Thursday, May 21, 2015

DC Area Professor To Catholic University: Too Many Crosses On Campus -- bad for Muslims

It just got surreal.  George Washington University Law School Professor John Banzhaf filed a human rights complaint to the D.C. Office of Human Rights against Catholic University for hindering Muslim students’ free exercise of their faith due to the “excessive” amount of “Catholic imagery” on the campus. 

It seems that this man – who teaches at a different school across town – thinks that Catholic University’s adherence to the cultural aspects of Catholicism (we have a lot of artwork, Crucifixes, and statues in every nook and crany) keeps muslim students from praying the required five times a day.

Banzhaf, who already has a pending lawsuit against the university over ending its policy of allowing mixed-gender dormitories and has a history of filing civil rights suits on such topics as childhood obesity and smoking, filed the complaint alleging that Muslim students are not given their own prayer rooms.

Just as an aside from a graduate of Catholic high school, at least, did Prof. Banzhaf not see the title of the university?  Did he not see the GIGANTIC church on the university property we know as the National Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception????  Oh, that’s right, it’s named in the complaint as a place muslims are “forced” to pray.  (We don’t do that in Catholicism.)  That basilica is, like, the flagship American Catholic church since it’s named for our national feast day even if it is NOT a cathedral, contrary to the complaint filed.  (No cathedra or bishop’s chair is in the building.  In Washington, that is in St. Matthew’s.)   What part of “Catholic” isn’t sinking in?  We’re into high art, Jesus hanging on the Cross, defending the separation of the sexes in dorms, etc.  It’s part and parcel of the deal when you attend Catholic school.

Across the board, the 60-page complaint filed by Banzhaf has officials at Catholic University and just about every other corner scratching heads.  First off, no muslim students have voiced concern for the issues of which Banzhaf writes.  Second, when members of other faiths are accepted at Catholic schools, their beliefs are not scorned or maligned in any way.  That violates Catholic norms of hospitality. 

No one is required to pray with us.  That’s a private act, anyway, that Catholics are really supposed to do it more than five times a day.  Non-Catholics may not be specifically accommodated at our schools, but we Catholics would not request special treatment from schools of other faiths.  More or less, in this situation we are all guests in someone else’s house, and manners prevail.  Usually.  Anyone who has a problem with pictures of popes hanging on the wall, Crucifixes, statues of Our Lady of Grace, etc., can just go find somewhere else to go to school.

That the D.C. Office of Human Rights is even entertaining the complaint is cause for the big worry.

The complaint is absurd, writes Thomas Peters on the website CatholicVote.

“Can you imagine a law professor helping Catholic students to sue a Jewish or Muslim school to demand that the schools install crosses, remove their religious symbols, and allow the Catholics to construct a chapel on their property?” wrote Peters. “Can you imagine the argument being that Jewish and Muslims schools using their religious symbols and following their faith traditions would be described in the legal brief as “offensive”?!

“Normally I would have confidence that this lawsuit will be deemed without merit, but the way things are going these days, I just can’t be sure anymore. Simply incredible.”

At Breitbart, John Hayward warns that if Catholic University caves and creates space for muslims to pray their required five times a day, this will not be the only concession on the horizon.  He is correct in that even as the assault on religion continues, in order to maintain the true identity of faith – any faith – institutions of higher learning and the Church Herself will need to forgo tax exempt status.  It is the only way since the Church cannot and will not change.

At the same time, given that this is nowhere near the first time there have been complaints about Catholic art and culture being offensive, there may be another explanation.

“This attorney is really turning civil rights on its head,” [Patrick Reilly of the Cardinal Newman Society told Fox News]. “He’s using the law for his own discrimination against the Catholic institution and essentially saying Catholic University cannot operate according to Catholic principles.”

A notion that has been put in practice in many walks of life.  Stay tuned.  Catholic sentiment is leaning more orthodox these days.  Abandoning the identity is not likely to happen without a big fight.


Racism and sexism OK at Boston University

This could have been "Salaita 2: A Censorship Sequel." Once again, a new college faculty member whose appointment has not yet officially begun has been denounced for offensive speech. Once again, the speech consists entirely of tweets. Once again many alumni and donors are in an uproar. Once again, the university has felt obliged to respond.

