Friday, December 01, 2006


Frances Kemp booked an aisle seat on a recent British Airways (BA) flight because she had a bad leg that required extra space. Her 76-year-old husband Michael occupied the middle seat. A nine-year-old girl took the window position. When a stewardess asked Frances to switch seats with her husband, she declined. The stewardess explained that the seating arrangement breached the airline's child-welfare regulations and moved the child. Michael is a retired journalist with no criminal record; he made no contact-physical or verbal-with the girl; no complaint or request to move was received; the child's mother was elsewhere on the plane. The girl's welfare was deemed to be in peril solely because Michael was male.

BA has openly joined the ranks of airlines such as Air New Zealand and Qantas that view all men as a danger to children. It is difficult to know how many other airliners share this policy as it is rarely announced and can be enforced invisibly when seats are booked. Indeed, BA itself has been quietly instituting the policy since at least 2001 when another `seat rearrangement' drew attention. In answering a complaint from the humiliated man, BA explained, "We introduced the policy ... in response to customers asking us to make sure their children are not seated next to men. We were responding to a fear of sexual assaults."

It is not clear why parental worries cannot be resolved by carefully booking seats in advance or notifying attendants of a need to be extra watchful. But one thing is clear: some airlines are going to treat your father, husband and son as sex offenders simply because they are male. And the airlines show no sign of relenting. For example, in 2005, Mark Worsley had to change seats when a Qantas steward informed him that only women could next to unaccompanied children. When he registered a complaint, a Qantas spokesperson replied that the airline intended "to err on the side of caution" by continuing to act as though all men were dangerous. More recently and in the UK, Boris Johnson-a Member of Parliament-was asked to move from his seat by a BA stewardess. She retreated when he explained that the adjacent children were his own progeny. Johnson memorialized the experience in an article entitled "Come off it, folks: how many paedophiles can there be?"

If an airline restricted the seating of blacks because the 2004 Bureau of Justice data states "blacks [are] disproportionately represented among homicide victims and offenders", there would be a backlash of rage. It would make no difference that the parent or loved one of a white passenger had requested the `safety' measure. But, over the course of decades, Western culture has so thoroughly identified maleness itself with violence and abuse that major airlines feel free to openly treat them as predators. In response to the Qantas incident, Worsley stated, "Men are being demonized in the media for a long time now. I think probably this is just society's reaction-they think, `We'd better start tightening up on everything.' It's getting to the stage when all men are viewed with distrust."

The airlines' policy is rooted neither in fact nor common sense. Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states "In 2004, 57.8 percent of child abuse and neglect perpetrators were females and 42.2 percent were males. "It is difficult to know how these figures apply to the specific concern of airlines; for one thing, the figures indicate that abusers are overwhelmingly parents or `caregivers' and the airlines target men who are unknown to the children. But the data highlights the absurdity of believing one gender has a monopoly on violence against children. (The specific issue of sexual violence against children is more difficult to break down according to the gender of the perpetrator. Statistics are usually based on the state-by-state confirmed cases investigated by child welfare agencies. A BBC documentary claimed that women committed 25% of all sexual child abuse. But the statistics are too inconsistent, politicized and poorly gathered to be reliable.)

Moving from factual to common sense objections, it is difficult to believe that in-flight child molestation is a real problem. A plane is not a secluded spot in the woods; it is an extremely public place where attendants and others constantly patrol the aisles. Nevertheless, if a problem does exist, if there is more to the policy than parents concerned about things that haven't occurred, then it would make sense to ban unattended children or to seat them in a separate section. As it stands, the policy seems rooted in little more than a dangerous tendency to paint men per se as predators.

Why is the tendency dangerous and not merely insulting? Because men are becoming increasingly reluctant to help a child in need, to act as teachers and caregivers, or to offer protection. A heartbreaking example of the consequences of their understandable reluctance occurred in England in late 2002. 2-year-old Abigail Rae died by drowning in a village pond; a man who saw her in the street earlier on had wanted to help but he had been afraid of being labeled "a pervert."

The policy harms children in a more subtle manner; they may no longer trust men per se enough to ask for help when they need it. They may hesitate to approach a policeman or fireman who are, after all, still men. That is the message airlines are sending to children. And how is that message being heard by the boys who will grow into men? Seating men as though they were sexual predators is a vicious and discriminatory practice that has no basis in fact or logic. Indeed, if the illogic of the policy were consistently spun out, it would mean `women and children only' flights and the restricted seating of men at theaters or concerts.


