If you want to see what the new normal looks like when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) calls the shots, look no further than Cranston, R.I. That city of 80,000, the third-largest in the Ocean State, is at the epicenter of the ACLU's war on the normal.
It makes a perverse sort of sense, because Cranston reportedly is the inspiration for Quahog, R.I., the fictitious setting of Seth MacFarlane's vulgar, anti-family Fox TV comedy "Family Guy." Mr. MacFarlane, who has been tapped to host the 85th Academy Awards on Feb. 24, is an avowed atheist who has grown rich by mocking America's core values.
Earlier this year, the ACLU got a federal judge to order a public high school in Cranston to tear down a banner that had inspired students toward exemplary behavior for 50 years. In September, the ACLU managed to get a father-daughter dance canceled on the grounds that it encouraged "gender stereotypes."
In both cases, the community rallied around the schools, but the ACLU ground them down. In the banner case, the ACLU quickly dunned the district $178,000 in legal fees, courtesy of Cranston taxpayers, who already had funded the defense. As in many communities, Cranston district officials did not change heart on the issue -- they just wanted to stop the bleeding. This is why a bullying letter from the ACLU often kills resistance before it starts.
Americans have almost grown accustomed to the ACLU using the courts to rip out Ten Commandment monuments, trash city hall Nativity scenes, even force the removal of highway crosses memorializing fallen state troopers, and make schools officially atheist in form and function. But the dance cancellation takes the absurdity to new heights.
So, how did the ACLU justify attacking the father-daughter dance? Apparently the event might indicate that males and females are different. Seriously. Plus, not every girl has a dad or father figure who will take her, so some girls might be left out. Therefore, it's better to cancel the whole thing.
After school district officials threw in the towel, the ACLU applauded them, saying, "The school district recognized that in the 21st century, public schools have no business fostering the notion that girls prefer to go to formal dances while boys prefer baseball games. This type of gender stereotyping only perpetuates outdated notions of 'girl' and 'boy' activities and is contrary to federal law."
No, it's not. Federal law permits exceptions for gender-based events, just as it permits the existence of separate restrooms for girls and boys.
In the other case, a U.S. district judge in January ordered Cranston High School West to take down a prayer banner, which the school did. Despite a flurry of support, including a petition signed by 4,000 people to keep the banner, the school district declined to appeal. Here's the text of the nondenominational school prayer, which had hung in Cranston High School West's auditorium since 1963:
Our Heavenly Father, Grant us each day the desire to do our best,
To grow mentally and morally as well as physically,
To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers,
To be honest with ourselves as well as with others,
Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win,
Teach us the value of true friendship,
Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West. Amen."
Pretty shocking stuff. No wonder it had to go. It's not the admonition toward good behavior that offends, of course, but the divine references. Can't have that in the new normal, even though "In God We Trust" is on the coins we use every day.
Following its victories, the ACLU loves to remind us of our ever narrowing freedoms, tossing us a bone, as it were. Listen to the condescending tone of the ACLU's triumphal statement following the district's cave-in on the father-daughter dance:
"[Parent-teacher organizations] remain free to hold family dances and other events, but the time has long since passed for public school resources to encourage stereotyping from the days of Ozzie and Harriet. Not every girl today is interested in growing up to be Cinderella -- not even in Cranston. In fact, one of them might make a great major league baseball player someday."
Sure. Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera are shaking in their shoes at that prospect. Note the snarky comment, "not even in Cranston." Oh, that backward Cranston, with a large Italian-American population that celebrates God, family and America.
Not every girl wants to be a princess. Some of them would rather be biker chicks. Some of them go completely off the rails and become ACLU plaintiffs. But this is not a rational reason to cancel a father-daughter dance. The detachment of fathers from their children is at the heart of virtually every social problem. Anything that encourages paternal commitment should be welcomed, not prohibited.
Apparently, that's only if you have the best interests of the community at heart and are not trying to turn it into a place that only the ACLU could love.
Robert Knight is a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.
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