At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Professor Steven Salaita lost a faculty position last August because Chancellor Phyllis Wise decided that his tweets denouncing the 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza failed to meet her standard of civility. In a mass email to the university community, she informed all faculty and students that uncivil speech would not be tolerated.

At Boston University, the tweets came from Dr. Saida Grundy, who on July 1 will become an assistant professor of sociology and African American studies. In one tweet, she asks, "Why is white america so reluctant to identify white college males as a problem population?" In another she asserts, "white masculinity is THE problem for America's colleges." In a third she admonishes, "deal with your white sh*t, white people" because "slavery is a *YALL* thing."

This time, however, the official response has been quite different. In a May 12 letter addressed "To the Boston University Community," President Robert A. Brown made it clear that Dr. Grundy's faculty position was not at stake. "At Boston University," wrote President Brown, "we acknowledge Dr. Grundy's right to hold and express her opinions. Our community is composed of faculty, staff, and students who represent widely varying points of view on many sensitive issues."

Acknowledging the strong reactions to Dr. Grundy's tweets, he stated clearly:

"Boston University does not condone racism or bigotry in any form." Still speaking for the university, he added: "We are disappointed and concerned by statements that reduce individuals to stereotypes on the basis of a broad category such as sex, race, or ethnicity." Then, making a personal judgment, he wrote: "I believe Dr. Grundy's remarks fit this characterization."

President Brown did note "a broader context to Dr. Grundy's tweets" and affirmed her "right to pursue her research, formulate her views, and challenge the rest of us to think differently about race relations." Nevertheless, he wrote, "the words in her Twitter feed were powerful in the way they stereotyped and condemned other people." As president he has "an obligation to speak up when words become hurtful to one group or another in the way they typecast and label its members."

Finally, he acknowledged "that some members of our faculty believe that any equivocation by the president is tantamount to not supporting a new colleague." In response he urged conversation and welcomed "the chance to talk with all of you and Dr. Grundy" about what he recognized as "a difficult issue."

Saida Grundy then issued a statement of her own regretting that her "personal passion" about racial issues led her "to speak about them indelicately. I deprived them of the nuance and complexity that such subjects always deserve." She added:


Students at Prince Charles' old university vote to ban Bibles from halls of residence for not being 'appropriately multicultural'

Students at a Welsh university have voted to end a tradition of putting Bibles in their halls of residence in the name of 'multiculturalism'.

Those studying at Aberystwyth University - which Prince Charles once attended - want to end the long-running practice of putting Gideon Bibles in dorm rooms at the start of term.

The Students' Union at the west Wales institution claim the policy could be 'offensive' to non-Christians, but Bible groups have branded the ban 'illiberal'.

A motion passed at a meeting of the Union called for all Bibles to be removed from halls of residence bedrooms at the end of the current academic year and students to instead be given an option to request a religious text if they want one.

University bosses with now decide whether to accept the students' demands.

Speaking at the meeting, John Morgan, who put forward the motion, said: 'Compulsory inclusion of Bibles in university bedrooms is inappropriate in a multicultural university such as Aberystwyth.

'It could be offensive for some, and university should provide a safe space for students to explore and develop their beliefs in a neutral environment.' He added: 'Bibles should however still be available for those who wish to have them.'

Speaking when the motion was first proposed, James Catford, a former student of Aberystwyth University who is now the Group Chief Executive of Bible Society disagreed with the idea.

He said: 'The answer to a diverse and multicultural society is not to remove all traces of diversity. That seems illiberal and intolerant.'

The Union has been criticised over claims less than five per cent of the 10,000-strong student body voted for the ban - with 300 in favour of the ban and 175 against at the meeting.

The Students' Union said the vote result was now 'binding' and they were mandated to lobby the University to remove all Bibles by the start of the next academic year in September 2015.

On their website they said they 475 votes cast was 'almost double the minimum requirement' as set out in their 'democratic structure'.

They said: '475 students voting is a higher number than any attendance at a democratic meeting and so we are delighted that we have managed to open up democratically to this extent.'

A survey of students at one hall of residence conducted in 2014 found almost half felt the compulsory inclusion of the holy book was 'uncomfortable' or 'unacceptable'.


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