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November 14, 2005 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-11-14

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, November 14, 2005

OPINION

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JASON Z. PESICK
Editor in Chief

SUHAEL MOMIN
SAM SINGER
Editorial Page Editors

ALISON GO
Managing Editor

EDITED AND MANAGED BY STUDENTS AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SINCE 1890
420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
tothedaily@michigandaily.com

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
It was a
mistake to vote
for this war in
2002."l
-Former Sen. John Edwards, accepting
responsibility for his vote to give President
Bush the authority to go to war with Iraq, in a
piece published in Sunday's Washington Post.

MICHELLE BIEN Ti-i E B AN ARC-1. VES
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The great American ... theocracy?
SUHAEL MOMIN NO U RRENDER

A nyone who
attended
elementary
school in Michigan
remembers the "Core
Democratic Values"
program. Complete
with its own textbooks,
the sequence present-
ed "the fundamental
beliefs and constitu-
tional principles of American society which
unite all Americans." Because of that program,
I grew up thinking - along with the millions
of students across America who benefited from
similar programs - that America was the land
of individual equality, individual freedom and
individual religion. I grew up thinking, not in
such fancy terms, that America was a secular
democratic republic - a land Thomas Jeffer-
son envisioned as offering "Equal and exact
justice to all men, of whatever state or persua-
sion, religious or political."
If recent events are any guide, I grew up
believing a lie. While America accepts in
theory that secular government is a good idea,
our political process completely discredits the
concept. While our unstated national policy is
to oppose religious fundamentalism abroad,
Americans welcome it at horpe. While our
leaders denounce the illiberalism of Islamist
states, many influential conservatives are
enamored with the idea of America as a Judeo-
Christian one.
Since President Bush's re-election last year,
religious and "moral-issues" conservatives
have stepped up their campaign to, quite liter-
ally, force religion upon the rest of the coun-
try. One by one, successive religious interests
have emboldened each other; the Right is now
waging religious war on abortion, immoral
television and video games, contraception,
Spongebob Square Pants, homosexuality, sex-

a]

uality in general, sex education, HIV-positive
Sesame Street characters and even the scien-
tific theory of evolution.
Underlying each "moral initiative" is the
burning desire to create a more Christian state,
to impose public morality on private decisions,
to enact public policy that elevates certain
beliefs as more righteous than others. This
isn't speculation: Focus on the Family aims
"to 'turn hearts toward home' ... so people
will be able to discover the founder of homes
and the creator of families: Jesus Christ." The
American Family Association exists "to moti-
vate and equip citizens to change the culture to
reflect Biblical truth." The Christian Coalition,
beyond its obvious name, exists to "preserve,
protect and defend the Judeo-Christian values
that made this the greatest country in history."
These powerful political groups exist solely to
inject a good dose of religion into our suppos-
edly secular political system.
The agenda is broad. Heterosexual marriage
should be elevated to the exclusion of homo-
sexual marriage - even though the two are
not mutually exclusive - because heterosexual
marriage is the traditional Christian way. Gov-
ernments should ban same-sex benefits, even
though they make economic sense, because they
promote a lifestyle contrary to the traditional
Christian way. Teachers should not expose stu-
dents to safe-sex techniques because teaching
abstinence, no matter how ineffective, is the
Christian way. All these initiatives, grounded in
Christian theology and morality, aim to shape
society and restrict individual liberties in the
name of preserving traditional values.
If America were secular, the close relation-
ship between the White House and these not-
so-subtly Christian organizations would raise
alarm. If we actually believed the core demo-
cratic values each nine-year-old in Michigan
learns, we'd be outraged: Religious interests are
dictating government policy! If America bought

into secularism, society would have responded
with indignation when Bush nominated Harriet
Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court - not only
because she was unqualified (she was), but also
because the president and his allies insinuated
her religion was an important part of her judi-
cial philosophy.
If America is actually a secular nation,
where is the public opposition to the current
course of events? Why are religious lobbying
organizations the most powerful nongovern-
mental organizations in Washington? Why are
religiously backed initiatives such as Michi-
gan's Proposal 2 from 2004 - which banned
gay marriage and potentially same-sex unions
in an effort to "protect traditional marriage"
- so successful across the nation? Why did
Kansas's elected school board change the defi-
nition of science so that supernatural explana-
tions for events can be classified as scientific?
Why must every presidential candidate meet
a certain bar of spirituality if he's to stand a
chance? Bottom line: If America is actually
secular, why doesn't it act like it?
As a nation, we recognize the problems with
religious governance abroad. We recognizp,
when looking at other nations, that secular
leadership is more likely to protect minority
rights, individual freedom and self-determina-
tion. The founders of this nation realized this
when they wrote strict limits on government
power and sweeping guarantees of personal
freedom into the Constitution and Declara-
tion of Independence. I'd like to think the core
democratic values I learned aren't lies; I'd like
to think this nation truly embodies the secular
ideas it claims to uphold at home and around
the world. I'd like to think we can - and will
- put an end to the illiberal politics of the
Religious Right.

