DePaul University Offers Minor in LGBTQ Studies, Angering Some Catholic Groups

Chicago’s DePaul University is offering a minor in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer studies. Assistant Professor Gary Cestaro, an instructor in DePaul’s Modern Languages department, is the program’s director and, according to Out in Chicago, the minor is built around courses in English literature, comparative literature, American Studies, psychology, women and gender studies, as well as an introductory course.

As Newsweek points out, DePaul isn’t the first university to offer a LGBTQ minor, but as the nation’s largest Roman Catholic university, its decision is drawing attention.

According to LifeSite, an organization that “emphasizes the social worth of traditional Judeo-Christian principles but is also respectful of all authentic religions and cultures that esteem life, family and universal norms of morality,” Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, stated:

“Why would a university fund a programme based on a field of study that in mainstream academia is relatively unimportant?…Even aside from the Catholic perspective it is very clear that this is motivated from a politically correct perspective.

If we want to have programmes in deviant sexual behavior… why no minor in prostitution? Other than a need to bow to political correctness, why homosexuality particularly? Why no minor in heterosexual activities?….

All of that suggests that aside from the question of whether the course content will directly oppose Catholic teaching, the entire enterprise is intended to affirm the legitimacy of what is called the ‘gay’ subculture or lifestyle….

It seems clear that the programme itself would lead to affirmation of gay lifestyle and homosexual activity. This programme is entirely inappropriate for a Catholic institution.”

Meanwhile, AgapePress reports that Karl Maurer, vice president of Catholic Citizens of Illinois, said:

“What DePaul is doing… is really falsely characterizing itself as both being Catholic and being inspired by St. Vincent’s spirit, which is a fraud.”

The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property argues that DePaul’s decision to offer this minor is indicative of a greater problem.

“A glimpse at DePaul’s web site flags more trouble:

  • DePaul recognizes two openly pro-homosexual student clubs: Outlaws, for law students and Spectrum. Spectrum’s web site promotes a “Coming Out Ball.”
  • Under “Gay/Lesbian Studies,” DePaul features links to notorious pro-homosexual advocacy groups, including Act-Up….
  • DePaul created “The Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Allies (LGBTQA) Student Services.” The stated goal of this department is to encourage “acceptance and awareness around LGBTQ issues and concerns.” The office helps students deal with cases of “homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia…”
  • On February 18-19, the immoral play “V-Monologues” staged on campus. At least 1,000 students protested by e-mail, letter and phone, asking DePaul president, a priest, to cancel the lewd production. Apparently, these Catholic students’ concerns were ignored.
  • A pro-homosexual activist and professor spoke at DePaul on Feb. 20. The title of his lecture was: “From Sodomy Laws to Marriage: The History of American Sexual Identity.” Writing about the event, student newspaper, DePaulia, said: “The lecture itself was an example of progress for the homosexual community as one of the first events hosted by DePaul’s new minor program…”
  • Finally, DePaul’s web site displays a confusing quote by Rev. Edward R. Udovic, C.M., senior executive for university mission. The statement reads: “DePaul’s Vincentian identity isn’t a Catholic thing per se, or even a Christian thing per se, but a human thing.”

Maybe it’s time to revisit yesterday’s post.


Ambitious Media Campaign Fights Anti-Gay Religious Prejudice

Faith In America’s introduction:

“Throughout our history, religious teachings, shaped by ignorance and fear, have been used to justify prejudice, discrimination and even violence against minorities within American society. We now look back and agree that such teachings were misguided, with consequences beyond tragic. Authentic religion inspires compassion and respect for everyone, especially those who are different. It unites and uplifts, rather than tears down and divides. Religious teachings should never exclude anyone, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons from enjoying equal rights and protections promised by the Constitution of the United States. Faith in America appeals to and honors both the authentic religious and democratic ideals that rest in the soul of the American people.”

Founded in December 2005, Faith in America, Inc. is a non-profit organization working towards “the emancipation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from bigotry disguised as religious truth.”

Led by executive director Jimmy Creech (formerly senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebraska, Creech was defrocked in 1999 for performing a covenant service for two men) and supported by its largest contributor Mitchell Gold of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, the organization rolled out a hard-hitting, national, multi-million dollar campaign on February 4th.

