Shutting Us Up (re-reprise)

Dennis:          Well, you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just ‘cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!

Arthur:           Shut up!

Dennis:          I mean, if I went ‘round saying I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me they’d put me away!

Arthur:           Shut up!  Will you shut up!

Dennis:          Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system!

Arthur:           Shut up!

        —Michael Palin as Dennis, and Graham Chapman as King Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail

 

Meet Erika Riemann.

In the Fall of 1945, the pretty teenager went to the first day of school in Mühlhausen, a small town tucked just inside what had recently become the Soviet-occupied zone of post-war Germany.  She and her friends were amused to see that the familiar portrait of Adolf Hitler was gone, only to have been replaced by a portrait of Josef Stalin in exactly the same place.  Thinking the Soviet dictator looked “a bit sad,” the mischievous schoolgirl took her mother’s lipstick and drew a bow on his moustache.

She was 14.

Two weeks later, the security apparatus came to ask her some questions.  When she finally returned home, it was January . . . 1954.

She was 22.

During the intervening seven years, Miss Riemann was beaten and coerced into a bogus confession of being part of a pro-Nazi resistance.  She was crowded into Soviet-repurposed former Nazi concentration camps with other political prisoners, and tortured.  She was stripped naked, herded into a former gas chamber, and told she was about to be exterminated (water, not gas later flowed through the “showerheads”).

She was repeatedly and systematically gang-raped by soldiers.

All because she drew a lipstick bow on a photograph.

Rusty, Stalin is dead, the Berlin Wall has come down, and the Soviet Union is gone.

You say that, but remember that silencing not only dissent but even non-conformity with the Party line is a staple of the totalitarian Left.  And while Eastern-Bloc communism may have more or less dissolved (albeit just in favor of a less overtly malevolent pan-European socialism), the Progressive movement hasn’t forgotten that the surest way to ensure conformity—and thus control—is to prevent the utterance of so much as a syllable out of line.  After all, it is easy to win a debate when the opposition is mute.

With that, consider the following from Campus Reform.  Washington State University students enrolled in Professor Selena Lester Breikss’ “Women & Popular Culture” course have been informed that they are in jeopardy of failing the class if they say anything that the good Professor in her infinitely superior judgment considers “oppressive and hateful.”  Among the examples of potentially oppressive—and therefore banned—terms listed in the syllabus include the obviously offensive “male” and “female.”

I guess we’re all now just Thing 1 and Thing 2.

And Professor Breikss is not alone at WSU.  Students in Professor Rebecca Fowler’s “Introduction to Comparative Ethnic Studies” are forbidden to use the term “illegal alien” lest they lose points.  In a class explicitly devoted to helping students recognize “how white privilege functions,” Professor Fowler explains that the use of the term “illegal alien” has caused an artificial popular association of all border crossings with countries in Latin America, ignoring that a considerable portion of illegals in the U.S. are from Asia.  Further, according to Professor Fowler, the perpetuation of “migrant illegality works to systematically dehumanize and exploit these brown bodies for their labor.”

Query how you make the leap from using the term “illegal alien” to the conclusion that people therefore assume all illegals are Hispanic.  To the extent that they do, perhaps that has something to do with the fact that more than half of illegals are in fact from Mexico, and 75% are in fact from Latin America.  More to the point, what does it matter whether anyone—whether because of demographic facts or semantics—believes all or most illegals are from Latin America?  If you are here illegally, you are here illegally, whether you speak Spanish or Mandarin.  And banning the use of the term “illegal” won’t make these people any less “exploited”—nobody made them come here and take jobs (if they don’t have jobs, there is no argument that anyone is “exploiting” them at all), and they are free to leave any time they want.

But the real issue is university faculty using threats and intimidation to silence speech that is contrary to their Progressive agenda.

It doesn’t stop there.  WSU Professor John Streamas admonishes white students in his “Introduction to Multicultural Literature” class to “defer” to non-white students (I’m not even sure what that means, but they’d damn well better do it).  Other WSU faculty apparently require students to acknowledge the continuing institutional oppression of racism, or that “we do not live in a post-racial world.”

And this is how it is with Progressives, because this is how it has always been.  I reported last year about students at Penn State—in a designated “free speech zone,” no less—were hindered in their effort to distribute copies of the United States Constitution (the document most antithetical to the Progressive agenda of totalitarian control by a self-appointed intellectual elite), and at College of Coastal Georgia students were threatened with a 15% grade reduction if they said “bless you” in response to someone sneezing (thus implicitly invoking God, contrary to explicitly atheist Progressive/Socialist ideology).  In the Washington State case, it isn’t controlling the narrative by preventing deviation from the cult of personality, it’s controlling the narrative by preventing deviation from the cult of victimhood.

A college campus is supposed to be an intellectual sanctuary where you question authority and established ideas, not sign rote statements “recognizing” some proposition as an unassailable truism.  A university is a place where the free exchange of thought and ideas—which obviously can only occur if one can express those thoughts and ideas—is supposed to lead to vigorous debate and, ultimately, an improved state of knowledge for all of mankind.  Think of it as a sort of Darwinist evolutionary soup where the fittest ideas survive, and weaker ideas are discarded.  Indeed, the very point of tenure—which you know every one of the professors mentioned above would defend to the grave as the most sacrosanct of their [non]God-given rights—is that a professor should not have to fear losing her position simply because of the ideas discussed in her classroom.

