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June 18, 2005 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2005-06-18

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, July 18, 2005

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tothedaily@michigandaily.com Editor in Chief Editorial Page Editor
STUDENTS AT THE Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorals refect the opinion of
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN the majority of the Daily's editorial board. All other pieces do not
SINCE 1890 necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

When Noah saw the world's first
rainbow, according to the Genesis
account, he took it as a sign from
God that"the waters (would) nomore become
a flood to destroy all flesh" and proceeded to
repopulate the Earth. The sight of a rainbow
decal on the window of the New York Pizza
Depot last week prompted Andrew Shirvell
to take a rather different interpretation and a
different sort of action. The recent University
alum and former Students for Life president
e-mailed fellow parishioners of St. Mary's
Student Parish, urging them to protest the
decal because, as he put it, "Everyday people
should be able to get a piece of pizza with-
out being forced to acknowledge the radical
homosexual agenda." That Shirvell and oth-
ers may have to acknowledge a view different
from their own on their way to lunch is no
tragedy - there are always groups that will
disagree with one's stance, but they all have
a right to be heard. Shirvell interprets the
flag, a symbol of acceptance and unity, as
offensive, but that does not mean that oth-
ers should not display it. Unfortunately, this
incident is not isolated but part of a grow-
ing nationwide trend by some conservative
Christians who feel that any action that does
not reflect their own beliefs is a violation of
their rights.

Delusions of persecution
Rainbow decal at NYPD shouldn't make
Christians feel unwelcome

The sentiment behind Shirvell's crusade to
have the decal removed is part of an unwar-
ranted feeling of persecution that religious
conservatives in this country have been com-
plaining about for years. No less a figure than
Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coali-
tion, once said in an interview that anti-Chris-
tian persecution in America is "more terrible
than anything suffered by any minority in
history," specifically citing liberal America's
supposed bigotry as "just like what Nazi Ger-
many did to the Jews." The debate has made
its way even into Congress - when Demo-
crats pushed to pass a resolution condemn-
ing coercive proselytizing at the Air Force
Academy, Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.) told
his colleagues that there is a "war on Christi-
anity" and accused Democrats of "denigrat-
ingmand demonizing Christians." Although
he struck his latter statement from the

record, Hostettler is not alone in the impulse
to accuse liberals of attacking Christianity
when they resist efforts to impose its moral
guidelines and rituals on non-Christians.
Conservative Christians have not hesi-
tated to play the religious discrimination
card even in judicial nominations, claiming
that the Democratic filibuster of extremist
judicial nominees amounted to discrimina-
tion against people of faith. Members of
the Religious Right are unable to make the
distinction that failure to impose Biblical
morals on an entire population is not dis-
crimination against Christians, but rather a
protection of Americans' civil liberties.
Other claims of this supposed oppression
of Christians have been frequent in recent
years with the debate over school prayer.
Christian groups often complain that praying
is "illegal" in schools, but in fact students are

free to pray anywhere; only school-sponsored
prayer, a clear government endorsement of
religion and a violation of the rights of non-
Christian students, is prohibited by the Con-
stitution. Similarly, outrage over being "forced
to acknowledge" people whose lifestyle one
disagrees with is, at its root, motivated by an
often dangerous human impulse - the desire
not only to freely express one's own views,
but to force those views on others.
In his e-mail, Shirvell encouraged like-
minded parishioners to explain to NYPD's
owners that the rainbow flag - a symbol
intended to make the LGBT community feel
welcome - "makes other patrons who are
against an active homosexual lifestyle feel
unwelcome." Shirvell's logic is at best dif-
ficult to follow, but evidently he believes that
for a business to openly accept gay custom-
ers is a veiled insult to Christian customers;
to make up for the perceived attack, Shirvell
wrote, NYPD should replace the rainbow
with a Catholic symbol. To clear up any con-
fusion, perhaps NYPD's owners should do
away with decals and symbols altogether and
instead display a written statement saying, in
effect, "We accept and welcome people of all
sexual orientations and lifestyles, as well as
those who do not." If only that were enough
for people like Shirvell.

