Worth noting

Worth noting – Calendar

Karen Ann Gajewski

* Ceremonies were held around the world on March 18, 2003–noncoincidentally, the Jewish day of Purim–in which anti-Zionist Jews burned the Israeli flag. The symbolism was to declare “that the Israeli state, contrary to its absurd claims, is not representative of the Jewish people,” said Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta International. “In fact,” he points out, the state’s “denial of our faith and its brutalization of the Palestinian people renders it antithetical to Judaism.”

* Protests have been organized worldwide against the government of Kerala (a state on the southwest coast of India) for its persecution of Sreeni Pattathanam. The highly regarded Indian author and rationalist faces possible prosecution for making “objectionable references” to a Hindu healer in his most recent and controversial book, Matha Amrithanandamayi: Sacred Stories and Realities. International attention had prevailed upon the government to relent its prosecution, but a subsequent Internet campaign by the followers of “the hugging mother” has the government reconsidering charging him with “hurting the religious sentiments of her devotees.”

* Thirty-three years after Kent State police resort to violence to suppress free speech. Oakland, California, police fired rubber bullets and concussion grenades on April 7, 2003, at antiwar protesters who blocked access to docks they said were being used to aid the U.S. war effort in Iraq. Even some of the longshoremen who were inadvertently injured said police had gone “too far.”

Across the nation thousands of antiwar protesters have been arrested, denounced as “unpatriotic,” and effectively silenced. Fifteen-year-old Chris Little was hauled into the principal’s office at his Massachusetts high school and ordered to cover up his anti-war T-shirt. In Dearborn, Michigan, sixteen-year-old Bretton Barber chose to leave school rather than remove his T-shirt portraying George W. Bush as an “international terrorist.” And in Albany, New York, Stephen Downs was arrested at Crossgates Mall for donning a T-shirt he had just purchased there that advocated “Give Peace a Chance.”

* Virginia Tech took a big step backward in March 2003, when its governing board voted to bar all advocates of “extreme political views” from speaking on campus, thus requiring student groups to obtain the university president’s approval of all controversial speakers. In addition, the board voted to end the use of affirmative action in admissions, hiring, and financial aid and to change the university’s policy so that it no longer prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

* Opposition to the USA Patriot Act is growing. The faculty senate of the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh is urging members to not cooperate with investigations of students or staff members made under the act. A resolution denouncing a war against Iraq, with the anti-Patriot Act amendment added, passed handily because most faculty felt “the law is an overreaction by Congress to the September 11 terrorist attacks.”

The state of New Mexico has joined the opposition. An amended version of H.J.M. 40 calling for repeal of the act passed the New Mexico House on March 8, 2003, and is currently under consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In addition to its $3.5 million national advertising campaign to safeguard freedoms threatened by the Bush administration, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed over two dozen lawsuits challenging government secrecy, detention of immigrants and U.S. citizens, discrimination against Arab Americans, and violations of free speech and assembly.

* On March 6, 2003, the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Child Online Protection Act for the second time. The matter won’t, however, end there. Proponents in Congress–who want to force school and public libraries to install blocking software in order to be able to receive public funds–appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments and will issue its decision on COPA’s constitutionality later this year.

* The Bush administration suffered a big setback March 19, 2003, when an attempt to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling was defeated. Eight key Republicans and Independent Jim Jeffords of Vermont voted with forty-three Democrats on Barbara Boxer’s amendment to protect the ecologically sensitive lands.

* The rights of transgendered individuals were upheld this past February when, in a groundbreaking decision, Florida Circuit Court Judge Gerard O’Brien ruled in Kantaras v. Kantaras that Michael, a transgendered man, is legally male and that his marriage and adoption of his two children are legal. The judge even awarded Michael primary custody of the children in the divorce proceedings.

Karen Ann Gajewski is a freelance editor and an editorial consultant to the Humanist.

COPYRIGHT 2003 American Humanist Association

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