But the Progressives have taken over our universities and turned that idea on its head.  You would think that a college professor would be comfortable enough in his/her ability to defend the point to be able to engage a 19 year old kid.  But rather than prevail in the marketplace of ideas, the Progressive prefers to avoid the debate and ensure that the Progressive brand is the only idea on the marketplace shelf.  Universities are no longer great testing grounds of thought, but propaganda factories; and you will toe the line, or pay the price.

We see it time and again from the Left.  Instead of debate ideas on the merits, anything with which they disagree they label it, identify some group (or the planet) as its victim, then marginalize and demonize it.  If you want existing law enforced, the borders defended, and believe that the national motto should remain e pluribus unum—out of many, one—instead of e pluribus pluribus—out of many, many—then you are a racist and have no legitimate right to a voice.  If you believe “climate change” is bullsh#t, then you are a denier and have no legitimate right to a voice.  If you would rather not be forced at gunpoint to participate in a ceremony where Steve marries Bill, then you are a homophobe and have no legitimate right to a voice.  If you believe that Islam’s 1400 year track record of non-stop violence, and the explicitly-stated aims of a present-day rabid minority consisting of at least 160 million Muslims is reason for concern, you are an Islamophobe and have no legitimate right to a voice.  If you believe that innocent human life should be protected, or that at a minimum you shouldn’t be forced to pay the contraception bill for Sandra Fluke’s apparently almost inconceivably—pun intended—voracious sexual appetite, you are engaged in a “war on women,” and have no legitimate right to a voice.

Basically, you have no right to a voice.

God help you if you draw a bow on Obama’s moustache.

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Shutting Us Up (reprise)

German Officer:  What did you say to her? Would you kindly repeat it to me?

French Officer:  What I said is none of your business.

German Officer:  Then I will make it my business.

        —Hans Heinrich von Twardowski as the German Officer, and Alberto Morin as the French Officer in Casablanca

 

I want to follow up on a post from last month with a question:

When did we get so afraid of speech?

Attorneys for the City of Houston have subpoenaed local pastors for copies of sermons touching on the topics of homosexuality, gender identity (whatever that is), or Houston Mayor Annise Parker (who, not coincidentally, is openly lesbian).  At issue is a new city “anti-discrimination” ordinance aimed at a ludicrous level of politically-correct hyper-inclusiveness that, among other things, allows men to use women’s restrooms because they “feel like” women (I’ve previously dealt with the insanity of these kinds of laws here).  Apparently there is a lawsuit challenging the ordinance, filed after the city refused a referendum despite a petition collecting nearly triple the number of signatures necessary to place the measure on the ballot.

It is not my task here to debate the merits of the ordinance.  Nor is this about my views on gay rights, same-sex marriage, or even homosexuality in general.  This is about government bullying and censorship in the name of political correctness.

In Texas we allow broad discovery in litigation, even of non-parties, but the information sought must be at least reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of evidence that would be admissible at trial.  To be admissible at trial, the evidence must have a tendency to make some fact of consequence to the determination of the matter more or less probable.  The pastors under subpoena are not parties to the lawsuit; they are neither the ones pressing the legal challenge to the ordinance, nor—obviously—are they the ones responsible for drafting or passing it.  It is difficult to see how anything one of them said from the pulpit makes any fact of consequence in deciding the ordinance’s validity more or less probable.  Curiously, the subpoenas don’t even appear to seek—or at least are not even limited to—sermons dealing with the anti-discrimination ordinance at issue.  Instead, they seek information on sermons dealing with homosexuality in general, or dealing with Mayor Parker personally.  Which begs the obvious question:

Why are the sermons being subpoenaed at all?

One suspects it has everything to do with the fact that the pastors being targeted have been vocal critics of the Parker administration and the anti-discrimination ordinance, which for obvious reasons has been something of a pet agenda item for her.  And that’s a serious problem.

The First Amendment reads in its entirety:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

By virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment and the incorporation doctrine, these guarantees restrict not only Congress, but also the States (and, by extension, local governments).  And the idea is pretty simple, really: people in the United States should be able to practice their religion and to speak out against the government without fear of government reprisal.  This concept is the very foundation of what our republic was supposed to be all about, and if you think about it, to the extent any of these pastors said anything having any bearing at all on the ordinance in question, they were engaging in First Amendment activity on multiple levels.  They were in church, exercising their religion. They were before their congregations, thus (presumably) peaceably assembled.  And not only were they engaging in speech, but they were engaging in speech articulating a grievance against the government.  With apologies to Larry Flynt, this is the very essence of what the First Amendment was designed to protect.

Yet their reward for speaking out is to be met by a phalanx of government lawyers, and heaven knows nothing good happens once lawyers start showing up.  All because those in power did not like what these people had to say.

The increasing weaponization of the mechanisms of government to intimidate opposition into silence is chilling, to say the least.  In the last century, dictatorships quashed dissent through the brute force of the KGB or the Stasi.  But state censorship of opposition doesn’t have to be so crude as midnight disappearances to the Gulags in order to be effective.  IRS denies or delays tax-exempt status for Tea Party groups, thus denuding them of the funding necessary to get their message out effectively.  Logan Clements produced a film critical of FUBARCare, and found himself immediately the subject of a tax audit.  The same Department of Justice that refused to prosecute the New Black Panthers when they were caught on tape intimidating voters brought felony campaign finance charges against Dinesh D’Souza after he released an anti-Obama film heading into the 2012 election season.

What do you suppose things like this do to the willingness of ordinary citizens to raise their voices and be heard?

