An Ohio children’s services agency held a gospel concert Saturday as part of an effort to find homes for orphans, despite complaints by the ACLU (search) that the concert was an illegal endorsement of religion by a government agency, reports WBNS-TV.

The Franklin County Children Services agency got a grant from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to bring in gospel stars Vanessa Bell Armstrong (search) and Karen Clark-Sheard (search) for the concert. The agency hoped that foster families attending the concert would be encouraged to help house homeless children.

But the ACLU said a government agency shouldn’t be sponsoring such an event.

"You have what appears to be a government sponsor of an event. That crosses the line of neutrality when it comes to religion," the ACLU said.

Federal Judge Alongon Marbley ruled in favor of the FCCS, but warned them not to use a gospel concert as a fundraiser again, because it teetered on crossing the line of separation between church and state.

Only in America

An arbitration panel consulted by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has concluded that a $65-per-year fee being charged to international students is unfair and should be eliminated, reports The Republican.

Graduate students and the United Auto Workers Union officials working with them claimed the fee, imposed in 2004 to help defray the costs of post-9/11 federally mandated security measures, was racist and discriminatory. The bulk of the fee ($55 of the $65) went to help pay for the International Programs Office.

So foreign students, most of them graduate students on the public university (read: taxpayer-funded) payroll with no intentions of settling in America, refused to pay a little bit more a year than the rest of the students to help offset the cost of keeping tabs on them and contribute to the budget of an office that exists largely to support and counsel them.

Fretting on West 43rd

The New York Times is fretting out loud about an upcoming movie focused on the Crusades, wondering whether the theme is inappropriate in this day and age and whether the movie might cause offense to Muslims.

The paper went to the trouble of sending the script for Ridley Scott’s upcoming epic, "Kingdom of Heaven," to scholars and "interfaith activists" to see if they got worked up. The movie is set in the 12th century and focuses on the fights between Muslims and Jews over Jerusalem.

Laila al-Qatami of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington is worried.

"I feel like there's a lot of rhetoric, a lot of words flying around, with prominent figures talking about Islam being incompatible with Christianity and American values," she said. "This kind of movie might reinforce that theme in the discourse."

Khaled Abu el-Fadl, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, went even further. He called the film a replay of historic Hollywood stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims.

"I believe this movie teaches people to hate Muslims," he said.

Fretting on West 43rd II

More worrying from The New York Times, this time about the dangerous stereotyping of minorities in American video games.

The main offender is the latest version of Grand Theft Auto, which is said to be set on the streets of gangland Los Angeles and to be infused with all sorts of insidious racial stereotypes that can damage the minds of young players.

The Times is also shocked that sports games include African-American players. NBA Ballers, for example, features stars of the National Basketball Association ("most of them black") in one-on-one matches and "encourages players to experience a millionaire lifestyle off the court -- accumulating virtual cash that can buy mansions, Cadillac Escalades, yachts and attractive ‘friends.’ The style of play emphasizes a street-edged aggression, sizzling with swagger and showboating moves on the court."

The paper tracked down one Joe Morgan, a telecom executive in New York, who called the games "nothing more than pixilated minstrel shows" that are "dangerously reinforcing stereotypes."

Whaqi in Wildwood

The Associated Press reports that an arcade game encouraging participants to shoot paintballs at Usama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein has come under fire because it might also encourage violence against other Muslims.

The game, on a boardwalk in Wildwood, N.J., is called "Whaq the Iraq." Participants get to shoot at runners dressed like the former Iraqi leader and terror figurehead.

But Arab groups are complaining that the message sent by the game is not one to be encouraged in this day and age.

"We don't need any more games that would encourage people to hate Arabs or kill them," said Aref Assaf, president of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

String Beans on the Warpath

Ananova says there’s a group in Holland that wants to ban the word "thin" from the dictionary because it's insulting to underweight people.

The group, called Small Intestines Anonymous, claims to represent people who struggle to put on weight. It says the word "thin" is a term of abuse used by "fat over-rulers" to put down slender people.

The organization wrote to a Dutch dictionary publisher demanding that it omit the word from reference books and plans to present a 3,000-name petition on the topic to the Dutch minister of education, culture and sciences.

For more doses of politically correct nuttiness, head on over the TongueTied daily edition.

Mailbag:

Bill P. in Coatesville, Pa., writes:

I find it more than a little disingenuous that those who might take offense to mockery being made of Christians to find nothing but PC run amok in the Buddhist community in Honolulu protesting the opening of the Buddha Bar. Regardless of one's religious bent, it is insensitive to give secular establishments names like Buddha Bar, Christ's Cafe, Allah's Aromatics, or Jaweh's Jambalaya. The alliteration is awful cute, but it's disrespectful to the fundamental belief of the faithful... be they Christian, Muslim, Jew, or Buddhist.

Glenn C. writes:

Usually, I am amused by what the PC Patrol uncovers. However, in this case, I agree with Mr. Lowe from Manchester. Jesus said that in the end days all nations would turn against his followers. So, one day Christians will have to choose whether to side with their country or to side with their Lord.

As a Christian, my first allegiance is to the kingdom of heaven and my second allegiance is to my country of birth.

Greg S. in Almaty, Kazakhstan, writes:

If the good Rev. Lowe is so intent on keeping patriotism and nationalist views out of religion, perhaps he would be kind enough to keep to himself his holier-than-thou attitude toward the U.S. that his country, and indeed most of Europe, shares.

Songs of faith have to do with just that -- faith. If he want to change his beliefs simply to avoid being offensive to religions and cultures who undoubtedly believe his faith to be "wrong," perhaps he is no more qualified to be a spiritual leader then us "dangerous" Americans.

This "land of the free" which "we know [America] is not" must be the U.K., where the Rev. feels it is his job to tell people what they can and cannot say.

Frank B. writes:

For the record, I agree with the DC Chef in that it is her right to name her eatery whatever she wishes and the black and white community should be praising her for her entrepreneurship rather than targeting her for slighting her people. This is a success story for the black community.

At any rate, if she continues to have issues with the name of her establishment, maybe she can just let the nay-sayers know that "Da Sto" is actually a loose translation from Italian of the phrase "I am from."

The whole point of this name of the eatery is to encourage patrons of all colors, ethnic and religious backgrounds to get together in a place that doesn't hang on those differences, where there is no bias to where you are from.

If by chance this idea makes it to the DC Chef and it quells the madness surrounding her, I'll be satisfied with a dish named after me. May you have great success with Da Sto.

Congratulations from a white, Italian-American supporter of small businesses in America.

Marty F. in Alaska writes:

I am amused by the PC crowd and their continual effort to tell us what to say and do. I was raised in New England during the 50's. Because we were very poor, and spoke with a distinct "Down East" accent, we were considered "Poor White Trash." I have to laugh at the unmitigated audacity of those individuals who are offended by the Chef's choice of name for her business. It shows their ignorance and intolerance of the way people in different nieghborhoods, or geographic areas, use their freedoms of choice, speech, and imagination. Shame on the PCer's. for being so insensitive to the diversity that God has given us!

Jacqueline M. writes:

It is obvious you don't know anything about rabbits. They are very fragile compared to dogs and cats. Their backs can be broken easily if mishandled and they do not do well when subjected to the stress of travelling. Once when I was transporting rabbits to my brother's house in another state in an un-airconditioned car, I had to stop at the rest areas and let them out on the grass to recover form the heat in the car.

 

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