Gold described the campaign’s goals in the March issue of the Advocate,

“Our attitude is that this is a one-year project. I want to change this country in one year…

If we don’t do it in one year, that’ll be OK, but what I don’t believe in doing is having a five-year strategy with no accomplishments….

The only voice people down here [in fundamentalist regions] hear about religious beliefs is that of James Dobson and Jerry Falwell. There folks very rarely hear the voice of Gene Robinson. You tend to believe what you hear.”


One-Stop Shopping for Blawgs: A Taxonomy of Legal Blogs

Ian Best, whom I first wrote about here, e-mailed me this week to let me know his Taxonomy of Legal Blogs is complete.

Ian has compiled a fantastic list that I know I’ll be turning to many times:

I. General Blogs
Advice for Lawyers and Law Firms
General Legal Blogs
General Blogs — Law and Culture, Economics, Politics, etc.
II. Blogs Categorized by Legal Specialty
Specialty Blogs
   
III. Blogs Categorized by Law or Legal Event
Case Blogs
Statute Blogs
Trial Blogs
    
IV. Blogs Categorized by Jurisdictional Scope
State Blogs
Federal Circuit Blogs
U.S. Supreme Court Blogs
    
V. Blogs Categorized by Author/Publisher
Anonymous Blogs
Association Blogs
Blogs by Judges
Book Supplement Blogs
Class and Student Group Blogs
Institute Blogs
Law Firm Blogs — Listed by Blog
Law Firm Blogs — Listed by Firm
Law Journal Blogs
Law Professor Blogs
Law Library and Librarian Blogs
Law Professor Blogs
Lawyer Webjourals
Newspaper Blogs
    
VI. Blogs Categorized by Number of Contributors
Group Blogs
    
VII. Miscellaneous Blogs Categorized by Topic
Blogs about Judges
Event Blogs
Fictional Blogs
Humor Blogs
    
VIII. Collections of Legal Blogs
Blog Post Collections
Legal Blog Collections
Legal Blog Networks

Aside from his actual taxonomy, he seems to have the blogging thing down. Ian has a page dedicated exclusively to responses to criticism. And he has dedicated pages requesting reader feedback on Organizational Method, Categories, Legal Blogs and General Comments and Questions.

Please check out his site.


With Canada’s Seal Hunt Less Than Two Days Away, Rhetoric Is In Overdrive

As the countdown ticker on the Humane Society of the United States site shows, Canada’s infamous yearly seal hunt — this year permitting the killing of 325,000 young seals — is less that two days away (at the time of this writing, 1 day and 19 hours).

With both supporters and opponents of the hunt preparing for the international media attention this event attracts, rhetoric is in overdrive.

From the Fisheries and Oceans Canada site:

  • The Seal Hunt Management Plan’s objectives are to “ensure conservation and sustainability, long-term sustainable use, humane hunting practices, and encourage fullest use of hunted seals.”
  • “The commercial seal hunt in Atlantic Canada in 2005 was the source of more than $16.5 million in direct revenue from the sale of product – virtually the same as in 2004, and up from an estimated $13 million value in 2003.”
  • “The seal harvest in Atlantic Canada has been directed at beater pelt sales (independent harp seals between 25 days and 13 months of age).  The primary market is for beater pelts, which can fetch up to $70 each in strong markets.”
  • “The hunting methods presently used were studied by the Royal Commission on Seals and Sealing in Canada and they found that the clubbing of seals, when properly performed is at least as humane as, and often more humane than, the killing methods used in commercial slaughterhouses, which are accepted by the majority of the public.”
  • “Methods used to kill seals in Canada were found to be generally more humane than the shooting of animals for sport. The Commission also found that no methods of killing which have come to their notice, other than clubbing or shooting, achieve acceptable standards of humaneness.”