In 2003 then-Senator Hillary Clinton famously squealed that she was “sick and tired” of people being labeled as unpatriotic when they dared to question the Bush administration.  These days, however, it’s not a question of dissenters being labeled unpatriotic, or even racist or homophobic (or maybe worst of all, “denier”).  We’re way past name-calling.  Now, anyone who might dare speak up has to wonder if they’re going to get a call from the IRS.  Or if a process server is going to knock on the door to invite them to a government-sponsored expose of every document in their file cabinet.  Or if they’re going to be arrested and threatened with five-to-ten in a federal penitentiary for jaywalking.

This is not how it’s supposed to be in this country.  We’re supposed to have active engagement by ordinary citizens in the issues of the day.  We’re supposed to disagree, and to be able to voice that disagreement, at times loudly.  As Michael Douglas said as President Andrew Shepard in The American President,

“America is advanced citizenship.  You gotta want it bad, ‘cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, ‘You want free speech?  Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’”

But we seem to be losing that.  Fast.  Those whose hands grip the levers of power are so consumed with maintaining that grip that they now trod over the most fundamental tenets of our political society to ensure that they never even have to engage in (let alone win) the debate.  It’s becoming increasingly dangerous to speak.  Maybe not physically dangerous, and maybe not even dangerous in a go-to-jail sense—although one increasingly wonders—but it doesn’t have to be.  Just responding to a subpoena can be financially crippling to most, and there’s no insurance to cover it.  For many, the fiscal risk alone is more than they can chance.  Better to keep quiet and not attract the state’s attention.

If we don’t speak out now, if we don’t take that risk, who will be there to speak when they come to muzzle the last of us?

Shutting Us Up

You’d better watch what you say

You’d better watch what you do to me

        —Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Good Love Is Hard To Find

 

Do you ever look around you and ask yourself, “What the hell is happening to us?”  I’ve found myself in that boat lately after a string of stories I’ve been seeing.

Wednesday, a group of students from the Penn State chapter of the Young America’s Foundation were outside the student union building handing out free copies of the United States Constitution.  They were doing so in one of the campus’ handful of specially-designated “free speech zones,” which in itself begs the question why—on Constitution Day, no less—they had to confine themselves to a specially-designated area to exercise their right to freedom of expression guaranteed in the very Constitution they were trying to distribute.  Worse, not only were they at a university—a place where almost by definition the whole idea is to marinate in a free exchange of ideas—but they were at a state university, meaning they were on public property.

The students were then confronted by university officials, who told them they could stand there and distribute their materials, but because they hadn’t reserved a space in advance—undoubtedly requiring a fee (read: free speech tax)—they had to take down their display table (which, of course, was allowing them to attract the attention of interested people without the uncomfortable exercise of personally confronting everyone whether they like it or not).  And if they didn’t comply, the official was going to call the cops.  The reason?  It “violates the policy.”  Nothing about the students being disruptive, destructive, or inciting violence—just mindless, jackbooted enforcement of “the policy.”

You WILL comply, and you will do so because I say so.  

Now, you know the people behind these kinds of policies are the same people who were taking over university administration buildings and rioting with police when they were exercising their freedom of speech in the 1960s.  Apparently anything goes when they’re the ones doing the talking, but mention a conservative idea like the Constitution—the modern Progressive Left never talks in Constitutional terms anymore—and you’d better jump through their policy hoops or shut up.

Think that’s insane?  Read on.

At Arkansas State, a football player and student manager were killed over the summer in separate incidents.  The team sought to honor the pair—both of whom were known to have been Christians—with a small sticker on the back of their helmets depicting a cross bearing the two students’ initials.  Predictably, an atheist got bent out of shape enough to bitch, and the university punted (a decision later reversed, but only after a conservative legal foundation threatened to sue the school, and only on the stipulation that the players voluntarily wear the sticker and pay for it themselves).

How juvenile and self-absorbed do you have to be to complain about a sticker a bunch of 19-year-old kids employ to help grieve over their dead friends at an event nobody forced you to attend?

Last week, principal Val Wyatt told the football booster club at Ventura High School in California that they would be forbidden from selling 200 sandwiches donated by a local Chick-fil-A.  The original reason given was that the principal was working to keep the school free of marketing by vendors attempting to reap a profit.  Profits?!?! Horrors!  But as Todd Starnes points out FoxNews.com, the Chick-fil-A shop donated the sandwiches; it wasn’t going to make a dime.  The principal conceded that her real motivation—supported by the district superintendent—was that she didn’t like Chick-fil-A’s position on gay rights:

“With their political stance on gay rights and because the students of Ventura High School and their parents would be at the event, I didn’t want them on campus.”

Trouble is, as Starnes also notes, Chick-fil-A as a corporate entity—bear in mind even that is separate from the local franchise owner who was actually donating the sandwiches—doesn’t have a position on gay rights.  And if what she’s really referring to is company president Dan Cathy’s now-infamously mis-paraphrased remarks in a 2012 interview in which he was asked about his personal views on same-sex marriage, all he said was he supported the Biblical definition of the family unit.  He didn’t slander or demean homosexuals. [As an aside, I’m not even sure you can characterize his statements as affirmatively opposing gay marriage or any other “gay rights.”  Saying you support traditional marriage is not the same thing as saying you oppose legislation permitting Ken to marry Steve (or marry Steve and Rick, or marry Mr. Tinkles the cat), and it’s worth noting that many of these same people on the Progressive Left support abortion at the top of their lungs yet will tell you that they do not condone abortion in their personal lives.]  But it was enough to deny the kids on the Ventura High football team the benefit of a charitable donation large enough to have bought brand-new state-of-the-art helmets for every kid on the team.