The ACLU Targets Christmas

The ACLU is at it again. With an outrageous boldness that only they could muster, the ACLU has, once again, set their sights on Christmas celebrations. In their never-ending quest to completely eradicate all things religious from public life, the ACLU's latest lawsuit is an all-out frontal attack on the freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion.

Let me ask you-when did a children's Christmas program become "an illegal activity"? When did the nativity story and Christmas songs become unconstitutional? This is the outrageous and dangerous charge the ACLU has leveled against a school district in Tennessee. A children's Christmas program has been deemed to be an "illegal act" because of the ACLU.

This week, our senior attorneys at the American Center for Law and Justice are working on this latest ACLU case. The ACLU is absolutely determined to censor Christmas. They have sued the Wilson County School System outside of Nashville, TN. We represent several school officials and teachers who have been charged with engaging in what the ACLU calls "illegal acts." The ACLU claims that the plaintiffs have been harmed, injured and "suffered irreparable damage" through the Christmas program because of its "Christian themes and songs." The ACLU will then ask for these actions be declared "unconstitutional and illegal."

It gets even worse. The plaintiffs and the ACLU allege that several kindergarten students role-played a nativity scene of the birth of Jesus-and had the audacity to sing "Away in the Manger" and "Joy to the World." According to the ACLU, these songs are exclusively Christian in nature because they celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and are, therefore, inappropriate. School programs that include a live nativity scene and the singing of songs like "Away in a Manger" are common throughout the United States and, indeed, around the world. Thousands of school students will be participating in similar programs this year. The ACLU has, once again, shown its desire to engage in censorship.

Of course, if the ACLU wins this case, it would set a precedent from across the nation. This is precisely why we have engaged some of our most senior lawyers to defend school officials in this important case. Make no mistake about it-the ACLU will not stop with this lawsuit. They may come to your town and target your school. Their continued attempts to loosen the threads of our religious heritage and chip away at the foundation of our freedom is never-ending.

We, at the American Center for Law and Justice, will fight for religious freedom and freedom of speech this Christmas. We are standing with the school officials in Wilson County and with concerned students and parents. We will vigorously defend the rights of these students to engage in free speech on public school campuses. We are not going to sit back and let the ACLU, the Ghost of Christmas Past, remove the joy and significance of this holiday season.

Today the American Center for Law and Justice has launched a nationwide campaign entitled "Keep HIM in Christmas." We want to make sure that Jesus is at the center of this holiday. We want to keep HIM in the nativity scenes, keep HIM in the music, keep HIM as the focal point-and not allow the ACLU to operate as our nationwide censor.



Students, parents and concerned community members met at UNC-Chapel Hill Monday afternoon in an anti-war protest demonstration. About 40 members from Students for a Democratic Society, along with other political groups, marched from the "Quad" on the UNC-CH campus to the new Army Recruiting Center, located 1502 E. Franklin St. The group joined together in shouting anti-war chants as it made its way two miles down Chapel Hill's main road. "Out of Iraq, out of our schools," and "No blood for oil, U.S. out of Iraqi soil" were two of the group's main messages.

Two N.C. State students were there to protest with SDS. John Anagnost, a senior in political science, and Dante Strobino, a graduate student in electrical engineering, were among the many voices. "Modern military recruiting is racist," Strobino said. "They prey on economically disadvantaged people to join the military." According to Anagnost, campus organizations like SDS are losing interest among students. While neither Anagnost or Strobino think NCSU could maintain its own chapter, they said they feel someone will speak up. "The message is, no matter how many recruiting stations they build, there will always be an opposition," Anagnost said.

Ben Carrol, the Chapter Secretary of the newly-formed SDS, led the group in speeches given in front of the Army Recruiting Center. The group wasn't without resistance, though. A local group of veterans were waiting in front of the recruiting center to show their support of the U.S. military and recruiting efforts. "I guess these kids have nothing else better to do than be anti-establishment," Jesse Torres, a Vietnam veteran, said. Torres, who served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967, joined five other veterans and one citizen in the counter-demonstration. One of the counter-demonstrators was escorted away from the group when he shouted profanities and screamed at peace supporters. Police officers on-site declined to comment.


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