Additional statements from a recent CBS News article:

  • “…the reality is that whitecoats can’t be hunted anymore. But it’s also true that young harp seals lose their white coats (and their protection) at about 12 to 14 days of age. After that, they’re fair game for hunters, although they’re usually about 25 days old before they’re hunted. Most harp seals taken are under the age of three months. Young yes, whitecoats no.”
  • “A 2002 report in the Canadian Veterinary Journal found that ‘the large majority of seals taken during this hunt … are killed in an acceptably humane manner.’ This study found that 98 per cent of hunted seals it examined had been killed properly. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) cites this study among others as proof that the hunt opponents are wrong in their accusations of widespread cruelty. And regarding the ‘skinning alive’ charge, the DFO says appearances can be deceiving. ‘Sometimes a seal may appear to be moving after it has been killed,’ the DFO says. ‘However, seals have a swimming reflex that is active, even after death. This reflex falsely appears as though the animal is still alive when it is clearly dead – similar to the reflex in chickens.’ “
  • According to the DFO, “the club, or ‘hakapik,’ used by many sealers is ‘an efficient tool’ that kills ‘quickly and humanely.’ “
  • “The federal government acknowledges that it has laid more than 200 charges against sealers since 1996, but argues that shows it’s serious about enforcing its regulations.”

And finally, from the Humane Society of the United States, a video and slide show (scroll midway down page to find). Despite the pictures of whitecoats intended to pull at everyone’s heartstrings, these images speak volumes.


Law Journals Have Come A Long Way Since 1995

It’s not often that you get to be a part of history. But in the Spring of 1995, I was part of a pioneering group of law students, led by Rick Klau (now Vice President of Business Development at FeedBurner), that published the Richmond Journal of Law & Technology, the first exclusively online law review. With institutions such as the University of Michigan, Stanford University, U.C. Berkeley’s Boalt Hall and others nipping at out heels, it was a mad dash to the finish in order to be able to claim the #1 spot.

Back then the idea of publishing exclusively online was revolutionary. In fact, many within the legal community thought it quite limiting. But as Rick explained, the advantages were clear:

“With the benefit of hind-sight and experience, I can safely say that the benefits to electronic publication far outweigh any concerns we might have…

On March 9 [1995], the First Circuit reversed the lower court in Lotus v. Borland. As soon as we realized this (the day before Spring Break no less), we quickly downloaded the opinion from Westlaw and updated all the cites in the three articles containing footnotes to this case. The significance of this cannot be overstated — with a publication date set for April 10, the issue would have already been sent to a printer and we would have been unable to make the necessary changes to keep the article current.

The benefits don’t just stop at the advantages it accords us, the publisher. The medium of the World Wide Web allows the reader to follow hypertext links to all ends of the world. By searching the web for related information to each article in The Journal, we have tried to show you just a sampling of the substantive information that is available out there.”

Now, a decade later, a new wave of legal research and scholarship is taking place. The latest example of this is Ian Best’s work (thanks to Diane Levin of  Online Guide to Mediation for the pointer). Best, a 3L at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, is creating a taxonomy of legal blogs on 3L Epiphany.

One of the most interesting parts of his work, however, is related to his soon-to-be-published “Recent Development” article about Campbell v. General Dynamics Govt’ Sys. Corp, 407 F.3d 546 (1st Cir. 2005) for the Ohio State Journal of Dispute Resolution.

As Ian explains in his Footnote 123 post:

“This post you are reading is actually an electronic footnote…

That is, you are now reading the footnote of an article that does not yet exist in published form. The article still needs to go through a final editing process. My own editing is over, and I can therefore give this electronic footnote a number, ‘123,’ based on its number in the print version….

Part of the complexity of doing this is that if the numbering of the footnotes changes in the print version (for example if an earlier footnote is removed), it will change the number of this footnote. I will then need to create a new blog with the updated number in the URL and in the heading….

I will use this footnote to do further research on this case… [and] demonstrate how online media can transcend the time and space limitations of traditional publishing forms….

And one aspect of this footnote I consider to be especially significant: Before my Recent Development is published in JDR, I will post it here. This article will exist in its final form here, in this footnote you are reading now, before it exists as a hard copy. So the footnote will contain the article, which will contain the footnote, which will contain the article, ad infinitum….

I predict that this attempt to blend old and new forms of legal publishing will become more common among law reviews in the future. And even if a student doesn’t get into journal, he can always ‘self-publish’ his blog.”

