Monday, January 24, 2005


And they don't hide the fact that they are biased against religion in general

"The PBS station in Albuquerque, N.M., has canceled a scheduled showing of a documentary on the theory of intelligent design, eliciting charges of "politically correct censorship." New Mexico teacher Phil Robinson says he worked with staff at KNME-TV to arrange for the documentary, "Unlocking the Mystery of Life," to air on Friday night. Robinson discovered Monday that the show had been pulled and newspaper advertising for it had been canceled. The station says the scheduling of the program was a mistake caused by a miscommunication related to the transition to a new program manager and that there was concern about the fact that those who funded the film have religious ties.

Seattle-based Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture hammered KNME for the cancellation. "It is simply astounding that a public television station would engage in this sort of politically correct censorship," said Rob Crowther, director of communications for the organization, in a statement. "Public television usually prides itself in exploring new ideas, not suppressing them. Doesn't anyone at KNME believe in free speech?"

Joan Rebecchi is the marketing manager for KNME. "It wasn't supposed to be scheduled in the first place," she told WND. "It was a scheduling mistake. "We're in transition between two program managers, and they were repeating 'NOVA' in that timeslot. . There was confusion over the show title, and so that show was scheduled in [NOVA's] place. It was figured out last weekend that we had that scheduled and we weren't supposed to schedule it." Rebecchi said Robinson contacted her about advertising for the show and that she helped him write a good ad for it, not realizing at the time the show was not supposed to have been scheduled. "When I found out the show in fact wasn't going to air, I pulled the ads from the Albuquerque Journal because I didn't want him to lose any money," Rebecchi said. "We were able to pull them before he lost any money."

Rebecchi confirmed that a lot of Albuquerque residents are "very, very upset" that the station is not running it. She said station personnel had concerns about the fact that those who funded the program "had some connection to a religious point of view." Continued Rebecchi: "Our underwriting guidelines don't allow us to air programs that have a specific religious point of view," adding that PBS has to be "kind of biased" against programming with any religious connections. "That's the reason they didn't want to schedule it in the first place," she told WND.

Crowther points out, however, that the film in question is currently for sale on PBS' national website and has aired in almost every top-20 media market in the country, including PBS stations in California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington state and Washington, D.C. "The real losers here are New Mexico viewers who will be denied the chance to see a fascinating documentary that public television viewers in other states have already had the opportunity to see," Crowther added. "I guess if New Mexico viewers want to learn more about intelligent design, they will have to go the national PBS website."

"Unlocking the Mystery of Life" is a 58-minute program exploring what DNA reveals about the origin of life and documents how some scientists are skeptical about naturalistic explanations for the origin of genetic information and are looking to theories of design instead. According to the Discovery Institute, the documentary follows the development of intelligent design theory through interviews with key design scientists."



Four members of a conservative Christian group may resume picketing gay-themed events in Philadelphia after a judge lifted a restriction that kept them away. Common Pleas Court Judge Pamela Dembe called the restriction an unreasonable restraint on free speech. "We cannot restrict people's right to speak or to be near those who might not wish to hear them into the future," Dembe said Friday. Dembe overturned a ruling by Municipal Court Judge William A. Meehan against the demonstrators, who are affiliated with a local group called Repent America and who say their opposition to homosexuality is based on the Bible. Meehan had ordered the group to stay at least 100 feet away from any "homosexual event."

The defendants' attorney, C. Scott Shields, told Dembe that Meehan's order had effectively "muzzled" the his clients, "and that's unconstitutional as a prior restraint." The activists still face a variety of charges, including felonies, in connection with their protest last fall at Outfest, a street festival for gays and lesbians in downtown Philadelphia. However, after viewing a 22-minute videotape of the events leading to the defendants' arrest, Dembe indicated she might dismiss the entire case. "It all amounted to annoyance on both sides, but it did not amount to criminal behavior that I can see," Dembe said.

Cathie Abookire, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham, said the prosecution would proceed with the case. A pretrial hearing is scheduled next month, at which Dembe is to hear arguments on dismissing the charges. The activists, led by Repent America founder Michael Marcavage of Lansdowne, say they are being prosecuted for voicing their religious belief that homosexuality is a sin.

Assistant District Attorney Charles Ehrlich said the criminal charges were based on the defendants' conduct, not what they said. "Mr. Marcavage's conduct is to try to incite a crowd to cause a public disturbance ... whether it's from the Bible or somewhere else," Ehrlich said.