I wonder what Principal Wyatt will have to say to the parents of the first kid with a life-altering brain injury.

But wait. There’s more.

Last month at the College of Coastal Georgia, physics professor Dr. Leon Gardner handed out a syllabus that informed his students if they responded to someone’s sneeze by saying “bless you”—a common courtesy dating to before the Middle Ages, and maybe even to before the time of Christ—it would result in up to a 15% grade reduction. 15%.  That’s turning a B into a C-.  The rule was later rescinded after a massive public outcry, but the idea that it would even occur to someone to enact it in the first place speaks volumes.

At Ramay Junior High in Fayetteville, 8th grader Chloe Rubiano came to school last month wearing a t-shirt that said “Virginity Rocks.”  A laudable sentiment in a 13-year-old, don’t you think?  But at a school where girls are pregnant and guidance counselors distribute condoms, apparently the concept of virginity is too disruptive and sexually-charged to be permitted in public.  So she was forced to change into a gym shirt or be sent home.

This is where we are with our schools.  You can’t distribute the Constitution—even in a designated “free speech zone” on public property—without being slapped with a hyper-technical violation of bureaucratic “policy.”  You can’t mourn a dead teammate by putting a sticker on your football helmet.  You can’t support the local high school football team by selling sandwiches donated by a franchisee of a corporation whose president says he’s happy he’s still married to his first wife and that she’s a she.  You can’t say “bless you” if someone sneezes.  Your 8th grader can’t support virginity, at least not out loud.  Updating a post from several years ago, the 9th Circuit full panel has upheld rulings that an American high school can ban students from wearing American flags because they might incite Hispanic students to violence.   And as I’ve covered previously, your 5th grader can’t read his bible in class during “free” reading time, and if you protest too loudly about your 14-year-old being assigned porn as required reading you go to freaking jail.

Meanwhile . . .

At Clemson University, students and faculty are being required to answer a survey that asks, among other things, how many times they’ve had sex in the last 3 months, and with how many people.  Failure to do so is a violation of the Student Code of Conduct.  Supposedly this is part of some kind of sensitivity training the federal government is requiring under Title IX—and if so, it’s a good example of why the federal government shouldn’t be funding state universities in the first place—but one struggles to see the connection.  I’ll let that speak for itself.

In a world where even dozens of purported “Catholic” universities—including Notre Dame—have sponsored productions of The Vagina Monologues in recent years, and public schools make graphically illustrated sex ed books available to middle school kids, I suppose this shouldn’t be that surprising.  But this is where our cow-towing to political correctness has gotten us.  Sane, rational speech that happens not to fit with the Progressive narrative is banned, while perverted and hyper-sexualized expression, behavior, and intrusions are perfectly acceptable.

I understand that the First Amendment does not mean you can say anything, anytime, anywhere.  And I get it that schools need to be able to maintain a certain degree of order, particularly inside classrooms, to be able to fulfill their primary mission of teaching.  But this persistent and two-faced attack on conservative expression is out of control.

If the Progressive Left gets to control—by force—what we can say and where we can say it, particularly in our schools, then it’s over.  We have to fight back.  We have to push back against this sort of PC-fascism and reclaim our unalienable rights guaranteed to us under the First Amendment.  All of us.  If we don’t start doing it soon, there may be little left we have to say about it.

 

A Tale Of Two Books

I remember when, I remember, I remember

When I lost my mind

There was something so pleasant about that place

Even your emotions had an echo in so much space

And when you’re out there without a care,

Yeah I was out of touch

But it wasn’t because I didn’t know enough

I just knew too much

Does that make me crazy?

            —Gnarls Barkley, Crazy

 

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE DISCUSSES MATURE THEMES.  READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED

 

I saw these two stories separately, but h/t to Glenn Beck for helping me make the connection.

Meet Giovanni Rubeo, a Fifth Grade student at Park Lakes Elementary School in Broward County, Florida (yes, that Broward County).  It seems that his class sometimes gets “free reading” time during first period.

Well, by now we know that some are more free than others, and you can see the next part coming a mile away, can’t you?

Young Master Rubeo had the audacity to break out his new Bible—a gift from his church—as his choice of reading material.  His teacher, one Swornia Thomas, caught him red-handed with the inflammatory, racist, homophobic, and otherwise patently offensive literature, and ordered him to put it away.  In a voicemail to Giovanni’s father, Mrs. Thomas explained that “He [Giovanni] had a book, a religious book, in the classroom.  He’s not permitted to read those books in my classroom.”

The horror.

Imagine for a second the global outrage and rioting that would have erupted had the book in question been the Koran (also—so I’m told, anyway—a “religious book”).  We’d have petitions in the U.N. for sanctions, and President Obama would probably have had to dispatch Secretary of State John Kerry to Florida to genuflect before some Imam just to stem the carnage.

The school district later clarified that Giovanni was of course allowed to read his Bible before and after school and during lunch, but conveniently made no mention of the “free reading” period during class.  Mrs. Thomas, for her part, has apparently refused to comment, although the schoolteacher’s husband reportedly told CBS Miami “She ain’t got nothing to say to you . . . get the [expletive] out of my yard.”

I’ll just let that speak for itself.