He adds in a comment to his post:

“I’m not sure any law student has ever written a case note and then made the last footnote a reference to a blog post (on his own personal blog), where the footnote can be extended to include unlimited future information.”



Profile in Courage: Journalist Mohammed al-Asaadi

When ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were injured in Iraq on January 29, the American media held vigil. The story received extensive coverage, possibly because Woodruff and Vogt are two of its own.

Commenting on the attention, American University profession Kathryn Montgomery said, “when you see the kind of coverage this story is getting it draws attention to the lack of coverage that hundreds of cases don’t get.” According to UPI, for example, the same week that Woodruff and Vogt were injured, 10 American service members were killed in Iraq.

While Woodruff and Vogt should be commended for their willingness to report from a war zone, especially in light of the number of journalists injured and killed during conflicts, there is another journalist sitting in a jail in Yemen who deserves our attention as well.

On February 11, Mohammed al-Asaadi, the editor-in-chief of the Yemen Observer, a weekly English-language newspaper, was arrested and charged with insulting the Prophet Muhammad. According to MSNBC:

…when his newspaper ran an article about the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist, Asaadi decided to reprint the cartoons—albeit with a large X censoring most of them, and an article denouncing them….he was arrested and charged with insulting the Prophet.

Reporters Without Borders immediately requested the release of Asaadi and five other journalists who are currently in prison for having printed the now infamous cartoons.

Here are excerpts from an interview with Asaadi conducted by Newsweek’s Rod Nordland:

This is a different sort of case…Tell us how it came about.
When we ran our article on the Danish cartoons, it was all about how the Prophet should be honored, with quotations from famous people about what an important figure he was, and a news story on Yemeni protests. We reprinted the cartoons but blacked them out. Unfortunately by an innocent mistake in the production process, a thumbnail of the cartoons appeared on the front page—only 1.5cm [0.6 of an inch] by 2cm [0.8 of an inch], you could hardly read it. But then one of the directors of [the newspaper] al-Akhbar al Yawn approached the Yemen Observer owners to blackmail us—that unless we paid them they would raise a stink. We refused, and they collected signatures on a petition that they presented to the prosecutor. Theirs is a newspaper that lives by blackmail, everybody knows that.  But the government responded by revoking our license to publish and putting me in jail.

Do you regret now the decision to run the cartoons, however censored, given the climate?  There are plenty of religious fanatics in Yemen, even if they’re a minority.
We had a meeting to discuss this before we published them, so it wasn’t an accident.  And we felt that these cartoons had already been shown on Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya [satellite TV] and millions of Muslims had seen them.  And I personally believe these cartoons should be published.  If we make it unlawful to look at them, we give them an importance they don’t deserve, as if there’s something holy or special about them. We should be able to discuss them openly, which is what we did.

The article as a whole discussed Islam and particularly the Prophet in reverential tones.  So why the government reaction?
Most of these extremists don’t read English, they just saw the pictures. And the article was accompanied by an editorial, saying the cartoons were terrible, but we should accept the apologies of the newspaper that published them and move on, not continue running through the streets.  That’s what really angered the [government] hard-liners.  Even religious scholars have supported us: it’s the intention behind the publication, not just the publication.

 


Personal Safety for Bloggers

In his post about Blog Stalkers — Personal Safety for Bloggers (via Performancing), Darren Rouse shares his personal experience of being stalked by a blog reader who, after a series of escalating behaviors, ended up at his home.

Having put this situation behind him, Darren goes into detail about how bloggers can protect themselves:

  • Decide ahead of time how much personal information to share on your blog
  • Be aware of what impression you’re leaving
  • Remember to follow offline security measures
  • Develop a plan of action ahead of time
  • Don’t try to deal with a problem situation alone

He also writes an important post about What to Do when Your Blog is Attacked, which I’m going to clip for future reference.


Other Global Responses to the Conflict about Jyllands-Posten’s Cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed

With violence increasing and the polarization about the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy becoming greater, it’s easy to agree with Neville Hobson’s statement that this conflict “illustrates a massive cultural and religious divide that is getting wider… with no meeting of minds looking likely at all. If anything, this will probably get worse.”