40

Momin can be reached at
momin@michigandaily.com.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

'U' not unique in its apathy
toward student government
TO THE DAILY:
To answer the question the Daily's editorial
board posed last Monday (Does anyone care?,
11/7/2005), the answer is no: Students don't care
about student government. But that's OK. The
Michigan Student Assembly gets what it wants:
a couple of friends voting for each other, photos
in the Daily, lots of important talk and a resum6
builder. In fact, one of the best things that can hap-
pen to a student government is to be ignored.
Take the University of Illinois as an example.
During my four years in Urbana as an under-
graduate, presidential candidates vowing to end
student government were overwhelmingly elect-
ed twice. The first time, the elections commis-
sion member threw out the results to save their
"jobs." But after evidence of abuse of student
funds for personal enrichment came to light,
the existing student government had no defense
and was eventually taken down. So go ahead,
hold your meetings, chalk the Diag and get your
picture taken with John Edwards. Just don't try
to convince us that it's all that important. And
please, don't lie to yourself and say that it really
matters here at the University, because it's just
like everywhere else.
David Swedler
School of Public Health
Divestment an unfortunate
roadblock on path to peace
TO THE DAILY:
Last year, when the Michigan Student Assem-
bly overwhelmingly voted against forming a com-
mittee to look into divesting from Israel, it gave
me hope. I naively believed that now we could
work past our differences, that we could sit down
and start an open dialogue as individuals and as
groups with a common interest: peace.
My optimism took a serious blow Wednes-
day with the return of a new divestment cam-
naion (Pacultv ani rbwants nmmitteneon Israel.

between the governments and the people.
In addition, the divestment campaign seri-
ously undermines the idea of open and educated
dialogue. When an individual is presented with a
petition, that person is looking at the issue through
a one-sided lens. For a person uneducated in the
complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that
is a difficult position to be in. This only perpetu-
ates a culture of animosity based on one-sided
information, which is counterproductive to peace-
ful discourse:
As University President Mary Sue Cole-
man stated when she expressed her opposition
to divestment, the University campus provides a
unique opportunity for positive student dialogue
given the large number of Jews and Arabs on this
campus. As disappointed as I am with the return
of divestment to campus, I still have some hope
left. Call it naivete, but if the Israelis and Palestin-
ians in the Middle East can both take steps toward
working together, why can't we?
Josh Berman
LSA junior
The letter writer is the educational co-
chair for the campus chapter of the American
Movement for Israel.
Divestment an important
advance on path to peace
TO THE DAILY:
According to the article Faculty group wants
committee on Israel (11/09/2005), the University
has not taken a position on Israel's brutal occupa-
tion of Palestinian land. This is not the case; by
silencing student voices against the occupation,
the University has taken an active role in favor of
the occupation.
The letter is written by numerous faculty mem-
bers is in support of the formation of a committee
to investigate the validity of investing in military
corporations that fund the atrocious human rights
violations taking place in Palestine today. The let-
ter is not in support of terminating relations with
all companies doing business with Israel.
Divestment is the most effective way to impact
change in onnregsive Lovernments Peace workers

ment that political and philosophical ideology is
irrelevant to the investment portfolio of the Uni-
versity is incorrect. In the same statement, she
cited cases in which human rights were in fact
relevant -South Africa and tobacco. Upholding
human rights is not a political issue, but an obli-
gation that we all have. The University is using
politics and bureaucracy to circumvent addressing
serious human rights violations in Israel.
Or Shotan's statement that "There's not going
to be an end to this situation without dialogue"
is correct. The creation of a body to investi-
gate the validity of investments is precisely the
forum necessary to create productive dialogue
beyond a level of theocracy, and opposing the
current movement to form this committee is not
in support of dialogue, but rather directly con-
tradicts progress.
Rama Salhi
LSA junior
The letter writer is the president of Students
Allied for Freedom and Equality.
'The Laramie Project'
addresses hate in society
TO THE DAILY:
I applaud the Daily for its coverage of the
campus-wide action to counteract Rev. Fred
Phelps when he visits campus to 'protest the
Department of Theatre and Drama's production
of "The Laramie Project" (Protest at play to slam
gays, 11/07/2005; Apocalypse Now, 11/11/2005),
but I would like to make some corrections to
your coverage.
"The Laramie Project" by Moises Kaufman
and the Tectonic Theatre Project is not about the
murder of Matthew Shepard. The play is about
the effect of this hate crime on the residents of
the town of Laramie, Wyo. Through 200 inter-
views over a two-year time span, Kaufman and
the other writers gathered the perceptioi of
Laramie's residents on the crime, the media blitz
that followed and the issue of homosexuality
from the event itself through the subsequent tri-
als. "The Laramie Project" offers a deeply mov-
in2 tale of a small town forced to face its loss of

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Editorial Board Members: Amy Anspach, Reggie Brown, Gabrielle DAngelo, John Davis,
Whitney Dibo, Milly Dick, Sara Eber, Jesse Forester, Mara Gay, Ashwin Jagannathan, Theresa
Kennelly, Mark Kuehn, Will Kerridge, Kirsty McNamara, Rajiv Prabhakar, Matt Rose, David
C,: D-:--. . 1 . - 1 - C.: . 11 .n., Q - R

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