So we have a public elementary school teacher telling a Fifth Grader that he’s not permitted to read “those books”—i.e. the Bible—in her classroom.  Keep that in mind as we move to the next story.

Meet William Baer, whose daughter is a 14 year old Freshman at Gilford High School in Gilford, New Hampshire.  He learned that his daughter was assigned to read the book 19 Minutes by Jodi Picault.  The book’s defenders claim it has “important themes,” that it’s thought-provoking and appropriate for 9th graders, and that it’s been assigned at the school for years.

Among these “important themes” about which it’s appropriate for a public school to provoke 14 year olds to devote so much thought is an unbelievably graphic sex scene—one could read it as rape, in that the girl at one point says “no” although she soon becomes an enthusiastic participant—complete with a description of climax and ejaculation.  As Beck pointed out on his radio program, the book’s account is so graphic that if you filmed it as written and gave the film to a 14 year old, you’d be arrested for distributing pornography to a minor.  Even to read it on the air he was forced to substitute euphemisms in many places.  It was that bad.

Now, I’m not about censorship, for all I know the book may very well have some redeeming academic merit; Atlas Shrugged, and even the Bible have sex scenes, albeit not nearly in the same titillation universe as this one.  But to not only make this book available but in fact compel 14 year olds to read it without notifying parents first or providing an alternative assignment is beyond shocking.

And I haven’t even gotten to the good part.

When Mr. Baer learned of the book and its contents, he was understandably concerned, and he took his concern to a meeting of the school board.

Where he got himself arrested.

Yes, arrested.

For what heinous crime, you ask?  He exceeded the two-minute speaking limit.  Yep, he went over his two minutes, so a police officer put him in handcuffs and hauled his ass to jail.  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200.

I am, of course, taking a little bit of dramatic license here.  Mr. Baer was asked to stop or leave, and apparently he dared the officer to arrest him, so you might argue that he brought it on himself.  But that’s really beside my point.  Hold these two situations next to each other and ask what it says about where we are as a society.

On the one hand we have a child—a child—attempting to use his free reading time to, I don’t know, read freely.  But he is precluded from doing so because his choice of literature happens to be the Bible.  How ridiculous is that?  There is no contention that he was preaching or proselytizing; he wasn’t trying to win any converts, and he wasn’t disrupting class.  He was just reading his book—a book that not that long ago would have been required reading in most households in the U.S., and that is still a fundamental academic tool for understanding history and Western literature (try reading Milton or even Lord of the Rings without a grasp of the Bible).

There is no conceivable objection to a child using time designated for reading to read his Bible.  The book itself isn’t objectionable as long as you don’t force it on others.  Any appeal to “separation of church and state” is simply moronic—(a) the concept doesn’t exist in the Constitution, contrary to ignorant common belief, and (b) the proper 1st/14th Amendment application is the preclusion against government entities—like a public school, Mrs. Thomas—from erecting any barrier to the free exercise of religion.  Yet here we are, with a teacher telling an 11 year old he is forbidden to read the Bible in her classroom.

One wonders if he’d been OK had his choice of reading been 19 Minutes, Playboy (only for the articles, of course), or Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

On the other hand we have a public school forcing a child—yes, a child—to read material that includes scenes better suited for the erotica aisle, or hidden behind brown paper wrapping.  If you choose to allow your kids to read that kind of stuff, that’s not for me to judge; Ms. Picault, the author of 19 Minutes, brags that she reads that book to her own kids, and I think it tells you all you need to know about her that she would not only expose them to that material but wants to share in it with them.  Ew.  But when the school makes it a mandatory assignment without telling the parents, it deprives the parents (and the school assumes for itself) of the right/responsibility of determining what is/is not appropriate for their own kids.  I know my daughter better than the school district does, and I know better than they do what she’s ready to handle.

I damn sure know I want a say in to what my kids are exposed, and at what age.

But this is where we are now.  Children are forbidden to read the Bible, but forced to read what amounts to porn.  And if a parent objects too loudly (strictly speaking, too long), they go to jail.  There are people out there—people in charge of your kids—who actually think this way.

Think about this as you watch the debate over Common Core—a favorite of Jeb Bush’s, by the way, and that tells you all you need to know about him—which is essentially a nationalization of academic curricula.  You know, because everything else we nationalize works so well.  If you think it’s bad now, what’s it going to look like when your kid’s school curriculum isn’t even determined by your local school board, but by some bureaucrat from California?

Or New Hampshire.  Or Florida.