Fortunately there are dissenting voices, as these excerpts from around the world show.

From MSNBC:

Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Mohammed Rashid Kabbani denounced the violence and appealed for calm, accusing infiltrators of sowing the dissent to “harm the stability of Lebanon.” Prime Minister Fuad Saniora also urged peaceful protests. “Those who are committing these acts have nothing to do with Islam or with Lebanon,” he said. “This is absolutely not the way we express our opinions.”

From Rantings of a Sandmonkey:

Fully knowing that it is retarded to punish a whole country and its products for what a Newspaper in that country did, I expected someone to start a movement to restore common sense our muslim brothers and demand a stop to the boycott, especially since the Danes have apologized over and over again. Then I figured, shit, why don’t I be that someone?…

So I guess I will start the official local campaign to boycott the boycott, and thanks to the efforts of Roba and Jameed, the campaign now has banners that you can get here, put on your website and show solidarity with Danish people…

From Sorry Norway Denmark (via History News Network’s Deja vu — Judith Apter Klinghoffer):

In the middle of all the mayhem surrounding the Danish cartoons controversy, a group of Arab and Muslim youth have set up this website to express their honest opinion, as a small attempt to show the world that the images shown of Arab and Muslim anger around the world are not representative of the opinions of all Arabs.  We whole-heartedly apologize to the people of Denmark, Norway and all the European Union over the actions of a few, and we completely condemn all forms of vandalism and incitement to violence that the Arab and Muslim world have witnessed.  We hope that this sad episode will not tarnish the great friendship that our peoples have fostered over decades.

The problem with media representation of such issues tends to be that the media only picks up the loudest voices, ignoring the rational ones that do not generate as much noise.  Voices that seek tolerance, dialogue and understanding are always drowned out by the more sensationalist loud calls, giving viewers the impression that these views are representative of all the Arab public’s view.  This website is a modest attempt at redressing this wrong.  We would appreciate it if you could forward the word to as many of your friends as possible.

What long-term effects on free speech will this conflict have? We probably won’t know for quite some time. There is possibly a new Europen Union media code of conduct in the works (via EU Rota). And Lee Hopkins points out that, on a lower level, “the whole issue does… introduce fear and loathing in the workplace.”

In the meantime, although there is already some “fight cartoon with cartoon” behavior, as evidenced by the Arab European League’s two cartoons, I’d speculate that for most media, Serge Cornelus’s prediction is right on.


Danish Embassy in Damascus is Latest Target in Rage over Caricatures of Prophet Muhammed

CNN.com reports that hundreds of Syrian demonstrators stormed the Royal Danish Embassy in Damascus, Syria today and set the building ablaze. This is the latest reaction to the publishing of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

Many Muslims are offended because they find the cartoons disrespectful and blasphemous; others object because various hadiths prohibit any depiction of the Prophet, regardless of what the images contain (although Wikipedia notes that representations of the Prophet have existed in Islamic art for quite some time).

The Vatican had this to say about the cartoons:

“The freedom of thought and expression, confirmed in the Declaration of Human Rights, can not include the right to offend religious feelings of the faithful. That principle obviously applies to any religion…

Any form of excessive criticism or derision of others denotes a lack of human sensitivity and can in some cases constitute an unacceptable provocation.”

Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, part of the Vatican’s diplomatic service, was also critical:

“Freedom of satire that offends the sentiments of others becomes an abuse — and in this case it has affected the sentiments of entire populations in their highest symbols…

One can understand satire about a priest but not about God. With reference to Islam, we could understand satire on the uses and customs and behavior, but not about the Quran, Allah and the Prophet.”

See Wikipedia’s Jyllands-Posten Muhammed cartoons controversy for a chronology of events and international reaction. Make sure to also read the posts by Allan Jenkins and Neville Hobson, both of which offer an analysis from a communications perspective.

I predict that this explosive situation is only the beginning of other similar international incidents we’ll see in the coming months and years. I’d venture to guess that others (see, for example, Media Orchard’s post Newest Beer Pitchman: Jesus Christ) would agree.