominated mentality."

Free Speech

Free speech at Georgetown University apparently does not extend to people who oppose homosexual marriage and believe it to be a sin, reports the Georgetown Hoya.

Officials at the Jesuit university in Washington, D.C., forcibly removed a member of the Catholic group American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property from the campus’ Red Square.

The person was collecting signatures on a petition decrying the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the recent Texas sodomy case and handing out leaflets decrying gay marriage.

"Red Square is a free-speech zone for the campus community," said Ted Olson, interim vice president of student affairs. "Even given that, the messages this group was espousing were, in our view, grossly offensive and inflammatory and thus not protected in any case."

Last One, We Promise

A church that attempted to put a notice for their Christmas concert up on a public library bulletin board in Britain was told it could not do so because it might offend non-Christians, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Officials from the same library in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, however, held a party to celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid at the end of Ramadan only a few days earlier.

Bridget Adams, 57, a school teacher and a member of the choir at All Saints church in High Wycombe was refused permission by library officials to display a poster stating the dates and times of its Christmas services.

Margaret Dewar, the city official in charge of libraries, was furious that folks from the church made a stink about the incident.

"I am appalled at the attitude of these so-called Christians making such a fuss about this policy," she said. "It is quite a different thing having a party organized by a library to promote cultural understanding and accepting notices for religious services."

For a daily dose of politically correct shenanigans, head over to the Tongue Tied Web site.

Mailbag:

Janet in Georgia writes:

How can we teach our children about respect for religions and religious tolerance if any expression of religious faith is seen as offensive? Americans must be able to express their own religious faith through word, deed and symbol without someone threatening them. This is our right as Americans.

David O. writes:

I live in a country where there are almost no signs of Christianity anywhere (Japan.) The are Buddhist and Shinto Shrines everywhere. I myself am a Christian, but I do not feel excluded or hated in anyway. This is my home and I am very much a part of it. I respect the fact that their traditions, belief and culture were built on these ideas and beliefs. What right do I have to complain or be angry at them? Nothing they do or believe will change who I am. I don't need to feel excluded  or angry at them, but it is an opportunity to look at the things other people believe. Seeing who they are helps me to remember who I am.

Bob P. in Bakersfield, Calif., writes:

It has become more than bizarre the way people are reacting to the excruciating minutiae of everyday life. We can ignore the war in Iraq, the treatment of prisoners of war in Cuba, starving Americans in the streets, the homeless, and an education system that ranks one of the lowest in industrialized nations, our own gluttony and a myriad of other problems but can't seem to shake the horror of experiencing a Christmas tree?

What is wrong with Americans that words and symbols have become the stuff of nightmarish phenomena? A culture based on self-help has birthed a monster based on self-interest. Americans are so closed-minded now that we want an insipid culture without any dreaded, horrific images such as a Star of David or a mention of Islam. We have become what we fled from in the beginning; a rigid society without tolerance for anything other than what makes us comfortable.

Bayo O. in Alpharetta, Ga., writes:

I read this article and don't see anything wrong with reprimanding the Philadelphia principal for spelling out N-I-G-G-E-R. Imagine if instead of beeping people out, news anchors on Foxnews spelled out 4-letter words. Would that make the news appropriate to be listened to by a family that intends to raise their kids decently? Well, that’s the same concern that parent had.

Couldn't the principal have found a positive statement instead of a negative one for correction? She could have focused on correction based on the general principle of calling people names and the effect it has instead of carrying out what amounts to a personal attack which leads the recipient to be hurt and defensive.

Stacy T. writes:

A teacher reprimanding students because they cannot behave themselves and be respectful of other different people? We let the rappers use the "N" word -- why couldn't she use it to prove a point to these students?

Parents need to wake up and worry more about what their child is doing, rather than removing a teacher who was trying to teach them a lesson.

Joseph M. writes:

I just attended my daughter's "Winter Concert" at Pikesville Middle School, in Baltimore county. The program consisted of one Broadway tune, one Kwanzaa song, two Jewish songs, a Gaiaist song and a Santa Clause song. When I called the school to ask about the Christian exclusion, I was told that the Santa song was the Christian song. They refused to see that there was a problem. The school music "chair" didn't return my calls, nor did the board of ed music person.

Jim M. writes:

As usual, you are the voice of the angry, insecure, Christian, white male. I'm sure your large inferiority complex is a sort of overcompensation for some other shortcoming.

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