Eat Mor Chikin

Saleswoman:  Are you looking for something in particular?
Vivian:            No.  Well, yeah.  Something . . . conservative.
Saleswoman:  Yes.
Vivian:            You got nice stuff.
Saleswoman:  Thank you.
Vivian:            How much is this?
Saleswoman:  I don’t think this would fit you.
Vivian:            Well, I didn’t ask if it would fit, I asked how much it was.
Saleswoman:  How much is this, Marie?
Marie:             It’s *very* expensive.
Saleswoman:  It’s *very* expensive.
Vivian:            Look, I got money to spend in here.
Saleswoman:  I don’t think we have anything for you.
Marie:             You’re obviously in the wrong place.
Saleswoman:  Please leave.
            —Dey Young as Saleswoman, Julia Roberts as Vivian, and Shane Ross as Marie in Pretty Woman 
Isn’t it funny, for all their talk about diversity and tolerance and inclusion and open debate, how quickly the Left moves to silence through the force of government anyone who disagrees with them?
Most of you have at least a passing familiarity with the fast food chain Chick-Fil-A.  Many of you may also be aware that the company remains privately held by its founder Truett Cathy and the Cathy family, and that in keeping with their Southern Baptist beliefs the restaurants are closed on Sundays and holidays.  A few of you may know that the Cathys have incorporated their beliefs into their business by embedding them in the company’s statement of purpose.  You may not share their convictions, but these are people who at least have all the appearance of being serious about trying to live out their faith as they understand it.
Well, it seems that earlier this month the company’s COO Dan Cathy gave a couple of interviews in which he acknowledged his family’s support for what they see as the biblical definition of the family unit.  While as far as I can tell he never outright said his family is opposed to same-sex marriage, he did say that they invite God’s judgment when we try to redefine what marriage means.  Again, you may disagree with him on this issue, and that’s fine.  I’m not here to debate the merits of same-sex marriage (at least not this time).  What is undeniable is that opposition to same-sex marriage on biblical grounds as they understand them is in fact the teaching and position of the Southern Baptist Convention:
“We affirm God’s plan for marriage and sexual intimacy—one man, and one woman, for life.  Homosexuality is not a ‘valid alternative lifestyle.’  The Bible condemns it as sin.  It is not, however, unforgiveable sin.  The same redemption available to all sinners is available to homosexuals.  They, too, may become new creations in Christ.”
If you’re going to claim to be a Southern Baptist, as the Cathys do, this is part of what you’ve signed up for.
As you might imagine, with Cathy’s public invocation of God in opposition to anything gay, all Hell broke loose.  Boston Mayor Thomas Menino announced that, by the infinite power vested in him, he would not permit Chick-Fil-A to open any more restaurants in Boston.  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Joe Moreno have likewise said they will use local government to ban Chick-Fil-A restaurants from opening in Chicago.  According to Emanuel, “if you’re going to be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values.”  A similar ban is in place in the San Francisco suburb of Mountain View, California.
I see.  If anyone disagrees with the community’s “values”—as Emanuel defines them—they should be run out of town.  In other words, agree with me, or leave.
Let’s be clear about something.  Neither Chick-Fil-A nor the Cathy family, so far as I can find, has said they won’t serve gays, or that they’ll require gays to eat in a segregated part of their restaurants.  No one has charged them with discriminatory hiring practices.  I’m not even aware that they ask anyone entering their restaurants whether they’re gay.  All Mr. Cathy said was that because of his religious beliefs he opposes gay marriage.  And while you may disagree with him until your blood boils dry, let me let you in on a little secret:
He’s absolutely entitled to that belief, whether you like it or not.
The dangerous problem with the gay lobby in this country is they’re no longer about acceptance or tolerance.  They are about force-feeding you their lifestyle, ideology, and worldview and compelling you affirmatively to agree with it.  It’s not enough for you to leave them alone to be however they will be; you must change your beliefs to adopt theirs, and if you don’t they’ll use the force of government to bludgeon you back in line.  Dissent is not tolerated.
So in these cities controlled by the Left, anyone who disagrees with the Left’s views on gay marriage is now going to be put out of business.  By the government.  This is exactly the sort of tyranny against which the Constitution was intended to protect.
Let’s start with Article VI’s Supremacy Clause:  “This Constitution . . . shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”  There is no authority, federal, state, or local, that overrides the Constitution.  Not even Rahm Emanuel. 
Then we have the First Amendment:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof[.]”  The government can’t take action that prevents a person from acting in accordance with their religious beliefs.  Even if it disagrees with those beliefs.  [As an aside, yes, the First Amendment applies via the Fourteenth Amendment to state and local governments, too.  SeeGitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652 (1925), and its progeny.]  And the First Amendment continues: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech[.]”  Not only can the government not prevent you from worshipping as you choose, it also can’t prevent you from talking about your faith.  As Justice David Souter wrote in Board of Education v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994), “government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion.”  In other words, government is forbidden from drawing distinctions between citizens based on their religious beliefs.  The Fourteenth Amendment bolsters this by guaranteeing equal treatment under the law for all citizens:  “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”  Nothing limits this protection to citizens who agree with the majority, or to persons whose values reflect the values of the locality. 
This is an exceedingly dangerous construct that’s developing.  Despite the First Amendment’s guarantees of free speech and religion, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection, we have government denying the right to do business to someone solely because their expression of their religious beliefs conflicts with the views of others.  And notice the arrogance; we have a total of three government officials purporting to state what the beliefs and values are of metropolitan areas with literally millions of residents.  Emanuel talks about “Chicago values,” as though the nearly 3 million inhabitants of that city share a single monolithic belief system.  Presumably if Chick-Fil-A’s and the Cathy family’s values are that antithetical to those of Chicagoans, Chicagoans won’t patronize the restaurants and they’ll be gone in fairly short order. 
But rather than allow Chicago’s residents to decide for themselves what their beliefs are and to act accordingly, Emanuel is taking it upon himself to declare unilaterally what those values are, and then is going to apply the force of government to discriminate between citizens based on that declaration.  Those who agree with what Emanuel says are Chicago’s values can stay and do business.  Those who do not, have to close up shop and leave.  A single man choosing who stays and who goes, who may do business and who may not, based solely on whether he agrees with their religious convictions.
Whether you agree or disagree with Don Cathy’s views on gay marriage, this kind of government reaction to an individual’s statement of his beliefs should scare the bejeezus out of you. 