If you are thinking of a change of career in 2005, you might consider this, advertised in various newspapers last year by Glasgow city council's social work department. "Supported Accommodation Service for individuals who are likely to continue drinking. This Service [their capital letter] will be unregistered and will provide a high standard of accommodation for service users with varying complexities of need, including individuals who have expressed a view to continue drinking. Providers must demonstrate the ability to develop services that meet this range of needs, and will be required to have a clear policy on working with people who demonstrate challenging behaviour and non-engagement with services. A needs-led, person-centred approach coupled with a commitment to the values of inclusion are intrinsic to the delivery of the service."

There was a time when this kind of job specification appeared only in satirical magazines, which when read by Scots would have generated howls of laughter and be passed round to their friends as a splendid illustration of bonkers Islington Guardian-reader mentality, the kind of drippy, dippy do-goodish verbiage that would never be tolerated up here. Cut through the politically correct hedging and you find that what the council really wants is an unregistered dosshouse for habitual and unrepentant drunks and dropouts who are likely to be violent and don't want to be helped. An advertisement of 15 words would have sufficed. At nine lines, political correctness is very expensive.

But, more than that, it strikes an odd note. Nobody with any sense of decency would suggest that the drunks and dropouts should not receive food and shelter, even if they do exhibit "challenging behaviour" and are extremely uncooperative. But is this all they should be given? An unremarked-upon effect of the almost hysterically non-judgmental approach that all councils adopt nowadays is that they find themselves preaching a pernicious kind of passive acceptance towards selected categories of people. For example, while smoking, smacking, hunting and the middle classes are excoriated, the "values of inclusion" specifically exclude any idea that the homeless, and particularly the drunken homeless, might be encouraged to re-engage with society.

If any idea of benevolent rescue crept into a tender for the supported accommodation contract, the wannabe service providers would soon find themselves back on the pavement with a stiff lecture on the new creed of municipal non-judgmentalism ringing in their ears. In the current lexicon of council-speak, the words "benevolent rescue" are outlawed since they suggest an imposition of values, which the authorities, with a scrupulousness never exhibited in relation to anything else, abhor.

Yet, when confronted with people who have just about fallen over the edge, a civilised society surely does not just dole out soup, point to a bed and tiptoe away, piously washing its hands. It has to be rather more responsible than that. Homelessness, drunkenness and general desperation are not incurable diseases that we just smile and accept. They arise through a mixture of character and circumstance, both of which can, up to a point, be changed. Being non-judgmental, in the case of the homeless and destitute, floats dangerously close to social irresponsibility, something that, up until now, would have been as alien to Scots as Morris dancing.

Perhaps it would not matter if being pathologically non-judgmental was successful, but it is not. One of the most effective providers of help to the homeless in the UK and elsewhere is the Emmaus movement. Its motto, "Giving people a bed and a reason to get out of it", could not be less like the council advertisement. The movement was founded in France in 1949 by a Catholic priest known as Abb, Pierre. Georges, the first Emmaus Companion, summed up the real problems of the homeless destitute with accuracy born of long experience. "Whatever else he [the Abb,] might have given me - money, a home, somewhere to work," he said, "I'd have still tried to kill myself again. What I was missing, and what he offered, was something to live for."

The "something" to which Georges referred was the code of values on which all Emmaus communities are based: sharing, working for others in greater need and self-respect. Emmaus communities are not very interested in jargon. Nor are the homeless helped in a values-free zone. Rather the opposite. The companions find succour and solace precisely because it is assumed that, as human beings, while their own values may have gone a little askew, they are still capable of recognising how important values - real values and not just the mantra of "inclusion" - are.

Reading the testimony of companions, some of whom hit more than rock bottom with self-abuse from drink and drugs, it is perfectly clear that they need those around them to articulate and affirm values just as much as they need medical or psychiatric attention. Offering help that is free of values is like offering a bloody mary without the vodka: the essential ingredient is missing.

It is paradoxical that the advertisement with which I began was printed at about the time when Emmaus, after a long search for a suitable site, began to build a home for a community in Ellesmere Street, Glasgow. When it is finished this autumn, the homeless people who gravitate towards it will begin the Emmaus work of refurbishing donated furniture and household goods. More importantly, by subscribing to the same set of values, some will also achieve the stability and sense of belonging that will allow them to begin living again, while those who "express a view to continue drinking" will be gently encouraged to change.

To the strange creatures who concoct council advertisements, this may seem bizarre. To the rest of us, it should be a cause to rejoice. In a world gone mad, some pockets of sanity remain and one of them is in Scotland


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