Un-paving paradise,
Plan to develop surface lots would reduce sprawl

Not just a good show
Big-ticket performers should fuel campus dialogue

Surface parking lots, long a hallmark
of urban sprawl, may become a rare
sight in downtown Ann Arbor if City
Council approves a plan to allow devel-
opment on the city's surface parking lots
and replace the lost spaces with parking
decks or underground parking. The plan
would bring in new businesses, new hous-
ing and more revenue for the city through
taxes and parking revenues. Trading in
these lots for a denser, more developed
downtown area is a positive move that the
council should support.
While Ann Arbor has never been too
concerned with the appearance of its sky-
line, aesthetics do matter in maintaining
a welcoming city that attracts visitors and
makes its residents proud. Even the most
ghastly of 21st-century architecture would
be an improvement on the black and yel-
low asphalt fields dotted with towering
light poles that are strewn across down-
town Ann Arbor. Greenway proponents
will likely take this argument further and
demand that many of these lots instead be
converted into parks, but in doing so they
are overlooking the important benefits that
development would bring to both the city
and Ann Arbor residents.
Ann Arbor's high property values and
rental rates are tightly linked with the high
demand for limited retail and residential
space in its downtown area. Small busi-
nesses struggle to afford prime locations
downtown, and many have been pushed out
of the city altogether. And just as students
feel the housing crunch acutely when they
sign leases for the following year, inflated
property values affect other renters equally,
if not more. Renter populations are largely

composed of low-income households, and
high rents only pull on already stretched
budgets. The increased supply of retail and
residential space brought about by develop-
ing on these lots would be an important
step toward bringing down rental rates and
making Ann Arbor more affordable.
Agreeing to develop on surface park-
ing lots, however, is only the first step in
ensuring the responsible development of
these parts of Ann Arbor's downtown. As
City Council considers the best use of this
prime real estate, it should approve the con-
struction of high-rise, multi-use buildings.
Furthermore, it should ensure that these
new buildings allocate space for low-cost
housing with small unit sizes. Although
similarly sized downtown areas around
Detroit, such as Royal Oak, have given
in to the temptation of concentrating new
construction on obscenely priced condos
and townhouses, Ann Arbor should instead
aim to make the city affordable for people
of all incomes, including those who cannot
afford $500,000 lofts.
The development of these surface lots
represents a unique opportunity for Ann
Arbor to undo some of the poor city plan-
ning that led to the construction of the
lots. City Council should not only quickly
approve the conversion of these lots to
residential and retail space, but should
take care in overseeing the development
of these areas. It may be a difficult fight,
with pressure coming from all directions
to build high-value housing, but the coun-
cil should keep in mind the welfare of
those who don't have the money to pay
soaring rents or the political connections
to do anything about it.

Students tired of heading to Detroit
or Auburn Hills for big-name con-
certs will be pleased this fall when
Michigan Student Assembly teams up with
other student organizations to bring an A-
list entertainer to campus. The two major
candidates are hip-hop artist Kanye West
and rapper Ludacris, and the final selec-
tion will be made soon. A performance by
either entertainer would be sure to please
student fans, but Ludacris, with his recent
involvement with the NAACP and role in
the movie "Crash," may be better able to
bring issues of racial and ethnic identities
to the forefront. West, currently preferred
by members of the University Activities
Center who are working with MSA on
the event, seems to have less to say out-
side. As MSA considers whether to spend
its student fees on West or Ludacris and
plans future events for the,coming school
year, it should base its decisions on what
potential performers can bring in terms of
the ideas they could bring up and discus-
sion they could foster.
,Although thousands of students enjoyed
rocking the suburbs with Ben Folds two
winter semesters ago, the concert served
primarily to entertain students. Given
the money and effort needed to organize
the event, it is unfortunate that the per-
formance was unable to reach beyond the
students in attendance. Michael Moore's
appearance last fall, however, sparked con-
troversy that fueled meaningful political
discourse across campus both before and
after his performance. Jon Stewart of The
Daily Show has been discussed as a future
MSA-sponsored performer, and he would
be an ideal mix of substance and entertain-

ment. Striking a balance between fun and
intellect is critical to ensuring that each
performance generates excitement among
students and that its impact on campus out-
lives the few hours of the show.
Even those who lack popular appeal to
the masses can still draw massive crowds
on campus - over 600 students packed 4
the School of Education's Schorling Audi-
torium and the adjacent hallway during
Paul Krugman's 2003 visit. In addition
to bringing well-known performers annu-
ally, MSA should look into smaller-scale
events that may require a less signifi-
cant investment of time and money, but
could be equally effective in encouraging
an exchange of ideas on campus. Speak-
ers from either end of the political spec-
trum - like David Horowitz, Christopher
Hitchens or Al Franken - might anger a
good proportion of the student body, but
their presence would encourage the verbal
sparring that makes the college experience
so very special. And political thinkers and
writers, many of whom - like Moore,
who approached student government offi-
cials last year offering to-speak for only
a few thousand dollars - would likely I
be eager to come to campus at a fraction
of the cost of a performer like Ludacris,
allowing MSA to recoup its costs while
charging only a few dollars for tickets.
This year and in later events, the selec-
tion of a performer should not be solely a
popularity contest; as a representative of
student interests, MSA should look beyond
the publicity factor and consider the role
an entertainer or speaker could play in
facilitating meaningful dialogue among

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