Liberal Censorship

 
“What’s new, Buenos Aires?  Your nation, which a few years ago had the second largest gold reserves in the world, is bankrupt!  A country which grew up and grew rich on beef is rationing it!  La Prensa, one of the few newspapers which dares to oppose Peronism, has been silenced.  And so have all other reasonable voices!  I’ll tell you what’s new, Buenos Aires!”
—Che, in “She’s a Diamond” from Evita
FoxNews.com is reporting that a 15 year old Wisconsin high school student was censored and threatened by the school district superintendent over an op-ed piece in the school paper. 
It seems that Brandon Wegner was asked to participate in a point-counterpoint discussion of an issue of current political significance.  The problem for young Mr. Wegner was he had the “against” side on the paper’s choice of topics:
Gay adoption.
The point-counterpoint format is a common angle for a newspaper to take in its editorials, particularly a newspaper legitimately interested in balanced coverage.  One would think that, in a school newspaper that is faculty-supervised and—I expect—written as part of a journalism class, running pieces like this is an excellent educational exercise.  But, as you can already guess, with this particular topic, Mr. Wegner was basically screwed from the get-go.
You can check the piece out for yourself here.  Wegner offered a spirited argument of his case against gay adoption, citing not only Biblical authority, but studies and statistics.  Another student took the “for” side, and likewise offered an enthusiastic case.  By any measure, the collective piece was a decent example of the open debate that is exactly what a point-counterpoint op-ed is supposed to be.
Then all hell broke loose.
Predictably, a gay couple whose child attends the high school bitched.  The school immediately apologized, not for the choice of subject matter, and not for the piece as a whole, but that Wegner had had the audacity actually to take the “against” side of the issue.  The school’s apology called Wegner’s opinion “a form of bullying and disrespect.”
Apparently, “vigorous debate,” like “bipartisanship,” means “you must agree with me.”
But it gets worse.  After falling all over themselves to apologize, the district dragged Mr. Wegner down to the superintendent’s office—not the principal’s office, but the head of the whole freaking school district—where apparently he was berated for hours over his supposed violation of the school’s bullying policy.  He was asked to sign an apology saying he regretted writing the piece—he refused.  He was then threatened with suspension, and called “one of the most ignorant kids” for standing up for his beliefs.
Let me repeat that.
A school district superintendent took a 15 year old kid he disagreed with, tried to coerce him into recanting, threatened to suspend him, and berated him over his “ignorance.” 
Maybe next time he’ll take on Mike Gundy.    
I’m not here today to take sides on the substantive issue of gay adoption, although you can probably guess what I think.  The thing that’s of importance here is the school district’s—and the superintendent’s in particular—conduct, which should be reprehensible to any reasonable person, regardless of your view on the political subject.
Let’s start with the fact that this kid was asked to write this piece, and to take the side of the opposition.  He didn’t hack into the school’s website and unilaterally spew his message over the Internet.  He didn’t commandeer the school’s P.A. system and lecture a captive audience over the loudspeakers.  He didn’t spray paint anti-gay slurs on the school’s front door.  He was asked to take one side of a controversial issue for an op-ed piece in the school paper—a paper that, I think it’s reasonable to presume, is subject to some editorial controls and faculty reviews before being published.  Now, you could reasonably question the judgment of selecting such a polarizing topic for debate in a high school paper.  But once the topic was selected, if there was a problem with the content of his article, why does there seem to be no hammer coming down on the faculty member(s) who let the thing be published?
In police work, it’s called “entrapment”—luring a person into committing an offense by inviting them to do so, then charging them with that very offense you encouraged them to commit.
Second, Wegner didn’t threaten anybody.  He didn’t use foul language or hateful epithets like f*gg*t or qu**r.  He did quote the Bible, and Heaven forbid anyone do that.  You may not like to hear homosexual practices referred to as detestable or an “abomination,”—and I’m not here to argue over the authority or divine inspiration of either the Old or New Testaments—but those are the words the book of Leviticus uses in most English translations I’ve been able to find.
Third, there’s this pesky problem of the First Amendment, which applies to State organizations via the Fourteenth Amendment.  This means it extends to public schools, which Justice Abe Fortas wrote in Tinker v. Des Moines ICSD, “may not be enclaves of totalitarianism.”  I recognize that First Amendment rights are somewhat limited for school newspapers, where legitimate parochial concerns may permit some censorship in order to further the educational aims of the school; but that would have entitled the school to reject the topic or pull the piece, not berate and threaten the kid for writing it.  Further, there’s a big difference between censorship due to content—we don’t, for example, have to permit a high school journalist to drop f-bombs all through his article—and censorship due to the expression of an opinion on a political issue.  Political speech is the very essence of what the First Amendment is designed to protect.
There can be no doubt that this has absolutely everything to do with the substance of Mr. Wegner’s opinion—namely, that he opposes gay adoption.  But the Left—and particularly the gay lobby—isn’t capable of rational discourse on these sorts of issues.  They say they’re all about diversity and inclusion, but the tent’s never broad enough to cover anyone who disagrees with them.  Speech is free, but only as long as you agree with them.  I have a buddy who’s holding his breath waiting for the ACLU to show up to defend Mr. Wegner—to the contrary, I half expect them to mount a public campaign to pressure local police to arrest Mr. Wegner on hate crime charges. 
Like the tired cries of racism we hear from the likes of Maxine Waters any time she doesn’t get her way, it’s empty and childish to accuse people of bullying and hate speech every time they disagree with you.  I know you on the Left don’t like it, but the fact of the matter is there are a substantial number of people—in most states, significant, if not overwhelming majorities—who disagree with you on this issue.  I’m not suggesting you have to change your view, but you don’t just get to say “I’m right, you’re a bully/bigot/racist/hatemonger, debate over, you shut up.” 
American discourse doesn’t work that way.

