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Banned Bible Study, Stifled Santa

A resident assistant in a dormitory at the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire has been told that he cannot hold informal Bible study sessions in the dorm because it would amount to an illegal endorsement of religion by a state employee, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Lance Steiger held the weekly sessions with a small group of friends for much of last year, but over the summer he was told to stop.

Deborah Newman, associate director of housing and residence life, told Steiger: "As a state employee, you and I have a responsibility to make sure we are providing an environment that does not put undue pressure on any member of our halls in terms of religion, political parties, etc."

Steiger insists that the ban is an infringement on his First Amendment rights.

"I work for the school," he says. "It's my job, but I do have personal time. I should be able to talk about whatever I want to talk about in my own room. It's my home. It's where I live."

Santa Stifled

The UK's Daily Mail says staffers at that country's Inland Revenue Department have been asked not to donate during work hours to a charity that deliver toys to tots for Christmas because of the group's Christian connections.

A memo circulated in the department says it cannot continue to associate itself with Samaritan's Purse because it does not adhere to diversity guidelines. The ban comes following complaints from trade union activists.

Samaritan's Purse, led by U.S. evangelist Billy Graham's son, Franklin, annually sends more than a million shoe boxes from Britain to children in places like Azerbaijan, Armenia, Romania, Serbia, Sudan and Mozambique.

The memo tells staff: "We are not dictating who you can or cannot support, but you will appreciate that as a department we cannot be seen to promote activities that do not broadly fit with our philosophy or which could bring us into disrepute by association."

Fragile Experiments in Civility

A faculty member at Cornell University in New York wants the administration to pull the plug on the conservative paper there, the Cornell American, to silence what she calls a "disgusting piece of trash that has absolutely no intellectual merit whatsoever."

Writing in the Cornell Sun, associate professor Anna Marie Smith says those in charge of the student activities fee that partially funds the American should yank that money and that the university should insist that the paper stop using the Cornell name.

Smith rules out censorship, but then goes on to say that "the University is a special and at times fragile experiment in civility. As an intellectual community, we have the right -- and duty -- to block extremist hate discourse that lacks any redeeming intellectual features from our campus."

What apparently irked Smith is an article in the American decrying the lack of media attention to black-on-white crime in the area.

The J-Word

The student newspaper at Wright State University in Ohio, The Guardian, says a Christian band due to perform at a homecoming dance was first asked to change its tune and then uninvited altogether for fear of offending non-Christians on campus.

The Christian rock band Ambassadors reached a verbal agreement with school officials after first agreeing not to use the word Jesus and to tone down the "worship" aspects of their music. But after more consideration, the school dropped the band altogether.

"We didn't want students to be offended," said Gabrielle Howard, president of the University Activities Board. "I'd rather see them play at a venue more appropriate for their sound instead of asking them to change."

PC MP, Chapter 1

New Zealand's PC MP is already on the job, reports the NZPA, challenging a teachers' union stance on transgender issues as an example of political correctness run amok.

Wayne Mapp, who was named the National Party's anti-political correctness czar last week, questioned why the union was obsessed with the topic of transgender teachers.

"Is this what our taxpayer dollars are funding in schools? They really are out of control and should stick to teaching," Mapp said. "No one is supporting the harassment of anyone, but the PPTA should focus on children's needs not cross-dressing teachers."

First They Came for Christmas, Then ...

Students and their parents in California had their Halloween parties quashed this year following complaints from wingnuts that the holiday is rooted in paganism and involves demonic rituals, according to the Kitsap Sun.

One parent who's child attends Cottage Elementary in Arden Arcade, Calif. received a note home from school last week reading, "I have been asked to let you know that no costumes of any kind will be allowed at school ... Students cannot decorate their body in any way to make it look like they are in costume."

It announced a "fall celebration," but insisted that it "is not related to Halloween in any way!"

It was much the same in Toronto, according to the National Post, where school district officials sent out a memo to teachers this week saying traditional Halloween festivities are disrespectful of Wiccans.

"Many recently arrived students in our schools share absolutely none of the background cultural knowledge that is necessary to view 'trick or treating,' the commercialization of death, the Christian sexist demonization of pagan religious beliefs, as 'fun,' " says the memo.

Mailbag:

Patricia S. writes:

I'm against mindless political correctness. I think it does amount to political intimidation of unpopular views. That being said, it's natural that language will change as society changes. We don't speak Chaucer's English any more, after all. Or even Shakespeare's. Now that it's the norm for women to be educated alongside men, the language used to describe students is going to change. This natural evolution is not a scary threatening thing, the way you make it seem in your column.

Audrey D. writes:

Back in UNC, where I used to teach, they had a directive several years ago against the word 'freshman' on two counts. First, because the "man" cowering at the end of the word is allegedly sexist, and secondly, that the term "freshman" tied students unfairly into the idea of college as a four year enterprise. You wouldn't want people who took five years (or the crew of Animal House) to feel bad about not finishing in four years, now, would you?

I was a freshman, and I'm female. No harm done. And yes, I was "very" fresh.

Kevin G. writes:

These people who think the suffix "-man" is exclusive are true dolts. Etymologically, "-man" is equivalent to "-person." It is "-woman" that is restrictive to a subset of "-men." Note, too, that "female" is etymologically a type of "male," "she" is derived from "he," etc. Also note that "'s" at the end of possessive words is a contraction of "his." Thus, nearly every possessive in English ends in "his." Why don't the PC police light out after that one?

Jodi S. writes:

I cannot believe how ridiculous it is for those who consider themselves "transgender" to insist on having a third option on things such as driver's licenses and work applications. Come on. You're either one or the other. You can't just decide to be male when your birth certificate says female. If you look in nature, you don't see animals with a gender issue.

If we make concessions to this group, then one of these days, I suppose it will be my "right" to choose which race I want to be. I don't want to be 7/8ths white anymore. I think I'll be 7/8 Native American and 1/8 African American. My skin is not dark but I get to be whatever I want! Then maybe I can utilize affirmative action policies.

Colleen C. writes:

Maybe rather than a third gender option on a job application (what would it be -- "other"?), employers should just adopt a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Think of the pain and suffering it could save some people. Oh wait, but then that would mean we all might actually need to rely on a decent resume to find a job!

Vicki C. writes:

The Kiss the Pig contest traumatizes the pigs? I hear that it totally bums them out when we eat bacon in front of them, too. I wonder: Where does a pig go to find a good psychotherapist these days, and who will have to "hoof" the bill for the treatment?

Better set up a new government program.

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

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