- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Godless celebrity

“Madalyn Murray O’Hair was the woman who brought a lawsuit that, when it reached the Supreme Court in 1963, ended Bible reading and prayer in American public schools. …

“The grand lady of American atheism inspired (and indeed cultivated) a cult of personality. … Her rough-hewn charisma brought in a steady flow of revenue to fund the organizations she created, which were run by members of her immediate family. And like any sectarian group, the O’Hair family and its followers could be very stringent on doctrine. … To remain in O’Hair’s company, you had to be a true unbeliever. …

“In the years before launching her jihad, O’Hair was a very intelligent and very lonely person: trained in the law, uncertain about her career, with two children born out of wedlock and no stable romantic prospect in sight. She was an odd woman out in a period of culturally reinforced ‘normalcy.’ Her way of rejecting a society that had rejected her was suitably extreme: She applied to become a Soviet citizen. Her son William later said that her suit against the Baltimore school system was, in part, an effort to win the attention and good graces of the Russians.

“But the attention her case attracted became an end in itself. She abandoned a flirtation with communism to become a vehement partisan of the U.S. Constitution, humanistically construed. …

“It made O’Hair into a celebrity of sorts, with a career uniquely suited to her contrarian personality.”

Scott McLemee, writing on “Don’t Stop Unbelieving,” at www.killingthebuddha.com

Antiliteracy

“More and more often our modern schools are failing to even turn out readers, let alone scholars. Across the country we seem to be witnessing what Thomas F. Bertonneau, English professor at [State University of New York] Oswego, describes as ‘an ideological hostility to literacy … seeping down from the university humanities, through schools of education, to K-12.’ …

“For a person like me, these trends are not only disturbing, they are truly frightening. I believe that many administrators and teachers not only lack a solid educational foundation based on breadth and quality of study, but actually feel and convey disdain for true scholarship; actually feel and show disrespect for the heart of our liberty and freedom — educated citizens and libraries.

“This is not simply a sad turn of events in American education; it is an alarm, a warning, of the impending death of our way of life. Intelligent, knowledgeable people know, absolutely, that schools must educate children towards literacy, knowledge and ability to lead a republic.”

Linda Schrock Taylor, writing on “Measure the Library, Burn the Books,” May 19 at www.lewrockwell.com

Big fat flop

“The moment the season finale of ‘My Big Fat Greek Life’ wrapped in March, star and co-executive producer Nia Vardalos marched off the set and begged a CBS honcho to cancel her comedy. That was about the only thing she and the network ever agreed on.

“After months of wrangling over the direction of the series … CBS officially axed the spinoff of ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ on May 14, after only seven episodes. …

“Small wonder, considering that the actress didn’t really want to do the show.

“In 2001, before Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks agreed to bring Vardalos’ 1997 stage show to the big screen, CBS won a bidding war … to shoot a pilot based on her story (ugly duckling bags WASPy vegetarian). But when the film earned $241 million and she was on her way to an Oscar nomination, Vardalos told CBS she didn’t want to play daddy’s little Greek girl anymore. ‘She’s 40. She’s been doing this story for years,’ argues her friend Jeff Rosenthal, a writer on the show. ‘She wanted to move forward, not go back in time.’”

Lynette Rice, writing on “Greek Tragedy,” in the May 30 issue of Entertainment Weekly

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