P.C. Strikes Again

“I don’t like your style, your politics, or your sense of humor.  I don’t like what you say, or how you say it.”
—J.T. Walsh as Sergeant Major Dickerson in Good Morning, Vietnam
 
I’ve said before I am no big fan of the First Amendment.  But if you’re going to have it, it’s got to apply equally to everyone, right?
Right?
Well don’t look now, but the dark forces of Political Correctness are on the march again.
It seems that the TLC cable network—ostensibly, “The Learning Channel,” which brings you such quality educational programs as Sister Wives (which, according to their website, explores the joys of polygamous households), Long Island Medium (a “reality” show tracking a psychic/palm-reading mom), The Virgin Diaries (which “takes you inside the lives of adult virgins who reveal the challenges, truths, and anticipations of losing their virginity”)—is running a series called All-American Muslim.  All-American Muslim, as I understand it, is a day-in-the-life kind of thing chronicling what I’m sure are the riveting daily lives of five Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan (what’s the over/under on whether they’ll have any discussion about Islamic views on homosexuality, or the treatment of women in predominantly Muslim countries?).  Members of a group called the Florida Family Association complained to Lowe’s Home Improvement—among others—about the company’s sponsorship of the show, claiming that the program is “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”  Rather than deal with the flak of fighting about it, Lowe’s elected to stop advertising on the program.
Allah forbid.
Predictably, there is now much hue and cry from the Left.  Russell Simmons—to much fanfare from CNN—has bought up the ad space left by Lowe’s, and has called for a boycott.  California State Senator Ted Lieu called Lowe’s decision “un-American” and “naked religious bigotry,” and apparently is considering legislative action and an investigation into whether Lowe’s has violated California law (query how, or even what business this is of the California legislature, given that Lowe’s is headquartered in North Carolina, it made its decision after complaints from a group in Florida, TLC is headquartered in Maryland, and the show is filmed in Michigan).  Michigan State Representative Rashida Tlaib—a Muslim legislator who has been among the most vocal in criticizing “racist” efforts to ban foreign law from Michigan courts (which she obviously reads as being directed at preventing the application of Sharia)—has complained directly to Lowe’s.  And Michigan Congressman Keith Ellison has condemned Lowe’s for “uphold[ing] the beliefs of a fringe hate group and not the creed of the First Amendment.”
Is that so?
I’ve been studying my copy of the First Amendment.  It reads, in its entirety, as follows:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
My copy seems to be missing the part that says it only applies when who you’re worshipping or what you’re saying is acceptable to the Left. 
To be sure, Muslims are free in this country to practice Islam free from restraint by Congress or the States (subject, of course, to the usual compelling state interest restrictions applicable to any constitutional right).  But notice that Lowe’s isn’t Congress or a State, and Lowe’s hasn’t restrained anyone from saying anything or anyone from practicing their religion.  Lowe’s hasn’t made any statement critical of the show or calling for TLC to cancel it.  Lowe’s hasn’t made any comment about Islam or Muslims.  Lowe’s hasn’t done anything to attempt to prevent Muslims from practicing their religion.  Lowe’s isn’t banning Muslims from its stores.  All Lowe’s did was elect to discontinue its sponsorship of the program in an attempt to avoid controversy.
Who’s not upholding the creed of the First Amendment, Congressman Ellison?
Nobody in this case is discriminating against Muslims, or impairing their First Amendment rights.  But apparently for these folks on the Left not only does the First Amendment guarantee Muslims the right to the free exercise of their religion (and TLC the right to the free exercise of speech in running the show), it also gives them the right to compel Lowe’s to pay for it, even if they conclude that they either no longer support the show’s content, or that they just don’t want the hassle associated with it.  Interestingly, it never seems to occur to these folks that the same First Amendment behind which they so love to hide grants Lowe’s the same right of free expression and practice, which includes the right not to participate in someone else’s speech or practice. 
How DARE Lowe’s bow to outside pressure to drop its sponsorship of a Islam-centered program?!?!
Isn’t it funny that these are the very same corners from which the cries came pressuring Atlanta-based law firm King & Spalding to drop its representation of the House of Representatives in defending the Defense of Marriage Act?  These are also a lot of the same folks who will pour money into the ACLU to sue to make sure a 7-year-old can’t put up a Santa display in a classroom, or a Catholic college can’t hang a crucifix.
I’m not necessarily defending or agreeing with the opinion expressed by the Florida Family Association—I haven’t seen All-American Muslim, and I have no intention of doing so.  I have no idea whether it’s dangerous Islamist propaganda, or simply mindless drivel.  Nor do I care.  What I do care about is the continuous push to shove Islam down our throats in the name of political correctness, and I’m sick to death of the eggshells upon which we are forced to trod lest we offend any Muslim anywhere about anything. 
The fact of the matter is that Lowe’s has every right to make its own decisions whether, where, and how to advertise.  It is absolutely free to sponsor programming or not as it sees fit, and that includes the freedom to pull its advertising for any reason it chooses, whether it be good and righteous, immoral and bigoted, or no reason at all.  You have the right to speak and practice your religion, but you don’t have the right to force me to help you do it.